Thoughts on censorship

by Karl Auer

[I wrote this on Tuesday 3 August 2010, in the ISOC-AU members mailing list. It seems worth putting up here as well. -K]

On Tue, 2010-08-03 at 07:49 +1000, xxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:
> So if we are entering the political arena lets realise that there is
> more than one issue to consider, and some longer term issues where the
> major party that has poor policies on filtering is considerably
> stronger than its counterpart.

You imply that filtering is a short term problem, while the development of a national broadband infrastructure is a long term problem.

I beg to differ. There will always be time to build a broadband network. That just needs money and will, and is no more than a better mousetrap.

Lack of an NBN may lead to disadvantages in the marketplace, or lowered effectiveness in various areas. But its lack will not lead to death, destruction, the imprisonment of innocents, a suspicious, distrustful citizenry or, in the worst case, to dictatorship and ruin.

Most of our civil liberties, and those enjoyed in other countries, have been very hard won indeed. Loss of these liberties has been shown to lead quite directly to exactly those bad things just mentioned, as well as disadvantages in the marketplace and lowered effectiveness in pretty much all areas of endeavour.

Once lost, civil liberties have shown themselves to be exceedingly hard to regain. In many cases, they are won back only through bloodshed.

Historically, the loss of freedom to exchange information is the first civil liberty attacked by those who would rule. It is typically the first step towards totalitarianism. So while it may sometimes be necessary to censor something in an otherwise open and free society, that step should always be taken with extreme reluctance.

People who have actually lost irreplaceable data are the often the most fervent proponents of good backup regimes. Those who have never lost data tend to be complacent; hey, the hardware seems reliable, no data lost, all will be well. Those who call for protections, for the procedures to be taken seriously, are seen as, well, zealots. As a bit embarrassing.

Most of us have grown up in a world where totalitarianism happens to other people. Our system here seems to work well. And those who call for our civil liberties to be protected and for those protections to be taken seriously are seen as, well, zealots. As a bit embarrassing...

Regards, K.

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