Burning Issues

You’d have thought we were on safe ground with this one. All too often we free-speech advocates find ourselves defending the likes of fascists or alleged paedophiles; this time surely, we have an open-and-shut case of traditional state authoritarianism to fight against with the Police’s recent suggestion that the government ban flag-burning?

Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it is a staggeringly authoritarian move, but no, in that it doesn’t quite fit the mould of previous attempts to ban flag-burning in western countries. You wouldn’t be surprised to see the UK police taking a dim view of people who burn the union jack, but it appears that this time they wish to extend their remit beyond even that to the banning of any attempt to burn any flag.

Fundamentally, their target is not so much a specific type of demonstration (as perhaps would have been the case in the past), as demonstration in general. They want to clamp down on anything that could be seen as ‘offensive’. There was me thinking that the problem with modern demonstrations was that they weren’t offensive enough…….

Ultimately however, motivation is irrelevant. The police want to take away our right to decide how we protest and that is something truly offensive to all of us.

Is Google's vision the correct vision ?

A political action committe (PAC), with the Federal Election Commission, has been set up by Google. This PAC,Google NetPAC, allows Google to make corporate donations to support anybody seeking elected-office. Google has stated that Google NetPAC is for candidates that share its vision of promoting and preserving the internet as a free and open plaform for information, communication and innovation.

Google has become involved in a number of censorship issues such as the censored service, google.cn and censored news search engine of sites critical of Islamism, than with any of the 'visions' championed in Google NetPAC.

Yes, Google NetPAC has some fine aims but surely this should also include freedom of speech as a main and guiding principle. Censorship is rife on the internet and should be fought to allow the flow of information, communication and innovation.

Thought Crimes Need Re-thinking

Three years in prison for looking at porn between consenting adults? Okay, Constable get the handcuffs out.

The UK government has added a new offence to it's ever-growing hit list of thought crimes, this time the possession of so-called ‘violent porn’ which includes images such as "material featuring violence that is, or appears to be, life-threatening or is likely to result in serious and disabling injury".

According to Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker MP: "Such material has no place in our society but the advent of the internet has meant that this material is more easily available and means existing controls are being by-passed - we must move to tackle this."

It may not be Mr Coaker's cup of tea, and it may not be yours – but it is some people's - and do they really deserve to go to prison for looking at images in the privacy of their home? Hardly. More detailed criticisms of the government’s approach can be found elsewhere on the Internet Freedom web site.

Filtering Fracas

Have you recently sent me an important email that I never acknowledged?

It could be I missed it. More likely, my ISP spat it out. You see, the company that forwards my email has started blocking email from undesirables – their definition – not mine.

Last week I received an email from the company - in it they said that they had started ‘greylisting’ – which, it says, will supposedly stop automated spam attacks. Doesn’t sound to bad, but my email is now going to be delayed while the anti-spam software considers whether your email should be allowed to be sent to me.

The slow down is a problem. Maybe I can live with it, maybe I can’t. Let's see how long the delays are.

There is a much more serious problem. Greylisting isn't perfect - so some email intended for me will simply not get through.

Certainly something needs to be done about the more than one hundred pieces of spam I get sent every day – but I already have measures in place to deal with these – configured to my own requirements. What most people don’t want is a third party blocking email - and nor do I.

Turning Up the Heat 

Like many here in the UK, I have been enjoying the wonderful, and unusual, Mediterranean summer. I was bemused, therefore, by a large sign erected on the platform at my local tube station. The last time I saw a sign like that was after the terrorist attacks - it had to be important. It told me that in the hot weather, you should:

- Always carry a bottle of cold water with you
- Don't board a train if you feel unwell
- If you feel unwell get off at the next stop and seek help from our staff.

I was somewhat surprised that they didn't warn a few "at risk" groups to remove the bottle cap before attempting to drink from it.

It would seem that getting the summer you had always wished for has been turned into a national emergency. Oh, and in case you were wondering why we don't have air-conditioning like elsewhere, apparently a few new trains will have it from 2009. But some never will, apparently because "air-conditioning units are environmentally unfriendly".