Monday, June 25, 2007

One man's protection is another man's censorship

My attention has been drawn toward Google's fight against global Internet censorship, and like many others, I find it amusing that Google has chosen to champion this cause, in light of its well-publicized participation in the censorship of the web from within Chinese IP space. I've read Google's line on both subjects - how censorship is an economic issue, rather than a political one, and that their censorship of web searches from China was necessary to allow Chinese access to any part of Google - and I don't exactly see the positions as contradictory.

Like any other corporation, Google clearly wants to have its cake and eat it too. No surprise. Google regrets having to censor Chinese access, but looks at the censorship as the lesser of two evils. After all, how can a company truly succeed with a motto like "Do no Evil" when it is given a choice between one of two evils?

But today's issue is global Internet censorship, which, if defeated, would essentially allow Google to remove the blocks it was forced to place on Chinese inquiries. A noble cause, one might say, and very characteristic of Internet culture. After all, my ability to write these words comes courtesy of the freedom from censorship afforded me by my residency in the United States.

But that doesn't mean I'm not being censored. Yes, I have freedom of speech, but we've already seen numerous cases where that freedom carries a caveat. You can't shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater, as one famous example puts it (unless there really is a fire, I suppose). There are restrictions on one's freedom from censorship - and how free you really are depends on the definition of censorship and who is doing the defining.

It's well and good to take a stance against censorship, but before going too far, ask yourself what you might be opening the gates for. Pornography? Piracy? Spam? Terrorism? Where is that line between protection and censorship? Who should have the right to define it, if anyone? And what makes that party any better at drawing the line than the next party?

The fight against global Internet censorship is probably a spin-off of the fight for Net Neutrality, and just like that fight, the truth lies somewhere between the spin doctors for both sides.

Don't be quick to take a position.

As for elsewhere...

Bocona reports the local Checkers has changed management, and she's willing to give them an upteenth chance. I still haven't seen an e-mail from anyone with Checkers, and am not as quick to accept an untendered apology. I hope Bocona's forgiving attitude doesn't lead her to her grave.


Things aren't so rosy at my retail position. For a few weeks I had them contracting me to rebuild their Internet marketing strategy (which sorely needs repair), but once they saw what it would cost them in hard dollars to do things right, that project was axed. I don't think this gig is going to last me very long.


Verizon and I had another spat. I requested a speed upgrade, but it didn't appear to happen, so I called support. The tech made a few adjustments and had me switch the Internet connection from the Actiontec router directly to one of my PCs. A quick SNMP reset/renew and there I was, faster, but not quite fast enough -- I thought. Arrangements were made for techs to look into the matter, but when I got off the phone and switched the connection back to the Actiontec, the Internet connection was dead.

I called back. Different tech this time, and he wasn't interested in what the previous tech had done. After 30 minutes and two router power cycles, he decided I'd blown the router, and he had to send me a replacement. Final. No buts about it.

Off the phone, I logged into the router's management console and issued an SNMP reset/renew. Problem solved... but I had to call Verizon a third time and cancel the planned delivery of a replacement router. I guarantee the contents of that call found their way to a supervisor.

So, life is faster, now, but not necessarily any better. If you have an IT position for me in the Tampa Bay area, I'd like to hear what you have to say.

If not, you are still welcome to drop by Your World News if you like.

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