Politicians Can’t Let a Crisis go to Waste
In the aftermath of the mass shooting that left 50 folks dead in Christchurch, New Zealand, the typical activists have surfaced to condemn their particular bête noire.
Some wish greater gun controls, some wish a crackdown on online extremism, several object to violent video games, while many others look for greater internet surveillance, increased law enforcement funding and enhanced investigative powers.
The capacity to openly debate emotive challenges is an integral aspect of the democratic process. Few would deny the right of the offended and the grief-stricken to table these topics, even if they could blanche at some of their knee-jerk solutions.
While discussion can be healthy, the measures taken by Australian and New Zealand officials has been anything but.
Working in alliance with ISPs, these governments have prompted the blacklisting of websites – many of which have no link to the Christchurch shooting.
Even more perturbing, law enforcement and prosecutors have detained people whose “crime” is to have watched video footage of the event.
The criminalization of people for being able to access materials has had the reverse effect, elevating interest in the footage and encouraging conspiracy theories in a classic case of the Streisand effect.
The Streisand effect is a phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the internet. It is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware that some information is being kept from them, their motivation to access and spread it is increased.
It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California inadvertently drew further public attention to it. Similar attempts have been made, for example, in cease-and-desist letters to suppress files, websites, and even numbers. Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity and media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, often being widely mirrored on the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.
— Roger Ver (@rogerkver) March 17, 2019
Blocked, Banished, Charged and Detained
Across New Zealand and Australia, internet users have shared reports of being banned from well-known websites.
These comprise of 8chan, where the shooter first shared the link to his livestream and manifesto, 4chan, Liveleak, Zero Hedge, Fusion laced Illusions, Before Its News, Kiwi Farms, free speech video site Bitchute and Gab’s Dissenter service, which allows comments on third party websites.
Of these websites, only 8chan has a immediate link to the shooter, while the site that played the most vital part in distributing the video – Facebook – has been untouched.
We’ve started temporarily blocking a number of sites that are hosting footage of Friday’s terrorist attack in Christchurch. We understand this may inconvenience some legitimate users of these sites, but these are extreme circumstances and we feel this is the right thing to do.
— Telstra News (@Telstra_news) March 18, 2019
The video of the Christchurch massacre is unquestionably unsettling, yet countless are finding it hard to comprehend why government bodies are so determined to suppress it.
Given the epidemic of high definition ISIS videos that illustrate beheadings, burnings, stonings, and stabbings in far more grisly detail, it is not clear why this specific occurrence should be handled differently to the scores that have gone before which includes the Bataclan massacre and the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
One NZ dude, accused of sharing the livestream Christchurch video while cheerleading the massacre, has been locked up and refused bail.
He might experience a maximum of 14 years in jail.
Free speech campaigners, among whom cryptocurrency supporters feature prominently, are objecting vociferously to being told what to view, read and think.
They view the campaign to criminalize internet users interested in finding out more about the shooting from first-hand sources as the thin edge of the wedge. Censorship is a slick slope.
Crackdown Fortifies the Case for Censorship-Resistant Platforms
As government-led censorship has ramped up, interest in censorship-resistant services, and in finding means to elude ISP filtering, has heightened.
Users of the websites caught up in the New Zealand-orchestrated ban have been sharing information on VPN use, modifying DNS settings, and tools that bypass ISP deep packet inspection.
Pro-privacy and pro-speech cryptocurrency users are actually cognizant of the alternatives to centralized platforms that can be effortlessly blocked, censored and shut down.
While social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter rushed to delete links to footage linked to the shooting, on anti-censorship platforms like the BCH-powered Memo and ETH-based Peepeth, it was business as usual.
As the Bookchain website points out, “Bitcoin Cash is the perfect platform to store important and “dangerous” things.
Items on the blockchain simply cannot be subject to censorship, banning or silencing for the duration of the internet.”
For as long as the internet has been around, it has been crammed with “dangerous things” that governments have wanted to outlaw and eliminate.
From 3D gun blueprints to encryption itself, and from violent games to message boards that showcase open discourse, the list of targets is as long as it is incongruous.
As occurrences like the Christchurch shooting trigger copycats and violent responses, such as yesterday’s fatal shooting in Utrecht, the only guarantee is that government attempts to control the narrative and filter the internet will continue on.
Unfortunately, those who favor their information unvarnished and unbowdlerized will find sanctuary in pro-privacy and anti-censorship platforms that are beyond the reach of the thought police.
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The Establishment continue to push forward in their attempt to shut down the alternative press that is rapidly growing and pushing out the faltering mainstream media. As the EU demands social media sites censor fake news and Reddit, Facebook and other sites begin blocking Fusion Laced Illusions and other alternative media it is now alarmingly evident that their truly is a war on free speech.
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