How to Constrain ‘Absolute’ Freedom

Just in case anyone was still wondering whether the internet inherently “dissolves state borders” or makes “information free,” the UK “Biting the Hand that Feeds IT” blog The Register today reports on that well-known authoritarian country, New Zealand, applying state-level filters in a manner that can at least be called “quiet”: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/12/new_zealand_internet_filter/.

I have no sympathy with purveyors of child porn (apparently today the exclusive target of the filtering mechanism) and the full article makes it sound as if most of what happened here was, pretty much, done with adequate public input; still, it should make the “absolute openness” of the internet as obsolete an idea as that of absolute free speech.

In addition, this should make clear what i hope is clear already: all or nearly all internet traffic is constantly monitored, already, now, and if anything the internet has made the monitoring of phone traffic much more total. I’m still not quite sure how to draw the conceptual distinction between that and that part of big brother Orwell cast on contemporary western societies, the part where, as Orwell said, 1984 “is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter), but as a show-up of the perversions . . . which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism. . . . The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else, and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.”

NZ internet filter goes live – gov forgets to tell public

The rise of the secret censor

New Zealand’s internet filtering system went live last month – but the government forgot to mention this to its electorate until its hand was forced by online freedom campaign, Tech Liberty.

Thomas Beagle, a spokesman for the group, said he was “very disappointed that the filter is now running” and that its launch had been conducted in such a “stealthy mode”. He added: “It’s a sad day for the New Zealand internet.”

In an interview with Computerworld this week, he claimed that the filter had gone live on February 1 but the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) delayed announcing this at until it had met with its Independent Reference Group.

The manager of the DIA’s Censorship Compliance Unit, Steve O’Brien, denied that there had been any subterfuge. The system has been undergoing trials for two years and the media have been aware of this throughout.

Read the full story in the UK Register.

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