US: India, Stop Censoring Websites! India: Wikileaks, Hello? US: That's Different!

from the hypocrisy dept

We've argued for a while that the US's effort to censor websites at home while talking about internet freedom is hypocritical and takes away any moral high ground the US might have had with other countries concerning their efforts to censor the internet. What's stunning, unfortunately, is how rarely US officials seem to recognize this problem. When confronted on it -- they always revert to a "but that's different!" claim, missing that this is exactly the excuse that other countries use to justify their own censorship efforts.

Case in point: there's been significant concern in India, as the government has been censoring Twitter accounts of certain journalists and political groups, as well as blocking certain websites (sometimes just blog posts, other times, full websites). As that last link explains, the content targeted for censorship tends to have to do with content around "communal issues and rioting," and thus there's an argument to be made that the censorship is for the benefit of the public, to prevent riots. Even so, of course, one can question whether or not such censorship is even effective, let alone the rather obvious temptation for those in power to overblock for their own benefit. Indeed, that last link explains that there have been "egregious mistakes" in how the blocks have been carried out.

And what about the US? With plenty of attention being paid to the debate over this Indian censorship, the US State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, was asked her thoughts about what was happening, and trotted out the standard line about internet freedom:
"On the larger question of Internet freedom, you know where we are on that issue, and we are always on the side of full freedom of the Internet," she said.
Which sounds great, of course, but if Nuland thought that such a blanket statement would let her off, she was mistaken. Reporters immediately hit back, pointing to examples of the US fighting against internet freedom in its own back yard. And Nuland apparently wasn't happy, and pulled out the "but that's different!" excuse:
But when she was probed on the issue of WikiLeaks, Nuland snapped: "WikiLeaks didn't have to do with freedom of the Internet. It had to do with the compromise of US government classified information."
To be fair the US government has not "blocked" Wikileaks. It has blocked it on certain government computers and has used public pressure to have its hosting and payment processors cut it off. Whether or not that's to the same level as to what's happening in other countries may be debatable, but it certainly opens up the US to criticism on that point. And that's the real issue here. Even if you argue "but that's different," just the fact that the US has opened itself up to such an easy retort any time it argues for internet freedom in countries that espouse censorship, it makes it that much harder for the US to seriously push an internet freedom agenda abroad.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:24am

    The unauthorized disclosure of duly classified information is a different matter altogether, and to try and lump it into a generic category is misfortunate and naive. If so-called "moral high ground" is diminished, then so be it.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:27am

    " ...we are always on the side of full freedom of the Internet"

    Hahahahahahahaha! What a laugh riot!

     

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  3.  
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    flargalgargal (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:30am

    Re:

    Seeing as much of what Wikileaks exposed was not anywhere near the public's best interests, perhaps we should be looking at what qualifies as 'duly classified information' here...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:31am

    Godwin's law

    US: Stop killing Jews!
    NG: Jim Crow laws, hello?
    US: That's different!

     

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  5.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:31am

    "But when she was probed on the issue of WikiLeaks, Nuland snapped: "WikiLeaks didn't have to do with freedom of the Internet"

    Yeah, sure it has NOTHING to do with the freedom of the internet...

    Other than pointing out the corruption of government and corporations and allowing the public to know what's going on.

    Surely that wouldn't have negative effects on the internet...

    Oh, wait, it does.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:38am

    Re:

    Even then going after the people disclosing the information is folly. Looking at where your internal procedures and safeguards failed would be the correct measure.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:42am

    In other words the US is saying "You have freedom of speech on the Internet, as long as that speech is speech that we agree with".

     

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  8.  
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    The eejit (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:47am

    Re:

    Okay then, how about dajaz1? Which wasn't even remotely attuned to public order information.

    Or how about Rojadirecta, a service that was renderede fully legal by numerous courts before being seized?

    Or how about MU, which is still locked down because the US DoJ is dlaiming that it's Schroedinger's Copyright Infringement in its documentation?

     

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  9.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:49am

    Re:

    We need a positive uniting figure. Otherwise this shit will continue. We need someone with the presence of Gandhi with the attitude of Mr. Rogers and the eloquence of Shakjespeare.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:50am

    Re: Re:

    No argument here, but it does at least bear mentioning that what may appear innocuous to many is not necessarily the case.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:51am

    as much as i agree that the 'Wikileaks' example was a reasonable one to employ, the other sites that have been blocked by ICE, under instructions from the US entertainment industries are just as good examples, if not better. considering the lack of evidence that was forthcoming to start the blocks, let alone keep them, other than to please certain high paid execs that have high level government officials as personal friends, what other excuse is there? it's a typical US government opinion of 'if it's us that want to have blocked or to block sites, it's fine. if it's any other country doing it, internet freedom is being destroyed. and why no mention of the other countries that the US have forced to censor websites on it's behalf? Sweden and the UK being prime examples!

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:53am

    Re: Anonymous Coward

    Anyone not a member of the military or government has no obligation or responsibility to protect classified information.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re:

    and the eloquence of Shakjespeare.

    And with the spelling ability of Elmo.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re:

    Schroedinger's Copyright Infringment.. I like it.

    Though I thought they were arguing Copyright Infringement was a given. They were arguing for Schroedinger's Child Porn. "There may or many not be child porn on those servers, but we can't look, because looking at child porn is illegal."

     

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  15.  
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    Wander (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:00am

    US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    Does this writer know the difference between censorship and espionage? Does he understand that states keep secrets and have the right to do so? There are plenty of legitimate ways to register social protest today, Wikileaks ignored these and chose to operate in a cowboy fashion. When Mr. Wikileaks is chased out of hiding in the UK, he will likely be a guest in the US for a very long time. If you can't pay the piper, don't play the tune!

     

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  16.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:15am

    *Sigh*

    Looks like we have an Authoritarian here.

    You forget one tiny, LITTLE, very minor piece of information...

    Government derives its power from the people.

    What Wikileaks did here is nothing different than what "Deep Throat" did against Nixon.

     

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  17.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:19am

    Re:

    The unauthorized disclosure of duly classified information is a different matter altogether, and to try and lump it into a generic category is misfortunate and naive.

    Ummm. It was an unauthorized disclosure of duly classified information by Bradley Manning perhaps (although I feel he should be shielded by whistle-blower laws).

    Wikileaks merely published the info. No different than the New York Times publishing the Pentagon Papers.


    If so-called "moral high ground" is diminished, then so be it.

    Some of the "moral high ground" is also the fundamentals of our Constitution. Personally, it means more to me than something that is simply brushed aside with a wave of your hand.

     

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  18.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:24am

    Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    Wikileaks ignored these and chose to operate in a cowboy fashion.

    Please explain this statement. How is Wikileaks publishing the cables any different then the New York Times publishing the Pentagon Papers?

    Also, the US pretty much encouraged Wikileaks' activity while it was exposing secrets in other governments.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    He's going to be very safe and very rich for a long time. Don't you worry about him :)

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re:

    can you back this up? are you aware of 'much of what wikileaks exposed' and can you point to any harm that has occurred, other than public shaming of US government officials?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Steve, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:40am

    Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    Prick.
    Wikileaks stole nothing, no espionage there dickhead, only exposure.
    You are from the US i presume? When will YOU be paying the piper?

     

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  22.  
    icon
    PlagueSD (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:42am

    US = Pot
    India = Kettle

    You should be able to figure out the rest.

     

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  23.  
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    The eejit (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:47am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Indeed. Obviously, Shakjespeare was a Nordic metal fan.

     

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  24.  
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    The eejit (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:48am

    Re:

    That's Kettleist!

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:49am

    Re:

    Question: Does a non-US citizen outside of the United States have any obligation to keep US confidential material confidential?

     

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  26.  
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    gorehound (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:57am

    Re:

    +1
    Washington is a Cancer and I am sick of these Corrupt A-Hole Politicians.
    It is a laugh riot but the joke is on us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:57am

    Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    Does he understand that states keep secrets and have the right to do so?


    The right to do so? No, the US does not. We give it the privilege of doing so, and when -- as the WL releases have shown -- that privilege is abused to hide wrongdoing, that privilege can and should be taken away until people get their shit together.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    gorehound (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:58am

    Re:

    Yup !!!
    We sure are heading towards a Police Type State.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:58am

    Re:

    Different how?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:03am

    Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    There are plenty of legitimate ways to register social protest today

    Would this be the same legitimate way that was followed by William Binney and Thomas Drake? Sure worked out well for them following the legitimate way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:08am

    Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    Do you know the difference between censorship and espionage? Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient as determined by a government. Espionage is the disclosure of information of a sensitive nature as determined by a government. Prosecuting someone for espionage is, by definition, censorship.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re:

    Let me put it this way. Such a person would be wise not planning on taking his family on vacation to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. ;)

     

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  33.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Let me put it this way. Such a person would be wise not planning on taking his family on vacation to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. ;)

    I agree. I wouldn't trust the US Government not to illegally detain such a person and whisk them off to Gitmo, never to be seen again.

    Meanwhile, that moral high ground sinks ever lower.........

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:25am

    We have wikileaks that the US has tried to attack in many ways, but there are still other cases such as shutting down websites/blogs for linking to copyrighted content. Either way, the US government finds it illegal in some way so it's ok to take it down, but if India's government finds it illegal and blocks it, well, that's different. Except for the essential part where they are not different at all. It is simply this: is the content illegal/disliked in one place and not the other? Solutions are block it,remove it, or just leave it the hell alone.

    Either the internet is going to be an open playground where you punish the people doing wrong, or it is going to be excessively restricted trying to cater to every group that wants to play the parent role.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Harm is once again subjective.

    Obama administration "leaks" without any witch hunting that they were involved with stuxnet (Very unusual based on the actions taken on any leaks before). Some diplomatic cables get leaked and the government won't even bother to pretend it is treating the person humanely.

    The result of admitting stuxnet, putting every citizen and the US at risk for openly admitting cyber warfare is completely acceptable. The result of the cables, lots of embarassed politicians and shitloads of paperwork and brown nosing.

    The more potentially harmful leak, was performed by the government with obvious intentions of manipulating elections, while the leak was performed by a person trying to show as much as they can what the government was doing wrong.

    I'd say making your country a larger target to it's very vulnerable systems, on purpose, is more harmful than showing the "secret" messages among politicians. But then again, I'm not the asshat making decisions to look good instead of being good.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Wait, what?! What is the point of being the Censor if you don't get to look at everything?


    Which is kind of funny in a sad way, since many things are censored with the idea that being exposed it will cause a person to become corrupted in some way, like talking bad about a government. So by definition the Censor themself should be the worst deginerate possible, and at that point you couldn't trust their opinion, so....

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Apparently the USA's moral high ground was located somewhere on Atlantis.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re:

    My recollection is that the information was disclosed by a member of the US military. The military already has a procedure for this known as the UCMJ.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    flargalgargal (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 10:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I would, but I think Lord Binky has it pretty well covered.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If that was the case, shouldn't there be a functionally useless umlaut in the name?

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 10:51am

    Re:

    If a citizen was to release classified information they had legally obtained THAT IS NOT A CRIME. By the letter of the law this person has done NOTHING WRONG.

    Morally wrong? Irrelevant when you are talking about the government is attacking someone with no legal leg to stand on. If they want to make publishing information the government deems classified and a risk to national security they should outlaw it.

    The person who had access to the information and gave it to someone else is very much on the wrong side of the law.

     

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  42.  
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    The eejit (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Censorship is like radiation: the one doing the thing has all the power.

     

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  43.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:29am

    Kudos to the reporters

    I gotta say, had I been in that audience, as soon as she reached the "On the larger question of Internet freedom, you know where we are on that issue, and we are always on the side of full freedom of the Internet," bit there is no way I would have been able to keep from bursting out laughing, given that she was obviously trying to lighten the mood with a joke.

    Truly, to be able to stay straight-faced and laughter free in the presence of such hilarious levels of hypocrisy is an amazing skill indeed.

     

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  44.  
    icon
    Mark K (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Re: Godwin's law

    So this means everybody else is justified for making the same mistakes someone else did?

     

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  45.  
    icon
    Mark K (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    Honest Judge, I didn't steal that car, I just bought it from the guy that did steal it. How many people are charged with receiving stolen goods that should be innocent. Wikileaks new it was classified information so they are just as culpable.

     

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  46.  
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    Mark K (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re:

    I would beg to differ. A person in the performance of rtheir duties may come upon and obtain classified materials legally, but they in turn are not legally allowed to release that classified information to a party that is not legally allowed to have it. Like I said before, receipt of stolen property is still a crime in many jurisdictions.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:53am

    Re:

    The question of classification of information. What boxes can you use and what can't you?

    - Classified information from government?
    - Classified information from private companies?
    - Copyright protection for works from private companies?
    - Unlicensed use of patented products for private companies?

    If you are saying yes to all those limitations, the question is: How far can you use these marks to censor?

    - If an employee from the government leaks a document with no official classification yet?
    - Lowly classified information with no general restriction of who gets to see them?
    - Having the government pay for protecting a trade-secret for a private american company?
    - Making the government pay for prosecution of people for illegal copying?
    - Having the government investigate and break private companies confidentiality to produce evidence of them illegally using a patent held by another company?

    Those are just a few of the ethical questions you have to answer because of "that is different" and if the answer is "it depends" you have to further specify where the line for censorship has to be drawn.

    Any kind of deletion of information qualifies as censorship and trying to give the impression that the arbitrary lines drawn by USA or EU are more legitimate than those drawn by India and China is not a question of "internet freedom". It is a question of poorly thought through legislation and overreaching enforcement making something that should be simple very complicated and "that is different" is exactly the same as saying "it is complicated" in this context.

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    quawonk, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 12:00pm

    This same government censored dajaz1 for a year, proposed SOPA, ACTA and TPP. Oh but it's different! It's to protect our obsolete entertainment industry.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    Why do you keep making analogies to stealing as if that's somehow similar.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Receipt of stolen property is for... receipt of stolen property. It doesn't apply here. It's not analogous here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re: Godwin's law

    It means we should practice what we preach. India isn't justified here at all, neither is the US, and the point of the article is that being a giant fucking hypocrite does real damage to our diplomatic efforts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: US: India, Stop Censoring Websites!...

    Wikileaks new it was classified information so they are just as culpable.

    Culpable for what? Exercising Freedom of the Press?
    Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.
    óJustice Black in NEW YORK TIMES CO. v. UNITED STATES, 403 U.S. 713 (1971)

     

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  53.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 4:02am

    Took it long enough to happen. It seems the US has lost their power to intervene in censorship issues. Too bad, freedom seems to be quite alone right now if u consider Governments effectively protecting and promoting it.

     

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  54.  
    icon
    Lauriel (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 5:22am

    Re: Re:

    Only if you are one of those Pot-loving hippy freaks.

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    gnudist, Sep 7th, 2012 @ 5:38am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ELMO PAINT YOUR FACE

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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