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Censorship

Journal: All about the Great Firewall of China and Us. 1

Journal by Mactrope

The Atlantic has an interesting discussion of the Great Firewall of China and how effective it is despite it's holes. The author has fascinating and timely inside technical information but the effective elements are not technical. The system is intentionally unpredictable so people can never be sure where the problem is. No wonder they love Windows. More importantly, no good comes out of chasing the truth so people censor themselves out of fear and sense of futility.

What the government cares about is making the quest for information just enough of a nuisance that people generally won't bother. ... All around them is more information about China and things Chinese than they could possibly take in. ... When this much is available inside the Great Firewall, why go to the expense and bother, or incur the possible risk, of trying to look outside?

"Domestic censorship is the real issue, and it is about social control, human surveillance, peer pressure, and self-censorship," Xiao Qiang of Berkeley says. Last fall, a team of computer scientists from the University of California at Davis and the University of New Mexico published an exhaustive technical analysis of the GFW's operation and of the ways it could be foiled. But they stressed a nontechnical factor: "The presence of censorship, even if easy to evade, promotes self-censorship."

Rebecca MacKinnon [a former Beijing correspondent for CNN] says ... "the controls mean that whole topics inconvenient for the regime simply don't exist in public discussion." Most Chinese people remain wholly unaware of internationally noticed issues like, for instance, the controversy over the Three Gorges Dam.

The usual excuses for doing business in China are swatted away.

the vision of democracy-through-communications-technology is so convincing to so many Americans. ... let me emphasize how unconvincing this vision is to most people who deal with Chinas system of extensive, if imperfect, Internet controls.

Blogger Richard Stallman notes that the same social dynamics apply here too.

The same is true of the US corporate media: it is not very hard to find out the things they don't say, but most Americans don't bother, and the result is that Bush repeatedly gets away with lies.

Other issues of great importance to Americans that are nearly impossible to get good information on are the structure and regulation of health insurance, lending, telecommunications, agriculture and the very food on their table. If it was really a big deal, CNN and other broadcasters would cover it ... right? Not if it offends broadcast owners and advertisers. At the same time, alternate sources of information, such as Wikipedia, are constantly maligned.

Windows

Journal: Wintel Hypocrisy, or Apple's Safari Distribution Wrong?

Journal by Mactrope

Just months after the mandatory WGA and IE8 auto updates, Apple is being condemned for pushing Safari thought their auto update service. Special attention is given to Mozilla statements, which are naturally negative. It will be more interesting to see what people have to say who have previously defended Microsoft's distribution methods, especially when the update is not mandatory

Privacy

Journal: TIA Moved to NSA, Intercepts Email and SMS Without Warrant

Journal by Mactrope

Richard Stallman summarizes an excellent commondreams.org research:

After Congress cancelled the DOD's "Total Information Awareness" program, Bush restarted it in the NSA. It looks at where who you talk with, by email and text messages. It tracks web browsing. Combined with the Bush regime's general disrespect for human rights and rule of law, "We know everything" translates into "We can crush anyone at any time."

The article quotes a whistle blower, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Kenneth Wainstein, news.com, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the EFF and others to demonstrate the existence of a powerful electronic dragnet. I doubt there was a lapse in service.

Privacy

Journal: 13 Fired for Looking at Britany Spear's Medical Records 1

Journal by Mactrope

From the "I can't believe Britany Spears is Slashdot Material" Dept.

The LA Times is reporting a minor scandal over Britany Spear's medical records.

UCLA Medical Center is taking steps to fire at least 13 employees and has suspended at least six others for snooping in the confidential medical records of pop star Britney Spears during her recent hospitalization in its psychiatric unit, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.

In addition, six physicians face discipline for peeking at her computerized records, the person said.

This happened not once, but twice. Staff were warned about this when the same celebrity had a baby.

It's good to see a high profile case but it means nothing if financial records are not made opaque. It won't do a patient any good if the credit and insurance records include all of the same information without the same and more safeguards.

One of the most overlooked advantages to computers is... If they do foul up, there's no law against whacking them around a little. -- Joe Martin

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