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Amnesty International vs. Internet Censorship 287

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Amnesty International has a new online campaign against governments which censor websites, monitor online communications, and persecute citizens who express dissent in blogs, emails, or chat-rooms. The website, Irrepressible.info contains a web-based petition (to be presented at a UN conference in November 2006) and also a downloadable web gadget which displays random excerpts of censored material on your own website."
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Amnesty International vs. Internet Censorship

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  • by crhylove (205956) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @08:43AM (#15420189) Homepage Journal
    What we need isn't a petition that corporations and governments will ignore. What we need is a working FreeNet, and not in java, but in some truly open source language.

    Everyone pray to the FOSS infrastructure gods! That'll more likely help than any petition ever will.

    rhY
  • by kanzels (975208) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @08:44AM (#15420190) Homepage
    I hope somebody can stop insanity like tracking all e-mails or even paying taxes per e-mail as suggested in EU.
  • by tyroneking (258793) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @08:55AM (#15420230)
    ... if an organisation like Amnesty is getting involved in this way then internet censorship is a real threat that we should all be concerned with.
    Amnesty really is the hardcore of moral activism.
    From blood diamonds to the arms trade, from violence against women to the death penalty, and not forgetting the letter writing campaigns, Amnesty doesn't concern itself with minor issues like Microsoft vs Linux or Google taking over the world.
    I think I might actualy do something to contribute this time ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, 2006 @08:57AM (#15420237)
    Come on people.

    We all know that the US is the worst when it comes to censorship and human rights violations.

    So why, when I visit that site, do I see a quote from a Syrian site?

    Come on people, prioritize.

    -john
  • by kaufmanmoore (930593) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:00AM (#15420251)
    Especially when you involve 2 of the most ineffective forms of bringing change: web petitions and the UN
  • by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:01AM (#15420253) Homepage
    Every government does that, and it's unlikely that any petition will end that.
    For at least one government, however, it is actually illegal to censor websites due to their constitution. If you have any proof of them doing so, you can sue them.

    This may not be a popular view with the yanks, but not all censorship or eavesdropping is inherently bad. The problem is making sure there are controls in place, so that that power can't be abused. The other problem is trust.
    Great, another "enlightened" "nuanced" individual. We can argue about eavesdropping as eavesdropping can be framed as a method of information aggregation which does not suppress information dissemination. Censorship, on the other hand, purposely suppresses the dissemination of information. You're right about one thing, it is a matter of trust, and if you, as an adult (I assume), are willing to let bureaucrats and politicians, each with their own personal bias and agenda, control what you see, hear, or read, you are being quite "trustworthy."
  • by HairyCanary (688865) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:14AM (#15420298)
    Thank you for providing an example of doublethink. Now go back to 1984 please.

    If the government wants to censor child pornogrophy, terrorist websites, and related things, it's fine with me.

    So tell me who gets to define "child pornogrophy [sic]" and "terrorist websites" for the purposes of this censorship that is fine with you. Is Slashdot a terrorist website because of all the free thinking liberals that post here?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:14AM (#15420299)
    "Sticks and Stones.."

    If you are looking for intolerance you just have to look at mainstream media corporations who have a predominant web presence. The influence of neo-nazi web sites on average surfer is next to nil. People who are willing to buy into white supremacy crap will probably not need a web site to sway them one way or the other. Sorry.. i just don't feel the "nazi threat".. mainstream media has much more of a dangerous influence on public opinion. Should we censor them too?
  • by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss.Sean@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:17AM (#15420312) Homepage
    You're making the assumption that we who don't believe in Internet censorship all believe there should be child porn on the web. Not true at all.

    Child pornography is a crime. It is illegal in every industrialized society that I know of, and shutting down these websites is merely an extension of the enforcement of said laws. Similarly, a website clearly made to recruit terrorists is in violation of International Law. Again, shutting down this website is merely enforcing a law already in place. No one sane is going to complain when a website for black market goods is shut down.

    But when they shut down a website that merely criticizes a government, posts unpoplar opinions, or some other legal content, that is when a problem arises.
  • by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss.Sean@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:21AM (#15420320) Homepage
    P.S. I hate to respond to my own topic, but I needed to add, as the poster above me stated, How do we define said websites? Suppose someone takes a picture of their newborn baby which is, naturally, naked? Is that child porn? What about tasteful nudes of children, or children from a country where nudity isn't an issue at all? Is this porn? What about a website that says "I disagree with Al Qaeda's methods, but I do think they have a legitimate reason to be angry?" Is this a terrorist sponsoring site?
  • by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:22AM (#15420328) Homepage
    First they defined hate speech as "posting death threats online," and I did not speak up because I didn't post death threats online. Then, they defined hate speech as "racist material" and I did not speak up because I wasn't a racist. Then, they defined hate speech as "Islamophobia," and I did not speak up because I wasn't against Islam. Then, they defined hate speech as "anti-Christian material," and even though I really hated Christians, I did not speak out because I knew the consequences. Finally, they defined hate speech as "not swearing complete and utter loyalty to the current ruling class," and there was nothing that could be done as the entire apparatus of speech and thought suppression was already well established.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:26AM (#15420337)
    Of course they want people directed to their site; why is it cynical to suggest that? Amnesty's purpose in life is to make a noise for those who can't. The point of the campaign is to spread awareness of the extent to which censorship is still going on. The publication of these random excerpts is symbolic: a show of solidarity and, yes, an attention-grabber; it's not an attempt to actually circumvent censorship. Anyone trying that would probably be a little more covert about it.

    Amnesty's ultimate goal is to stop the censorship, not help people get around it.
  • by EvilCrony (917413) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:26AM (#15420339)
    The purpose of this website is to raise awareness about internet censorship and get people to act upon it. Adding the javascript to your website is all about directing people to Amnesty's for more information. Amnesty is not trying to hide that fact. I don't think that's cynical at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:29AM (#15420351)
    Hey we can all play this! First they defined murder as premdeditated killing and I did not speak up because I don't plan out my killings. Then they defined murder as being really really mean to people and I didn't speak out because I hate those mean people. Then they defined murder as eating fried bananas. Moral: It shouldn't be illegal to kill people because if it is then something else might be made illegal later!

    Oh wait, I've just realised, this whole line of reasoning is totally fucking stupid.
  • by giorgiofr (887762) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:35AM (#15420360)
    By now, you should have realized that society at large is not ready for a "personal responsibility" framework. I have found that people will go to great lengths (in both denial and self-harm) in order to ignore the possibility of there being such a thing as responsibility for what you do.
    Until this changes, they will be more than happy to sponsor censorship-happy governments. The more the gov't handles, the less responsible they will be. Then, when something bad happens, they just wish to fix it with extreme prejudice, lock it away, try to forget about it, and pass more legislation: apparently we're not forbidding enough things.
    And why the hell are you a nazi anyway? Why do you support pro-nazi speech? Don't you think of the children? ;)
  • by penguin-collective (932038) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:39AM (#15420376)
    If the world really were that black and white, things would be a lot simpler.
  • by Pxtl (151020) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:41AM (#15420387) Homepage
    You've got it mixed up. The boogeymen of the internet are the paedophiles. Terrorists are the boogeymen of the airports and courts.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:54AM (#15420431)
    free thinking liberals

    don't you mean "thinking-free liberals"?

    -john
  • by Cal Paterson (881180) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @10:40AM (#15420563)
    Oh thank god. Amnesty International involved! Great, now the anti-censorship lobby will have childish name-calling, double standards on freedom of speech, and glossy leaflets on their side. How I have waited for this day.

    I'm a supporter of the anti-censorship side of this debate, but having an organisation that believes in censorship of opinions they dislike really means little. I know this is going to stir people up, but consider this quote (from Wikipedia);

    However, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute -- neither for the creators of material nor their critics. It carries responsibilities and it may, therefore, be subject to restrictions in the name of safeguarding the rights of others. In particular, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence cannot be considered legitimate exercise of freedom of expression. Under international standards, such "hate speech" should be prohibited by law.

    Now, as much as nationalists, racists and religious extremists are scum, the fact of the matter is that they all have the right to a voice, just like everyone else. One shouldn't ban political opinions you dislike. When people use bigotry as an excuse to commit force or fraud, it is the act itself which is the crime, and deserves punishment, not the motive behind it.
  • by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @11:35AM (#15420783) Journal
    As the other guy said, it depends where you live. Denying the holocaust can land you a jail sentence in many western European countries, and the European Court of Human Rights has upheld such convictions despite the free speech provisions found in Article 10. This issue goes far beyond violent neo-Nazis. Certain historical theories, however stupid or silly they may be, are illegal to speak of. With discussion of certain events essentially banned, who knows whether any legitimate theories are being suppressed? It can also be quite dangerous to criticize Jewish religion or Jewish culture. Don't get me wrong, I think Jews catch way too much flak when compared to Christians, but that doesn't mean that there aren't perfectly valid reasons to attack their beliefs and their customs--e.g., I think that circumcision performed on any child not old enough to decide for himself is barbaric (other than for medical reasons. Long-term medical reasons such as very slightly lower STD transmission and penile cancer rates are not not valid because by the time he's old enough to worry about such things, he's old enough to make the decision himself.), the foundation of Israel was one of the all-time stupidest fucking ideas ever conceived and western nations should not support their holy war (even if they weren't the ones who started it), their dietary restrictions are dumb, their culture is too male-centric, power-centric and money-centric, and (like most other Abrahamic religions) observant Jews tend to be arrogant, ignorant, deluded, and bigoted.

    I can say all of that without thinking twice because the one freedom America hasn't completely sold out is the freedom to criticize or insult whomever you wish. If I were in France (or Germany or Switzerland or Poland or Belgium or Austria), I would think very long and hard before I said anything like that in public. If it was a very public statement, such as a speech or academic paper, likely I'd have to consult a lawyer first and he'd probably tell me to tone down my language.

    Simply put, that's fucked up... and it's doubly fucked up for an allegedly free western democratic nation. The USA certainly has its share of freedom-stomping, un-democratic laws on the books, but I certainly do hope Amnesty International doesn't neglect to go after oppressive and unproductive "hate crime" laws in western Europe.
  • by wandm (969392) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @11:41AM (#15420802)
    I can't believe this. Amnesty, a major human right organisation with lots of members, money and influence takes up internet freedom as a campaining topic and what do slashdotters do? Moan, complain and try to rip jokes out of it.

    Believe me, Amnesty has been able to change pretty many things in this world, and for better. Now they are taking up the case of Shi Tao, who got 10 years in China for advancing freedom. Now sign the damn petition, it takes a freaking 10 seconds! Would be great to have 100.000 names on it. Slashdotters could and should help.

    http://irrepressible.info/

  • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @12:23PM (#15420940) Homepage Journal
    No. In other words speech should be free until it incites violence against others. Perhaps that is a difficult concept to grasp as so many here have failed to understand that. Would you defend my right to try to convince people that you should be dragged into the street and shot?
  • by demachina (71715) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @12:25PM (#15420949)

    The mere fact that a government is seeking to engineer how people think, speak and dress when it comes to Nazism is a Fascist tendency in its own right. Fascism operates under the tenant that people can't be trusted to think for themselves so the government has to regulate how they think and act for the good of the state.

    The irony of rabid suppresion of Nazis is that many governments are leaning if not out right rushing to Fascism today. China, U.S., U.K., Australia, Russia and Israel are on the top of the Fascism scale in my book. Are they Nazi Germany, obviously not though China is pretty close with internal policy. Fortunately China at present seems to have no interest in aggressive warfare, a Fascist trademark, they are so busy just getting rich the old fashioned way. The U.S. has a superficially freer society though its getting less free every day, but its makes up for it on the Fascism scale with rampant militarism and advocacy of aggressive, preemptive war making.

    Its my suspicion the world's governments need to suppress Nazi sympathizers because they want to return to Fascism as the world's dominant form of government, but to do that they need to erase the association between Fascism and the extreme turn it took in the 1930's and 1940's. If they outlaw and suppress the most notorious and superficial symbols of Fascism then OBVIOUSLY they must not be Fascist and Fascism must not exist today. If you make the false assertion that to be a Fascist you must wear a Swastika, and you outlaw the Swastika so no one wears them, then it follows there must not be any Fascists, right? It is an interesting con game.

    The world's governments and media are in complete denial that Fascism could ever flourish again when in fact it is flourishing, its just no one will speak the name and on the Internet Godwin's law will be invoked, Godwin's law being the ultimate weapon to prevent anyone calling a spade a spade on the Internet.

    The only time you hear anyone being called Fascist lately, is the Bush administration seems to have settled on Islamo-Fascist as their new buzz word since they've completely worn out the 'T' and 'R' keys on their keyboards using the word "Terrorist" a hundred times in EVERY speech and press release for the last 5 years, to refer to EVERYONE who is not "with them" in the "either you are with us or you are against us" equation. I would say there is another pretty heavy dose of smoke screen in their recent use of Fascist in describing their enemy. If there enemy is Fascist then that MUST mean that they are not, though in fact they are at least leaning that way.

    Israel is another interesting case study. It was a state born out of the crucible of Fascism, but they treat Palestinians as sub human and with such contempt that it must ring a bell with Jews who lived in Europe in the 1930's. Just last week Israel's Supreme court affirmed a law effectively banning a Palestinian from marrying an Israeli citizen, a law so much like the Nazi prohibition of intermarriage with Jews. The law is not exactly predicated on race since its real motive is to prevent Palestinians from ever becoming the majority withing Israel. You see Palestinian are reproducing at a higher rate than Israel's Jews, especially if you count the occupied territories. so there is an imminent danger they will become the majority. Since Israel wants to maintain the facade it is a representative democracy it must do everything in its power to prevent Palestinians from becoming the majority, because when they are either Jews surrender power at the polls or for all practical purposes Israel is an apartheid state, which is pretty much already is, with a minority controlling power through non Democratic means and ethnic "cleansing". This is a key motivator from the withdrawl from Gaza. Through withdrawl Israel can claim that all the Palestinians there are no longer a part of Israel while Israel still maintains a choke hold on every aspect of their day to day lives.
  • by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @12:53PM (#15421036) Homepage
    No. In other words speech should be free until it incites violence against others. Perhaps that is a difficult concept to grasp as so many here have failed to understand that.
    Good job. You've just outlawed verbal support for the colonials that wanted to rebel against the British Crown (ever heard of the American revolution?) including the founding fathers. You've just outlawed every other revolutionary movement (including anti-colonial, anti-imperial, and pro-democratic movements) as well. You've outlawed verbal support for communism, which depends on the proles rising up and violently beating the crap out of "the rich." You've also outlawed verbal support for socialism, which is dependent upon involuntary taxation, which is possible only when violence can be used to coerce people to pay their taxes (e.g. if you don't pay your taxes, men with guns will come to your house, and take you to jail; if you resist, they'll beat the crap out of you). Just the other day, there was a Slashdot thread where people were seriously discussing violently overthrowing the American government; I guess Slashdot can be banned now as well, and all those people can go strait to jail. We can go on, and on.

    Would you defend my right to try to convince people that you should be dragged into the street and shot?
    I'd give you a microphone so that the whole world can be exposed to your "extraordinary" logic.
  • by katharsis83 (581371) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @03:22PM (#15421577)
    That's fucking bullshit. The only reason you think that is because domestic news sources give it more publicity when it condemns the US for "War on Terror" tactics, rather than when it does something boring like talking about massacres in South America or the Darfur conflict.

    Have you even looked at the Amnesty International website? Here let me show you a quote from their 2006 annual report that describes, "...widespread rape and killings continued - most shockingly in Darfur - against a background of poverty and disease." Source: http://web.amnesty.org/report2006/globaloverview-e ng [amnesty.org]

    Yes, the website does go on to criticize the US for one full sentence, and it also makes damn sure that China's rural policies, torture by Middle-Eastern governments, and incredibly poverty in Africa are mentioned as well.

    Also, do you know WHY America gets criticzed for even (relatively, compared to the Darfur genocide) slips in human rights records? This is because Americans - me included - consider their country to be a role model for the rest of the world. We obviously aren't as bad as China when it comes to censorship or Syria when it comes to torture, but why are we even comparing ourselves to that? Does it really feel that good to say, "well, at least we aren't as bad as the Darfur Janjaweed militia?" We hold ourselves to a higher moral standard, and I see nothing wrong when international human rights organizations call us out when we lapse from that standard. If we consider ourselves a symbol of freedom and democracy in the world, we better be able to take flak when we deviate in any way from those principles.
  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @05:11PM (#15421979) Homepage
    Also, do you know WHY America gets criticzed for even (relatively, compared to the Darfur genocide) slips in human rights records?

    Because AI is a biased organization that lives and breathes anti-Americanism?

    Check out their annual report - it begins with a letter from Amnesty's secretary general, Irene Khan. The letter opens with the events of August 19, 2003, when the United Nations envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was killed in an attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. Khan wonders why the "legitimacy and credibility of the UN could have eroded to such a fatal degree," noting that the UN was marginalized by America's march to war. That is supposed to explain the bombing of UN headquarters in Iraq? This peculiar bit of reasoning defies logic. Later on in the letter, Khan condemns "unequivocally" the actions of terrorist groups. But this hardly makes up for her earlier implication that America's rocky relationship with the UN somehow led to the August 19 attacks.

    Khan worries that Washington is trampling on human rights in its search for security, and muses about lost opportunities to correct social injustice and inequality as increased funding goes to the Pentagon's budget rather than to poverty-alleviation programs. While condemning "armed groups and individuals," she doesn't delve into much detail about the enormous harm wrought on the lives and rights of untold millions living under the intolerant tenets of religious extremism.

    The United States is named five times in her opening letter, and indirectly alluded to on several other occasions. No other country merits such sustained criticism. Certainly not the government of Sudan, which is guilty of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in what is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. As many as a million Sudanese in the Darfur region have been driven from their homes and tens of thousands have been slaughtered by militias loyal to the government. Khan does not mention the government of North Korea, which keeps a population of 25 million living in abject poverty and isolation, with more than 6 million Koreans depending on international handouts to avoid starvation while the regime spends scarce resources to build nuclear weapons. Khan mentions only in passing the human rights problems in the Congo, where more than 3 million people have died in a war nobody pays much attention to. Egypt merits a brief mention, but Khan does not bother criticizing Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, or any of the other Arab countries where jails are filled with political prisoners who often linger behind bars even after their sentences are completed. The millions of Burmese living under the heel of military dictatorship also fail to garner a mention in Khan's letter, as do the populations of increasingly repressive Central Asia regimes. And, of course, Khan declined to write about the travesty of the UN Human Rights Commission, which has lost all credibility by counting among its members some of the world's worst human rights violators.

    Yes, the details of each country's abuses appear inside the report. But the overarching views and priorities of Amnesty International take shape in Khan's introductory letter and in the press release. After all, those are the sections of the report that most readers are likely to see.

    And Amnesty's bias isn't just reflected in who it condemns; it's also revealed in where it directs praise. Amid the desolate landscape allegedly created by Washington, Amnesty takes solace in the emergence of what it calls a "global justice movement"--comprising the millions who, according to Amnesty, "took to the streets around the world in solidarity with the Iraqi people." That's an amazingly simplistic characterization of anti-war marches--it's not clear how a movement that urges the abandonment of Iraq stands in "solidarity with the Iraqi people"--and one that makes Amnesty sound more like a left-wing activist group than the rational, analytical organization it claims to be. Human rights are indeed under attack, and victims of abuse need staunch--and serious--defenders more than ever. Amnesty International could be at the forefront of this work, if it weren't so busy carrying out a narrow political agenda.

  • by pNutz (45478) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @11:57PM (#15423195)
    They don't advocate banning political desicions they don't like. They advocate banning hate speech. Conservatism and libertarianism are not hate speech, if you're worried. That definition is about the same as the EU's.

    When people use bigotry as an excuse to commit lynchings, terrorism, and genocide, stopping the proponents of these ideas is better than waiting for these kind of crimes to happen. AI is an international organization, and some places in the world do have bigger problems than frivolous lawsuits from people exploiting hate crime laws. When the man on the radio is shouting for all the 's slaughter, and people are starting to pick up machetes, it's best not to wait until the crime occurs to shut down the radio station. His speech should not be protected.

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