Mark Pesce on Internet filtering

Photograph of Mark Pesce

My new friend Mark Pesce (pictured) has written Blacklisted: Breaking Senator Conroy’s net censorship for the ABC.

The Web is the ultimate “greased pig” for the world’s governments — they can chase it, and perhaps briefly gain a handhold, but they’re always tossed on their posterior a few moments later. You would think that this lesson would have sunk in — after all the Web has been with us, part of our daily lives, for almost fifteen years. But no: there’s always a bureaucrat, somewhere, who claims: “This time, it’ll work. Really!”

Mark also quotes Wang Guoqing, which I hadn’t gotten around to doing yet:

Last May, Wang Guoqing, Vice Minister of the State Council of Information, the man who oversees the Great Firewall of China, was quoted as saying: “It has been repeatedly proved that information blocking is like walking into a dead end.” In essence, Wang was declaring the failure of the Chinese attempts to filter the Internet; the Chinese are now moving toward a policy, which reminds Chinese netizens that the state is watching them — and that they should surf the web appropriately.

Social pressure (with the threat of criminal prosecution) is taking over from a failed technical strategy. So Conroy is quite correct; Australia isn’t going down the Chinese road — because China has already backed out of this dead end.

A superb piece tying together pretty much all of the threads we’ve been discussing, and much more. Read and enjoy.

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3 comments

  1. Fnord Prefect’s avatar

    Unfortunately, I find the thought of “social pressure” to be an even bigger chilling effect; we can rely on the government to be slow, inept, and ineffective in cases like this, but when you enlist every man and his dog to act as Big Brother, you start heading down a road I don’t really want to contemplate…

  2. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Fnord Prefect: I ran your comments past Mark Pesce on Facebook, and he says:

    Consider the Stazi. Did it work? Kinda sorta. Did it instill a broad paranoia? Kinda sorta. Did the East German government fall apart spectacularly? Absolutely.

    I think I agree. Bruce Schneier always says that amateur spies perform amateur spying. You end up with amateur intelligence product. The System gets so overwhelmed with low-grade trash that it’s constantly chasing phantoms.

  3. Fnord Prefect’s avatar

    @Stilgherrian: Yes, I agree that, in the long term, such amateur spying is doomed to fail. That does not mean that it can’t do a great deal of damage to a lot of people along the way, and that is my main concern.

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