Warning: This post was published more than 10 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 10 years since I wrote this post.
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Many thanks for your understanding.
Today marks the launch of a new joint campaign between The Observer and Amnesty International over the contentious issue of internet censorship. They are calling on internet companies to stop colluding with repressive governments by denying citizens access to certain websites. Of course, the most publicised occurrence of this is Google’s decision to censor its search results in China, but Amnesty reports similar activities in Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The campaign is, doubtless, a little misguided. After all, all Google actually did was remove inaccessible search results from it’s Chinese search engine. In the old version, people could see the results, but not access them thanks to censorship from the Chinese government. It’s arguable that removing such sites from the index prevents the Chinese people from being aware that such documents exist, whether or not they are able to access them, but it also makes the search engine much more usable on a day-to-day basis.
It’s also slightly unfortunate that, in fact, most people support internet censorship to some degree. Most people would support the closing of child pornography websites, for example. Why? Because they are seen as offensive, damaging, exploitative, and culturally unacceptable. Surely similar arguments could be constructed for other forms of censorship. Amnesty argues that Human Rights Standards form the basis for acceptable censorship, but Human Rights legislation is largely based on Western ideology, and it is questionable as to whether it can truly be applied in non-Western cultures.
However, despite its flaws, the central message of the campaign is a worthy and positive one, and one which I have supported in the past through posts like this one. It is, therefore, a campaign which this site will be supporting – albeit in a somewhat symbolic way – by carring quotes from otherwised censored material in the sidebar, in order to raise awareness of the issue.
Forty-five years ago, an article in the Observer led to the launch of Amnesty International itself. Where will this campaign lead?