How should technologists respond to terrorism?

The attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris was a horrific crime. It has shocked the world and roused a great deal of public upset, outcry and anger.

Whilst it’s too late to prevent the tragic loss of life caused by the murderers, the office assault was the seed of another, ongoing attack, in which each of us is struggling, though we may be unaware of it.

Acts of terrorism provoke society into attacking itself. Justice and law making systems designed to protect and uphold our freedoms and rights are tricked into restricting and removing those self same rights and freedoms for everybody, in attempts to prevent future attacks and to placate the fierce public desire for action.

An understanding of the openness of the internet and the ways in which we benefit from it gives technologists a unique insight into the value that society gains from remaining open. That’s why Simon’s used his InfoWorld response to the tragedy as an opportunity to call on readers from the technology industry to respond to terrorism by defending openness. Check out his full article on InfoWorld.

India Illustrates The Risks Of Censorship Laws

Next time you see your government proposing internet censorship laws of any kind, remember this incident where the Indian government crippled their own software industry so they could be seen to be doing something about terrorism. Their department of telecommunications has blocked 32 web sites — including archive.org and Github — as if to illustrate why it’s bad to allow anyone the power to block web sites arbitrarily (ETI claims it’s 60+). They’ve blocked entire slices of multi-purpose web infrastructure because one of their functionaries found something about ISIS somewhere on it, according to TechCrunch.

Perhaps it is happening because a person tasked with being seen to be doing something about terrorism found a broad and badly-drafted regulation with no checks, balances or oversight that she could use to satisfy her instructions at no personal cost. As a result, vast numbers of Internet uses that are neutral or positive to Indian culture and society are being inhibited in pursuit of a tiny number of cases that are negative. Certainly the sources ETI cites have no clue the damage they’re causing.

Laws and regulations don’t just get used for their intended purpose; they get used by anyone that is permitted to do so for any purpose that is not proscribed. So broad rules permitting censorship for open-ended durations and purposes can and will be used to silence opposition, score points and prove some functionary is tough on terrorism or paedophiles. Who cares if businesses, research and culture are harmed? Think of the children!