Sunday, June 15, 2008

France planning to block more than child pornography

Few would disagree that child pornography is unacceptable - it may encourage further paedophilia, scar a child mentally, involve unpleasant acts and exploitation to obtain such material and if shared/posted online expose the child to a global audience - hardly the kind of start they need. I also believe there should be greater online accountability regarding adult material posted without consent as well.

Anyway the point I am making is that blocking access to child pornography can be justified - certainly it threatens free expression, however it hurts vulnerable people.

Most nations have stopped with blocking this material. France however has tacked on "terror" and "racial hatred sites". Here I believe they may have overstepped the boundaries.

In regard to racial hate sites, the site owners are simply expressing an opinion - it may not be one the vast majority of people agree with - however to block access is censorship. The language is also quite ambiguous. Racial hate to some might mean the BNP. Also what about other types of hate - religious, gender, homophobia and so on. Are these going to be blocked as well? What other criteria will be added later?

More worrying however is the block of terror sites. Any political page could be labelled to be terrorist in nature by the incumbent leaders/party. For example should Iran's media or government site be blocked from western view? My view is no it shouldn't. Bush might disagree.

Additionally there should not be a distinction between "academic" and "non-academic" sites/ opinions. A working class mother is just as much entitled to express her opinion about immigration as a right wing academic who qualifies his views. When does a view become racist or extremist?

Clearly it is entirely subjective. The difference between France and, for example, China however is that France claims to be democratic, and this entails permitting minorities and dissenters from speaking, even if wrong.

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