gwen (gwenix) wrote,
gwen
gwenix

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news bits

On precrime:

OK, with this line from the New York Times, I really have to wonder when Gonzales is going to hire 3 psychics and Tom Cruise:

In a press conference in Washington, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said the indictments were intended to stop potential attacks before they could be launched. "We cannot wait until an attack happens," he said. "We will continue to use our criminal laws as Congress intended."

On children and the Constitution:

The Washington Post has these interesting features on children and the constitution. Students Flex Rights to Understand Responsibility: students found ravioli so disgusting, they circled a petition and took it off the menu; schools are using this model to teach kids how to be civically minded, knowledgeable of their constitutional rights, and... well, activists. A Model for Classroom Democracy, a really cute take on the first amendment for a kindergarden classroom.

On Google and censors:

IRC discussions lately have been about Google's decision to censor sites according to the Chinese policies when they start google.ch. Americans feel that this is horribly wrong, because the censoring is about Democracy and Freedom; it feels like an attack on America itself. But, while I feel that China itself is in error for its policies, I am a defender of Google in these discussions for going along with the policy. My reasons are threefold: censoring of search engines is not uncommon in any country (though the topics of censor change), the censoring of google.ch does not apply to the other google search engines, and that Chinese citizens will quickly find ways to get around any filtering the Chinese goverment does anyway.

But, having worked at a search engine company, I can guarantee that all search engines are censored... particulary our own government search, firstgov.gov (I worked on that for a time). Most of these censors are fairly inocuous, like making sure Joe Spammer's website isn't rating above the actual listing for the White House when you do a search for it. Many are not -- for instance when Lycos had very briefly a search engine dedictated to finding mp3s; they had to shut it down after it had been in existance one month due to RIAA threats. I doubt it will be long before our search engine companies are compelled to censor child pornography sites and illegal downloading sites... that is, if they haven't already started doing that.

I know two wrongs don't make a right, and search engine companies should theoretically not censor any search content. OK, that's great idealistically, and I'd love it if a search engine really did that. But the reality is that every entity within a country is subject to that country's laws and policies. Frex, Americans aren't allowed to download free Microsoft Windows software, or even worse sell it, meanwhile China encourages this practice amongst its citizens. Merely owning child pornography (or looking it up on search engines, however accidental it may be) can, and is, used against American citizens all the time; this is a situation almost entirely unique to America as near as I can tell. So, an American company cannot base its empire on creating and selling porn about children of, say, the tender and innocent age of ... 16.

I am bringing up these extreme examples, because I firmly believe that if China had made its censoring policy not about Democracy, but rather about Child Pornography... they'd have been hailed as righteous in their endeavour to obliterate this commonly held foe to all decent peoples. I daresay that the USA would quickly follow China's virtuous and ignoble example!

Anyway, should you ever really feel like searching without threat of the USA getting their hands on your search records, for whatever reason, I suggest trying google.ca. And please note that ... as a US citizen inside the US borders, you can still use it! OK, sure, you get a bit more Canada-centric listings, but if you're looking for subjects like Freedom and Democracy.. or perhaps more illicit subjects like How to Start a Revolution.. you'll still get a good selection of sites to choose from. And know that the Chinese citizens can do this as well!

Well, there is the problem that China then blocks the sites about Democracy as it finds them and figures out how to filter them (which... has to be imperfect and unstable in the first place, if you've ever had experience with any sorts of filters). OK, let me put forth that this particular issue is not Google's fault. Not even remotely their issue, it'd occur whether they were filtering the sites or not, and this policy pre-exists them! But beyond this, I've maintained that the Chinese would figure out a way around the filters anyway... and apparently they already have.

My honest feeling about Google's deal with China on the policies was one of, "Uhm, you want us to what? You do realize how futile this is.... oh sure, why not, it'll cost you extra y'know." :)
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