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Comments on "cyber-safety"

  • To: cyber-safety-petition@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Comments on "cyber-safety"
  • From: Freedom Against Censorship Thailand <facthai@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2009 21:35:23 +0700

Formal submission to ICANN from Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
Our observation has been that, throughout recorded history, every attempt at
censorship of the individual, is doomed to failure. Worse, censorship makes
socially-questionable content far more interesting. "Banned in Boston" (or
Bangkok) has always been a badge of honour for free thinkers. In short,
banning content assures it a wider audience.

Trying to keep such content "secret" as in Thailand raises many disturbing
questions about democracy, transparency, accountability in the role of
responsible government. It is far too easy to suppress ideas, opinions,
discussion and information with a censorship regime. And there has never
been a censor class which knew where to stop.

We must not permit private organisations to take control over content. It is
far too easy for private groups to have a hidden moral, religious, gender,
political agendas. The UK's Internet Watch Foundation is a good example of a
private group being given carte blanche to impose its opinions on the public
in total secrecy. We think the goals are not really about "protecting the
children" but generating public and private funds for administration while
making adults feel good about their efforts.

Not that governments do much better. But at least in case of governments or
international governing bodies, there can be the distant possibility of
transparency, accountability and oversight. Such oversight should bear many
layers of public protection and include academic, expert and public

We are tempted to say secrecy might be the largest part of the problem.
Certainly, if one is to examine the recent Internet censorship programmes of
the traditionally-liberal Scandinavian countries, it is easy to see how such
efforts go off the tracks almost on inception. Who watches the watchers?

The real effort must be put into education for our young people in every
country. Why have we given up parental supervision and family discussion to
the state? This is what "family values" should mean not some
holier-than-thou attitude that all our children can see right through. The
aspect of Internet pornography that disturbs us most is that it may be
affecting gender relationships in a profound manner. Many of us learned
about sex from parents and friends and in the back seat of a car; now
adolescents and younger may think the fantasy life on the Internet is the
way real people relate to each other.

Interpol has a very effective database of hundreds of thousands of child
abuse images. A spider bot has been created that trawls the Web efficiently
every day. When it finds such images, they are immediately deleted. Low
cost, minimal administration and upkeep, no counterproductive arrests and
prisoners, in short, no problems for wider society.  And yet the images are
removed from the 'net, frustrating their posters. Not perfect, but far more
effective than secret censorship.

While we have raised this subject, we must add a word about sexual age of
consent laws which vary for every country. However, up until around 1980,
most age of consent statutes defined age 12 as legal. We would daresay that
the age of sexual experience everywhere in the world is often around this
age. This makes considering those under 18 sexually as children completely
unrealistic. And it's the teenagers themselves who will out you on this one.
Thailand has interesting age of consent parameters: consensual sex is legal
at age 15 but sex for money before 18 is illegal (as is prostitution!).

Lastly, we think any attempt to regulate Internet pornography using specific
port options is a failed effort. Necessity will ensure that technical
circumvention methods are discovered even before you can implement such a

Although no precise statistics seem available, there appear to be between
five and seven billion cached Web pages and two billion active pages,
between one and two hundred million weblogs alone. Of these impressive
numbers (such a study should be done if it hasn't already), there are
thought to be at least ten million pornographic pages. Many of these are
not-for-profit. We don't think you can push that rock even marginally
uphill. So we must find ways to accommodate what is obviously a popular
social trend for a large percentage of 1.5 billion Internet users. The best
form of censorship is personal: Don't like it, don't look.

A free Internet is the the first cornerstone of democracy and certainly the
best chance humans have ever had at real participatory democracy. Now we
just need to find ways to make governments less afraid of their netizens and
trust them to be responsible to their fellows.

We welcome the opportunity for further frank discussion and consultation
with ICANN on this matter.

Thank you. We hope voices of reason will prevail.

Sincerely yours,
CJ Hinke
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

                   Website / เว็บไซต์ :
                     Petition / คำร้อง :

                   NO CENSORSHIP!
                   NO COMPROMISE!

                Contact details / ติดต่อ :
                      CJ Hinke (English)
              email: <facthai@xxxxxxxxx>
                tel. [+66] (0)87-976-1880
                Skype: unblocktheplanet

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