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[ PRIVACY Forum ] Pakistan unblocks YouTube -- for three minutes. (Plus my comments.)

[ PRIVACY Forum ] Pakistan unblocks YouTube -- for three minutes. (Plus my comments.)

Posted Jan 5, 2013 14:20 UTC (Sat) by gmaxwell (subscriber, #30048)
Parent article: [ PRIVACY Forum ] Pakistan unblocks YouTube -- for three minutes. (Plus my comments.)

> You have two real world choices: (a) Get used to the fact that you can't
> control the planet's information, and if you wish, fight information you
> don't like with more information, not attempted censorship. Or (b) Cut
> off the Internet totally (if you can), and stay in the 13th century
> where you appear to be comfortable. Good luck with that latter choice.

Comments like this along with Gilmore's venerable "The net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it"— feel good to say— I've heard the phrase "technoyay!"— but I don't believe they are all that realistic.

It's true that absolute censorship— much like leak-free DRM— is not really possible and any effort will suffer some successful evasion. But in terms of the day to day activities of the bulk of the public, most will not try— won't care, won't know how, or will be afraid— and not all that try will succeed. Censorship can be and is quite effective in practice.

Censors are usually especially concerned with changing the average behavior and for that absolute performance is not required. Outliers always exist, and even better that they easily self-identify through possession of contraband information. The censors (and DRM authors) generally know this, and so when geeks ramble on about the impossibility of their task— a task they are often currently succeeding at!— I'm sure they consider us hopelessly naive or even dishonest.

With due respect to Gilmore, I think an argument can be made that the widespread knowledge and acceptance of his oft quoted censorship remark has had the effect of encouraging our technical communities to not design in more effective anti-censorship into the infrastructure of the Internet— no point in solving a solved problem.

Premature declarations of victory are seldom wise— even though they do feel good. I think its better to risk understating the challenges censors face and over prepare. Lauren's remarks are, perhaps, why anti-censors will eventually win but only if they do not take that victory for granted. Let us not continue to make the past mistake of assuming technology will save us from oppression quite so easily, or declaring victory when there is still so much work to be done.

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