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UK Net Porn Censorship Will Also Censor Political Speech – From Day One

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 10:56
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Repression: A proposed pornography-censorship scheme in the United Kingdom is going to censor political speech from day one. There is pressure from the UK Government on UK Internet Service Providers to introduce “default voluntary censorship”, which is supposed to get at “pornography”. This is a covert way of making censorship acceptable and even desirable, “for the children”, but the censorship will cover much more than that.

This discussion is about much more than just whether pornography is good or bad, and whether it is seen as harmful for children to watch. It is also about whether censorship is good or bad, or even the slightest bit acceptable, and whether censorship of political discussion is an acceptable collateral for depriving children of the ability to observe parts of reality that are deemed sexual in nature.

For the moment, let’s not go into the debate of whether pornography is good or bad. We can settle for the observation that it’s a very popular form of entertainment.

Also, let’s not go into the debate whether it’s harmful for children to watch. People have been claiming that with religious fervor since Victorian times, and been equally shouted down by people who claim utter hogwash. (For the record, I was partially brought up in a nude camp. That gives you perspective as well as a relaxed attitude to the body of yourself and others – it was only at adult age I realized most people hadn’t seen their friends of both sexes go through puberty along with yourself.)

However, let us do go into whether censorship is acceptable in any way, shape, or form as a means to fight what you deem undesirable. History answers a frank and brutal no to that question: censorship is not acceptable as a tool under any circumstances, no matter how noble your goal or intention.

Let us also discuss the degree of collateral damage. If you find censorship acceptable, which some people lacking in history may do, is collateral damage from false positives acceptable? In other words, is it better to leave one “bad” piece of information wrongly uncensored, or one “good” piece wrongly censored? This is very clearly a limitation of fundamental freedom of speech, and as such, should not be taken lightly at all.

Mistakes in the censorship regime do happen. The Pirate Party has been stuck in censorship filters twice close to elections – once in Sweden, with less than one month until the election, when public computers were prohibited from accessing the challenger Pirate Party (but could access all other contending parties), and once in Germany, where school filters censored the challenger Pirate Party but allowed all other parties.

Is this acceptable? If you know beforehand that mistakes like this will happen, where the censorship regime prevents legitimate political parties from being accessible to voters – even if it was not part of the plan, when you know it will happen as part of human nature, would it still be okay?

If you really want to put this argument to a point, consider the blogger Johanna Sjödin (in Swedish, NSFW link). She is a highly political blogger for freedom of body and nakedness, and for the right for teenagers to enjoy sex without holier-than-thou morals from self-appointed grown-ups, and she illustrates her blog with herself bare-chested in the banner (and occasional nude pictures inline). For extra bonus points, she’s 16 in the banner picture.

This is by any definition highly qualified political speech. The purpose is clearly political, the purpose is to express political views, and yet, it would be caught in a millisecond by the “pornography” censorship. This is but one example; I am certain there are many more.

You clearly cannot discuss the problems with censorship without showing the results of the process. Yet, such political discussions would be censored themselves, as they would display “pornography” – but in a political context, which makes an enormous difference.

We arrive at the important conclusion that censorship is incapable of telling the difference between political contexts and purely pornographic ones. Even if you think the latter is okay to banish from the planet, political discussion is never – never, ever under any circumstance – okay to censor.

The conclusion is inevitable: censorship is not acceptable in any way, shape or form. But those of us who have studied history of power already knew that.



Source: http://falkvinge.net/2013/07/31/uk-net-porn-censorship-will-also-censor-political-speech-from-day-one/

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