Free Speech

by Bas Grasmayer


Filed Under:
censorship, tunisia



Tunisian State Secretary Says Censorship Is Fine Because The West Does It Too

from the being-a-rolemodel dept

This weekend we came across a post by Karin Kosina which highlighted the problem in saying that sometimes it's okay to 'filter' (censor) certain websites.

"Tunisian state secretary Sami Zaoui just announced (mirror) that they will keep blocking websites that are "against decency, contain violent elements or incite to hate". When criticised that this is inacceptable in a democracy, he responded (mirror): "Wrong! Even the countries that are most evolved when it comes to freedom block terrorist sites"."

In the case of Tunisia, which just had a revolution or perhaps is still in the process of a revolution, it becomes immediately clear what the problem with such filtering is. Basically, the government is keeping a tool in place which has been used to silence critics in the past. Also, the conditions for which websites are censored are quite vague. Inciting hate and containing violent elements seem quite clear, but as we've seen in Turkey, such conditions can easily be stretched and that's without even taking the 'decency' condition into consideration.

Both the US and the EU are obviously failing to be a rolemodel when they should be. Many politicians in the EU have embraced the idea of an internet filter to block child pornography. As for the US, they could be seen seizing domain names of 'rogue websites'. On the one hand, politicians of the west love talking about the principles of freedom, but on the other hand they hate to actually live up to their own standards when something like WikiLeaks or a music blog comes along. The problems of this for the US and the EU have been discussed here in detail before.

What such censorship also does, is create a dangerous precedent, because it allows for repressive governments to create excuses for censorship. This is to be expected, and we've predicted similar things in the past. If Western countries are really serious about stopping internet censorship (and they're probably not that serious), they need to actually learn to live up to that ideal. Otherwise, we're going to see more and more state-supported censorship defended by the fact that Western nations are just as bad.


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  1. icon
    average_joe (profile), 25 Jan 2011 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re:

    Call-to-arms words like "prior restraint" and "censorship" get thrown out by Mike a lot, for the obvious rhetorical reasons. Mike uses those terms interchangeably whether he's referring to situations where conduct and content is blocked because of the views being expressed (actual censorship), or where unprotected conduct and content is blocked in a copyright context (not censorship). Mike's really good at blending the two to further his agenda, I'll give him that.

    Copyhype today has another outstanding piece called "Copyright and Censorship." Terry Hart refers to conduct such as Mike's as "First Amendment Opportunism." I love that! I highly recommend it: http://www.copyhype.com/2011/01/copyright-and-censorship/

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