Entries in human rights (13)
Yesterday (19.01.10) the Polish government accepted the proposal to create a Registry of Banned Websites and Services. We wrote about the lack of transparency surrounding the creation of this law earlier this year on Global Voices. Yesterday's decision has generated a wave of protests on-line. The leading voice on the case, Piotr Waglowski, aka Vagla, author of a blog devoted to law and Internet issues [PL], posted an article the same day, in which he explained the legal procedures the proposal still faces before it receives a final approval. At this stage, the creation of the Registry of Banned Websites and Services has been officially proposed, but still needs approval of several governing bodies. In order to position this situation on the global arena, Vagla also points his readers to similar cases of breach of human rights by governments of other countries. Finally, he mentions that prime minister can expect letters from the public on the topic.
Vagla writes [PL]:
Mr Prime Minister can expect also letters prepared as a result of co-operation of several non-governmental organisations. One of those letters points out the lack of consultation with specialists in the field, another one the need to respect the basic rights in the legislative process. What will the Prime Minister do with those letters, I have no idea. It seems to be only the beginning of “determined actions” on the government's behalf.
One of the commentators of the post, michuk, points out that this proposal has a strong chance to be approved, so protest is required:
The law will be most probably quickly passed by the chamber of deputies - so it's time to act. I have written a LETTER TO PRESIDENT of RP convincing him to veto the law.
He is linking to the letter [PL] he wrote to the President himself, posted on stopcenzurze.wikidot.com [stopcensorship.wikidot.com] website, along with signatures of the supporters (NGO activists, professors, businessmen, lawyers, politicians, editors and bloggers), who signed this version of the protest with their actual names and links to their sites. Protesters have set up a Facebook fan page named ‘Stop Censorship‘ [PL], joined so far by more than 200 fans.
Reactions to the developments appeared on blogs, Flaker.pl, in comments to mainstream media articles as well as on Facebook, where people who feel strongly about freedom of speech and free access to the internet unite in protests.
Norbertrabarbar's reaction [PL] on Gazeta.pl's forum reflects the general mood of the public:
One cannot gamble? Not even on foreign portals? And what, we will have a list of sites we cannot visit, like in China?
And 6 hrs to unplug the website…so companies must have 24/7 admins…
I start to be scared of this system. Soon in order to get access to Internet one will need to send in an application form…
Kylax1 points out [PL] the uselessness of the governmental proposal:
In most developed Chinese censorship even teenagers can avoid it easily. Ideas of Tusk will not stop anyone apart from accidental gamblers.
Weegee touches upon [PL] the global nature of censorship thread:
I think the problem is deeper than our stupid authorities. And the worst bit is the fact there is no one we could report to on the breach of human rights, since this behaviour is becoming a trend and standard globally, so international tribunals will not do a thing (they would not risk creating a precedent of this type).
Witchinster opposes [PL]:
Poles will not give up if Tusk introduces censorship. There is TOR, there are systems allowing people to create an underground Polish Internet. It reminds me of the situation during the Second World War, when young adventurous Poles had to fight for what was theirs. It's a pity, though, that now a Pole is fighting a Pole.
Already yesterday heads of three Polish Internet associations - the Polish IT Association, the Polish Chamber of IT and Telecommunications, and Modern Poland Foundation - sent an open letter to Prime Minister Tusk, referring to the planned Internet censorship. Document is publicly available here (in .pdf format, PL).
Blackout Europe Polska is promoting freedom of the Polish internet and is planning [PL] a demonstration for Jan. 23 in Warsaw:
Demonstration: 23.01.2010 – 12:00 – Castle Square in Warsaw. Demonstration will most probably move to the Parliament. We welcome everyone, and most of all those who care for the future of the Polish Internet.
They are currently spreading the word on their blog [PL], but also on Twitter [PL] and Facebook [PL]. The poster with info on the demonstration circulates on the web and starts appearing on blogs [PL].
Wykop (the Polish version of Digg) welcomes its readers with three links on their main page related to the issue: here [PL] (272 digs), here [PL] (315 digs) and here [PL] (280 digs). Blackout Europe's call for demonstration on Wykop [PL] alone has generated 483 digs. All of those links are followed up by comments entirely supporting the protests and expressing disagreement with the government's proposal.
Facebook users gather at the ‘Government Should Leave the Internet Alone' fan page [PL] and are feeding links related to the issue.
Ewelina Dziubińska sums it all up [PL] on her blog when inviting her readers to take part in the demonstration in Warsaw [PL]:
Together we can really achieve more, all we need is the desire to do so. Lack of reaction is really a sign of acceptance, so let's show that this generation will not allow manipulation and censorship.
For the next few days, if not weeks, we can expect more reactions on the topic from the Polish blogosphere.
This post has been originally written for and posted at Global Voices Online.
The end of 2009 in Poland was marked with the beginning of a public discussion of on-line privacy, the government's potential attempts to restrict access to websites and a growing awareness of TOR software supporting on-line anonymity.
On Nov. 6, Piotr Waglawski [PL], aka VaGla (recipient of the Internet Citizen of the Year [PL] award in 2001, the first person to be awarded for commitment to development of local Internet and its role in communication between citizens and the authorities), posted an article [PL] on his portal dedicated to law and Internet, mentioning Polish government's work on telecommunications law that included an article giving Internet providers the right to block websites with dangerous content (e.g., gambling - hence some refer to it as the ‘gambling law') and giving the police, special services as well as the government an ability to create black lists of websites.
Michal Trojnara, commenting on the post the very same day adds [PL] to the original thread:
Just a minute ago I saw a live press conference with the prime minister on TV, who stated that there are “technical possibilities” to stop illegal gambling on international servers. I understand we are following countries experienced in on-line censorship [link to Wikipedia article in Polish on Chinese Golden Shield Project].
On Nov. 19, Gazeta.pl, a Polish daily, posted an article [PL] in which a connection was drawn between TOR software's ability to provide web users with anonymity, paedophile activities on-line and helplessness of the police in tracking those criminal offenses. Comments to it appeared under a post on TechnoNews.pl, reacting to the accusations.
Gość 4 states [PL]:
Is the cost of our privacy too high? I think that tools like TOR should be publicly available.
Massad points out [PL]:
First we will add filters you are mentioning, and then we can add any other filters, so, for instance, a human rights activist from China will not be able to inform the West about what's going on there.
Also on Nov. 19, Radio TOK conducted an interview with Piotr Waglawski, which was later published on Vimeo [PL]. It features Piotr and another specialist, Krzysztof Młynarski, explaining what TOR is and discussing inconsistencies of the argument used by the police that allowing anonymity on the web causes increase in paedophile crimes, and thus the police find it impossible to solve those.
In response to this video posted also on Wykop [a Polish version of Digg], Glosnik mentions [PL]:
It's amazing how the topic of TOR started to appear in various media starting with this digg: http://www.wykop.pl/link/253302/czy-wiesz-ze-internet-ma-podwojne-dno-efekt-wczorajszych-poszukiwan
Wykop itself exposed TOR to people, and now it is accused of paedophilia.
Wykop became a venue where the public decided to express their protest [PL] against the accusations and propositions to restrict access to Internet.
Silencer starts it, saying [PL]:
Let's show our power to fight stupidity of the authorities. Let's initiate connecting knots!
Baniol explains [PL] why he joins the protest:
I am 17, so I myself could be a victim of a paedophile :( I am joining this action not to help people connect but because I do not like the way of fighting paedophilia by targeting innocent people…
wm84 does not agree [PL] though:
I DO NOT WISH that a bunch of anonymous teenagers claim themselves to be the Internet community. Mainly because for most of them Internet started when Wykop, demotivating sites and other services appeared - they serve nothing else than wasting of time. I will not support - even in theory - harm of any child.
On Dec. 15, another leading voice in this case, a specialist in on-line security, Paweł Wilk (who, back in May 2009, posted about the TOR project [PL] and has been its advocate since then), posted an article [PL] updating on the government's propositions dated from Nov. 13 to introduce the law allowing Internet providers gather personal data of web users (like, for instance, name and surname, ID number, address), creation of the so-called Registry of Banned Websites and Services. He also mentions laws which this proposal would break and human rights that the Polish citizens would be deprived of.
A governmental press release [PL] from Dec. 17 confirmed that the Registry of Banned Websites and Services would indeed be created, but that the police would not receive personal data from Internet providers.
Help's first reaction [PL] to this statement is:
Is there an organisation similar to EFF in Poland which deals with following of those cases? If not maybe it's time for one, otherwise they will make us look like fools and introduce an Orwellian vision.
Simianus home opposes [PL] it:
You behave like real criminals! Do you have something to hide? Everything is known about everyone because they have accounts on NK [Nasza-Klasa] and Śledzik and they describe there on-line everything they do, in their family and private life.
Later on, on Dec. 18, Pawel Wilk posted an insightful article [PL] focused more on the role of TOR software in general, including an interview with TOR's executive director, Andrew Lewman. Pawel Waglawski also commented on it in a post [PL], pointing out the lack of governmental transparency.
Gime agrees [PL] as to the process:
It is chaotic indeed, the idea behind it is unclear, the speed of work is surprisingly fast, a large amount of mistakes and ignorance on the way.
Arnold Buzdygan adds [PL]:
In a normal, democratic country similar ideas would not even enter the mind of the authorities.
On Dec. 22, the Observatory of Media Freedom in Poland posted the opinion of Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights [PL] on the topic:
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights expresses its concern about the legislative work on the draft law from Dec. 7, 2009, amending the law on gambling and other acts, and earlier a bill from Nov. 17, 2009, on the same issue. The proposed solutions introduce a number of fundamental changes to the sphere of rights and freedoms of individuals, and, moreover, they raise, in our view, reasonable doubt about their constitutional nature.
This post has been originally written for and posted at Global Voices Online as well as on Global Voices Advocacy.
Well, I must say I am very pleased that it is Obama, not Twitter, who received the Nobel Peace Prize! I know there is a lot of criticism around, even in FB threads I can see people disagreening with this choice. But I think it's not about 'well deserved' in this case, it's about responsibility this award carries with itself. Obama is good in speeches but he is also gradually introducing changes. Closing Guantanamo was a big thing - for some of us, activists - a miracle! Great step towards what can be achieved to fight for human rights all around the world. We all know it is not easy to introduce changes, and it's not easy to clean up the mess after few years of irresponsible management of a country. But everything Obama says and does, everything he represents is of a great importance to us all. And maybe I do not agree with the imperalistic and very individualistic mentality embeded in American though since the early times of that country, I do however support smart management of that thinking. If US President is an icon, let him be. If he gradually makes the Change for good - let him do so.
And times like this are the best times for us to point out next steps! Amnesty International has congratulated Obama his award and initiated great action where ten very influencial personalities have made their statement about torture asking Obama to investigate into the times before March 2009 and learn from the mistakes of the past. I fully support each of their letters, and I hope you will find a second to read, sent and spread the word about this project. I think our voice matters just as much as Obama's.
Once again I have been following a topic for a while and feel I need to speak up. Can we please, please, PLEASE stop glorifying Twitter in relation to events in Iran? Media is shouting about the importance of Twitter in revolution and we all seem to forget that it is actually Iranians who deserve the support and admiration!
I am saying it because I was shown this article today in which Mark Pfeifle puts forward Twitter for Nobel Peace Prize! And you know what, me - quite a heavy geek and social media addict - I find it unhealthy! It is a TOOL of communication used by actual people, and if Twitter were not there revolution would continue - we would simply have less insights into it. And I dare to say - some of us would care less.
Shall we awards tv broadcasting for the success of Solidarnosc movement and changes in Poland, followed by other Easter European countries beginning from '89? Should we award Facebook for spreading the word about 'cc all/one of your e-mails to Jaqui Smith' action? Or maybe we should think of people who understood the nature of those tools and used them to support their cause?
Yes, I agree, Twitter and other social media increase the transparency of events and deliver the news quicker. Those venues very often enhance the off-line networking. But they have nothing, but nothing to do with the decision making, the attitude, and willingness to fight and risk your lives for basic human rights!
When traditional journalists were forced to leave the country, Twitter became a window for the world to view hope, heroism, and horror. It became the assignment desk, the reporter, and the producer. And, because of this, Twitter and its creators are worthy of being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.
-states the post I am referring to.
OK, I agree with the first part, however I see no connection between reporting on the news and actually deserving the gratitude for making the change? News has little to do with standing on the street and fighting for peace. News is there as an observer, not an active participant! News is there to witness the events and it's people writing it who deserve more focus than the tool itself- does the channel of communication really deserve the Peace Prize? Did it ever before?
Although we don't know how the uprising in Iran will end, or where the symbols of freedom and liberty will again be given power by people who require an unfettered means of communicating with the rest of us, Twitter and other social media outlets have become the soft weapons of democracy. Twitter told us the story of Neda's supreme sacrifice. It is telling the story of the Iranian people yearning to breathe free. For those reasons, Twitter deserves consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Again, why is telling the story worth Peace Prize? I will tell you why. Because we have a Twitter bug. We are suddenly discovering, at least most of the global population, how different communication and networking on Twitter and other social media platform is. But for some reason - and I really do not know the answer to this one - we tend to think it's a miracle! It's new. It's magical. So it must be...the best?
Twitter, blogging, image sharing has, is and will be changing the ways we report on news. But it will not change the way we react to events, nor anything else related to our every day activities, place in society, political situation. Yes, in some cases it gives us voice, but we still need to speak up and the decision to do so has nothing to do with the medium.
And in case of this particular article, I find it unfair on Iranians. And somehow posted by the person who received 'the Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Award for “dramatically improved communication planning and strategies...in support of the Global War on Terror.” rather twisted, simply because I do not trust anyone involved in the American War with terrorism so strongly advocated by Bush administration.
Internet, including social media becomes a part of our live. Few years ago we used to post letters, later we would e-mail them, today we might tweet them. The message stays the same. I hate to think that the channel of communication could ever become more important then those whom it serves.
Twitter should be happy as it is - thanks to the simple fact that Iranian elections and revolution did and still happen on Twitter too, already popular platform gained more users. I see how suddenly in last few weeks the amount of Polish users increased there.
As for awards and appraisals let's turn to the Iranians themselves, who are wonderful in fighting censorship with the usage of new media; who have a wonderfully developed blogosphere but most of all - who are brave to stand up for their freedom of speech and other basic human rights. Respect to them all!