Comments on "cyber-safety"
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 scrutiny. 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 system. 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 : <http://facthai.wordpress.com> Petition / คำร้อง : <http://thailand.ahrchk.net/fact_petition/> ไม่ประนีประนอม! NO CENSORSHIP! NO COMPROMISE! Contact details / ติดต่อ : CJ Hinke (English) email: <facthai@xxxxxxxxx> tel. [+66] (0)87-976-1880 Skype: unblocktheplanet