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Sell Out: Blocking an Open Net

JonKatz posted more than 12 years ago | from the corporatism:-peddle-censorship-for-cash dept.

Technology 515

Globalism ought to be a counterforce, democratizing the world and spreading technological and economic equality. Too often, it isn't. Take, for example, the corporatist American and European companies happily selling blocking software to countries like China and Saudi Arabia so their governments can pervert the Net to deny their citizens basic freedoms. This is a significant blow to the notion that technology will forge a more open world. And it might not be all that distant a threat. We have plenty of zealots and fanatics right here, all itching for a model way of blocking a free Net.

Governments in Muslim nations, as well as China, have repeatedly made overtures to and done business with Net-filtering companies. But no nation has used blocking software as vigorously as Saudi Arabia, according to the New York Times. By royal decree, virtually all public Internet traffic to and from the kingdom has been funneled through a single control center outside Riyadh since the Net was first introduced there three years ago. If the Riyadh center blocks a site, a warning appears in both English and Arabic: "Access to the requested URL is not allowed!" Saudi Arabia blocks sex and pornography sites, as well as those relating to religion and human rights.

Now nearly a dozen software companies, most American, are competing for a hefty new contract to help block access to even more sites the Saudi government deems inappropriate for its country's half-million Net users. In fact, the Saudi government is helping to pioneer something once thought impossible -- a sanitized Net for an entire nation and culture.

American software companies are only too happy to help them do it. Software executives say they are only providing politically neutral tools. "Once we sell them the product, we can't enforce how they use it," Matthew Holt, a sales executive for San Jose's Secure Computing, told the Times earlier this week. Secure provides filtering software to the Saudi government under a contract that expires in 2003. The Saudi government is also reportedly talking with Websense, SurfControl and N2H2 of Seattle.

The Saudi government has already spent a fortune to design its centralized control system before permitting Net use a few years ago, selecting Secure Computing's Smart Filter software from four competing U.S. products. SmartFilter came with ready-made blocking categories like pornography and gambling and was also customized to exclude sites the Saudis perceived as bad for Islam, the royal family, or the country's political positions.

This is a radical assault on the spirit of the Net, of its open, point-to-point design, its great promise to democratize information. By allies, no less. And don't for a minute think there aren't plenty of fanatics and zealots in the United States who won't love the idea as well. Remember that the Harry Potter series is now the most banned book series in American libraries.

The Saudi government, along with other non-democratic countries, are notoriously technophobic. They are eager to participate in the emerging global economy, but desperate to stanch the free flow of information that might provide diverse information to their citizens. And they have no problem finding software companies, including American ones, that are happy to help extend censorship. The corporatist rule is simple -- maximize profits at all costs under virtually all circumstances.

Countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and China have been surprisingly successful at wiring up certain segments of their societies while controlling information deemed insensitive for political or religious reasons. The Net can, in fact, be used to make money and suppress freedom. These governments have undercut the great promise of globalism, prosperity, technology and democracy, allowing corrupt and anti-democratic governments to prosper, in part by censoring information -- something many of us thought the Net would make impossible.

This highlights the menacing way corporatism exploits technology, undermining the most basic American values.

"We have a really serious problem in terms of the American free speech idea," says Jack Balkin, a Yale Law School professor who specializes in the politics of Internet filtering. "But it is very American to make money. Between anti-censorship and the desire to make money, the desire to make money will win out." This is a profound blow to the whole idea of using technology -- especially the Net -- to force a more open society.

That's a bitter indictment of a nation that purports to be advancing democracy throughout the world, that's supposedly fighting a war to protect freedom. The reason money will always win out is corporatism, which subverts almost every other value in the name of profit, and which has made globalism a dirty word.

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300 US troops have been wiped out by the Taliban (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619140) ontline_news.htm []

US military deployment in southern Kandahar was Major disaster as more than 300 US troops have been wiped out by the Taliban in clashes.

Taliban and Pro-Taliban fighters fought a heavy battle against US forces in southern Kandahar. One Taliban fighter said that after the fierce battle that took place a whistling sound bellowed out from behind the US forces after which many of the enemy where wiped out! By the help of Allah(swt) the remains of the dead where found to have been mangled as though their bodies had been shattered. The Taliban are in full control of Kandahar and surrounding provinces. The US/British bombing campaign continued in retaliation against their losses.

On another front 60 US elite commandos and 10 US paid mercenaries have been captured to the east of Kandahar. (Comment: Do the British and Americans believe that Allah(swt) will not come to the aid of Muslims. Aren't the US and Britain chicken shit when it comes to fighting on the ground instead of dropping bombs from safe heights! The British are not the lions as they make out to be, they are more like mice.)

Reports are coming in of major US losses and that the US have delivered extra body bags to Pakistan.

That's news from Islam who you lefties love so much.

Re:300 US troops have been wiped out by the Taliba (-1, Offtopic)

IainHere (536270) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619150)

What's to say that that isn't the truth?

Re:300 US troops have been wiped out by the Taliba (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619161)

Look at their other stories. Aparently the US used nuclear bombs and some F-18's were shot down. Speaking of down, DOWN WITH GLOBALISM IT HURTS EVERYONE AND MAKES EVERYONE BLIND.

Re:300 US troops have been wiped out by the Taliba (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619210)

those where daisy-cutters, they are sometimes refered to as tacktical nukes, but are not nuclear

Re:300 US troops have been wiped out by the Taliba (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619219)

Well I don't know about F-18s being shot down, but its pretty well known that the US has B-61 bunker buster Nuclear bombs ready to be used. They only said that they have deployed them, not used them.

Re:300 US troops have been wiped out by the Taliba (0, Offtopic)

Atomic_Furball (306177) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619271)

And what the hell does that have to do with this editorial???

Take your consipracy theories elsewhere.

jon katz licks balls (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619142)

how bout that afghan e-mail jon?

FSTFUKP! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619164)

First STFU, Katz! Post!

Globalism is a epochal problem. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619144)

Donkey Dead.

Katz (-1)

Guns n' Roses Troll (207208) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619147)

You are a disgusting waste of space. I hope you die a slow, horrible, painful death at the hands of a psychotic nigger named Tiny.

Jeez Katz - That was lame (-1)

gamorck (151734) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619148)

Katz - this was the dumbest thing I have ever read.

"Corporatist" companies? I mean duh. What did you expect them to be? Besides who are you or I to judge the actions and a decision of an entirely different culture? To say that Net Access is a "basic human right" is frivalous at best and such a statement should be taken with a large grain of salt.

If they want to block the net fine. The people there can either move or revolt. They have a choice and until they choose to change things - I dont feel the least bit of sympathy for them.


300 Beards Wiped out by US Troops (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619149)

The men no longer have beards, and the women can show their hideous faces. We've won!

Re:300 Beards Wiped out by US Troops (-1)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619202)

Do the women still have their beards?

JonKatz says : "FEAR NO MAN!" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619152)

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Wow. I'm in. (0, Offtopic)

El Camino SS (264212) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619194)

I didn't realize that Ivan Stang and the Church of the SubGenius still exsisted, but it sure has the stark fist of removal all over it. LOL. JHVH-1 rules.

Re:JonKatz says : "FEAR NO MAN!" (-1)

Guns n' Roses Troll (207208) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619200)

Please sign me up!

Jon Katz
158 Montclair Avenue
Montclair NJ 07042
704 746 4462

Hopefully (1)

nll8802 (536577) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619153)

Hopefully someday we will live in a world were everyone has the same freedom we have here in the states. I always here people around me complaining about how bad it is here, they just are uninformed of how bad some other people have it.

Re:Hopefully (1, Insightful)

n3r0.m4dski11z (447312) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619171)


freedom? can i smoke weed in the privacy of my own home not hurting anyone?

untill i can do whatever i want that does not hurt others in my own home, and at some point in public places i will not be truely free.
the only reason im a criminal (and many many people i know) is because they smoke marijuana. Luckly i live in canada where there a bit more open minded.

Re:Hopefully (1)

ryanflynn (409718) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619267)

sure you can. just don't tell the cops.

Re:Hopefully (2)

bribecka (176328) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619282)

untill i can do whatever i want that does not hurt others in my own home, and at some point in public places i will not be truely free.

The ability to smoke weed does not make you free. You need some priorities. How about the ability to criticize laws that you don't agree with? How about the right to worship any God (or anything else) you want to?

Think about this big picture here--those are things you've obviously taken for granted. You obviously *are* free, if you can sit home, smoke weed, and post on slashdot, whereas many other people in the world are murdered for simply not having a long enough beard.

Re:Hopefully (2)

Twylite (234238) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619180)

Hopefully we will live in a world where we have far more freedom than exists in the States; where the president isn't awarded god-like power (at least in terms of persuasion), and where the rights of natural humans EXCEED those of juristic persons (companies).

OTOH ... the States is still vastly better than most places on earth ...

Buy a Dell Computer Today !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619218)

I'm advocating the purchase of DELL computers, don't be tricked into buying any other brand.

Visit their website [] today and see what everyone is talking about !!!

Re:Hopefully (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619243)

Being 'better' doesn't mean that it's not fucked up.

It really irks me when people say "Be happy, it's worse somewhere else"

Just because it's worse THERE, doesn't mean it can't be better HERE.

Re:Hopefully (1)

theJavaMan (539177) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619226)

That will never be accomplished purely because humans are not perfect. Those of us who are, or think they are, they are too much of a minority. Everybody is to small to interfere with the general movement of the mass. If 60% want communism, there will be communism. If 55% want totalitarism, there will be one. All this happens because the average public is too average to think about the future, because it is realy better to have a fruit now than to have 25 a month from now. One of the lessons of history is that all the other lessons of history are not learned. We "the perfect" ones have to accept it and get on with our lives.

The Turd Report Jamie didn't want you to see! (-1)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619157)

The Thanksgiving Turd. All I can say is: Holy living fuck! I wanted to call the local sewage department and warn them of the un-natural beast of a turd that was making its way down the pipe. I ate a lot for Thanksgiving. Turkey, oyster dressing, corn (lots of corn), peas, mashed taters, cranberry, corn-bread stuffing. I also drank a lot of tea and a magnum of Heinekin. On Friday, I got my reward. A 20+ inch telephone pole that was as big around as a beer can. It was like giving birth. I used the handicap stall, so I could streach out. It was multi-colored due to the corn and peas. It smelled like a pile of burning tires. My cow-orkers avoided the bathroom for a good half-hour. I almost cried with joy. I give this my highest possible rating: 9.9

Re:The Turd Report Jamie didn't want you to see! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619260)

Quality! That's the funniest post I've seen on slashdot in a long time.

Let me get this straight... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619159)

The worst terrorist attack in recorded history occurred in September, and now we're involved in a WAR against the Islamic faith (against the holiest of Muslim clerics and scholars, the beloved Taliban leaders of the Afghanistan people) during the holy month of Ramadan (that kind of sounds like the name of a soup mix, don't you think?) and Slashdot has the gall to run another Jon Katz story???? My *god*, people, GET SOME PRIORITIES!

The bodies of the thousands of innocent civilians who died (and will die) in these unprecedented events (as well as the rest of us readers who happen to be still alive) could give a good god damn about Jon Katz stories. The souls of the victims are watching in horror as Slashdot continues paying this gasbag to write uninformed tripe about subjects he pretends to have a smattering of knowledge about.

Jon Katz, you disgust me!

Re:Let me get this straight... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619185)

I wish you were one of those innocents that has perished :)

I love J. Katz by the way.

Re:Let me get this straight... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619224)

And some people like the fucking Taliban. You think liking Katz makes you a special person? (Hint: it doesn' makes you a moron.)

Re:Let me get this straight... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619192)

We're involved in a war? Kindly point to the declaration of war. (Hint: There isn't one)

I've got it! (2, Troll)

nick_burns (452798) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619160)

Here's the solution. Have Microsoft sell the Arab nations the security software. That way, we guarantee security holes and people will then get around the software, allowing them to get to anywhere they want on the internet.

that's right kids: Jon Katz is bull$hit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619162)

I actually kind of look forward to seeing that he posted an article, because it means that I get to vent my feelings towards him. *Everybody I know who reads /. hates him.*

Globalism, etc. and so forth (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619163)

In other news John Katz impregnates 5 afghani women in an effort to introduce them to American culture. The women were reportedly transgender a local source says.

Net access is the least of their worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619166)

In many nations around the world, the censorship of internet access should be the least of their worries.

I would even go so far as to say that it is a minor issue when you consider that many countries do not even allow their citizens basic human rights.

Dear Jon (-1, Troll)

Trollbi-Wan Kenobi (522907) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619168)

You are the weakest link. Goodbye.

Happy Troll Tuesday everybody.

I'd be willing to put up with almost -anything- (0, Troll)

Mordant (138460) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619170)

if it would be guaranteed to keep that pretentious blowhard John Katz from being able to post any more of his asinine, faux-intellectual adolescent bullshit.

Re:I'd be willing to put up with almost -anything- (1)

syrinx (106469) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619265)

Would you be willing to filter out his articles so you don't have to read them? Or is it easier just to complain every time?

Re:I'd be willing to put up with almost -anything- (0, Flamebait)

forged (206127) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619298)

heh, at least he's posting unlike you just fucking moaning like a sissy. If you disagree, just skip the article you fuck.

Re:I'd be willing to put up with almost -anything- (2, Informative)

Hammer (14284) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619329)

Maybe you'd even go as far as change your settings to check Exclude Stories from the Homepage:JonKatz rather than post adolescent rants...

Blocking competition? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619175)

Do these filtering companies block traffic to other companies that make filtering software?

is there a limit? (4, Insightful)

shibut (208631) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619176)

The question is: is there a limit/border and if so, where is it? If it's wrong to sell to Saudi Arabia, is it right to sell to city librarys? To parochial schools that block contents? To parents that block content from their children? It seems pretty obvious to me that the parents one is OK (before you flame, wait! let me put my flame retardant on. OK, proceed). Selling to the Saudis is morally dubious at best, so where is the line?

By the way, morality in many other aspects has never stopped old time American companies in the past. Need examples? How about Phillip Morris: is it moral to sell something to people that will harm them for sure and shorten their life span almost surely? Still, people have no problem investing in this company.

harm from PM product? (2)

mgkimsal2 (200677) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619251)

How about Phillip Morris: is it moral to sell something to people that will harm the for sure and shorten their life span almost surely?

I sure hope to God you're not referring to Kraft's "Macaroni and Cheese", though I have my fears you are... :(

Diffrences (2, Interesting)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619312)

Well, obviously there's a huge diffrence between controlling what a child sees at home, and controlling what an entire population sees in a nation. When the kid growes up, or the patron leaves the library, they can get the internet unfiltered.

And the fact that they our censoring out political speach is also a Bad Thing.

Funny... (0)

vinnythenose (214595) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619178)

You know it's funny, everyone complains about lack of free speech, corporatism, equating it to nazism and then nothing really gets done. Oh there are a few rallies (sometimes ending in riots). You would think that the bulk of the freedom loving people would stand up to the corporations, I mean without us they're just a name written on paper.

At the same time whenever I hear this stuff I'm reminded of the lyric from a song... "Paranoia paranoia everybody's coming to get me...".

Unfortunately I sort of see it as, what's coming through my lines I can do with what I want. (this is equating a country to a house, not the greatest of analogies) If I want to block all porn then I block it. The question more lies, is the government representing the people in doing this? Perhaps things would be different if more countries had religion seperated from the state (being religious myself, I'll be one of the first to admit that religions should not be governing anything other than their own religious organizations).

Kinda gives you that warm fuzzy helpless feel eh? Remember all those books about the future with the militaristic state, yah looks a little bit closer everyday.

Anyhow, enough ranting and raving, back to the real world where I can sit here in ignorance as to all the crimes in the world and atrocities, back into my happy world of computers, video games, work and music.

That's it, back to work mindless drone.

are you serious? (3, Flamebait)

turbine216 (458014) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619181)

News flash for ya, Katz...

corporatism != humanitarianism.

Of course American companies are going to jump on the opportunity to make a few million from the Saudi government. That's why they exist - to make money. They don't care if they're limiting the content that a bunch of people half a world away can access. Why is this such a big deal? Because a single country won't have access to the internet in its full, uncensored form? They should be happy - no porn popup ads, no Microsoft Approved content, no CRAP!! If anything, it sounds like this will limit the "Saudinet" to being *gasp* and INFORMATIONAL RESOURCE!!!!

Dear god, the humanity!!!

What's cracking me up... (2)

quartz (64169) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619237) that the same people who constantly bitch and moan over "American cultural imperialism" and how American media corporations pollute other cultures with their Hollywood produced "intellectual fast food" and yadda yadda, the same people get up in arms when the same American corporations just want to sell a product and NOT bundle American morals with it. Make up your minds already, people...

Nice rant... but it goes to show... (2, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619182)

This is a nice rant but it goes to show off the egocentricity of most U.S citizens. Just because you think you have the right to free speech in the states doesn't mean thats true elsewhere in the world.

You apply your values and morals on everyone from around the world because you can't imagine someone unlike you.

These are different people from a different culture. If there way of life curtails free speech then so be it.

Ask yourself this though, how many violent crimes were there in China vs. the states last year?

There are a million ways to compare two countries. In some cases the US looks better and others China.

My point is that you cannot just openly apply what you think of as "the norm" to other cultures and then belittle them when it doesn't match.

Re:Nice rant... but it goes to show... (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619285)

Well, last year we did really poor compared to the chinese, but in Tiannemen years we do quite well... that is, if violent crimes by the chinese goverment are counted.

The power of words (2)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619186)

> Globalism ought to be a counterforce, democratizing the world and spreading technological and economic equality

A word (ie, globalism) doesn't mean shit until the people who wield power in the economy actually /want/ to give up some of that power and wealth for the benifit of all. On what planet do you think a power/wealth weiling CEO is going to admit to shareholders that they are allowing competition in weak foreign markets for the overall health of the global economy.

Globalism is as buzzy a word as 'democracy' is; China is communist, and you don't see the US (or anyone else?) embargo'ing them. Hell, now they're in the WTO! (With the worlds fasted growing GPD at 7% annual growth.) The US can throw around the words 'democracy' and 'freedom' all they want, but those who are in need are not fooled one bit. Globalism is the same .. it really means corperatized america turning every other country into a strip mall and a community of blue collars operating the latest opening of Starbucks or BestBuy.

Umm.. (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619187)

Let me get this straight. You just reported a story as to how Google leaks sensitive information, and you have the nerve to talk about censoring the internet? Get some priorities, people!

Free Speech in America? (4, Insightful)

ajuda (124386) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619188)

The FCC routinely blocks all sorts of content from American TV with little resistance. I don't see how Americans can be shocked when other governments do the same thing in other mediums.

Amidst the trolls, a serious question... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619190)

Okay, c'mon now folks, stop the trolling for a second. I would like to ask a real question to the Slashdot editors and readers. After a couple of years of editorials posted by Jon Katz, why hasn't anyone bothered sending some white powder yet? My *god* people, GET SOME PRIORITIES!

Jon, don't take this personally, but: you may have escaped the WTC bombings, but hopefully there is a future terrorist attack with your name on it!

Re:Amidst the trolls, a serious question... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619307)

Er, how is the above a troll? Didn't the poster say, "stop the trolling for a second"? I don't know about you but, I for one take what he says at face value.

I'll see if I can round up some white powder to send to Mr. Katz.

circumvention (1)

nyteroot (311287) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619191)

well, the only arhcitecture i can think of fo this system is easily circumvented
it would, of course, require someone in a free country to help..
the way saudi arabia must have their internet set up is that _everything_ goes through a massive gateway, which filters content on port 80 (and probably a few others) .. just like your average high school gateway
of course, they can't block any content thats encrypted
so, someone sets up a website that will display any other website, but encypted.. and write a browser addon to read the encrypted info
kinda similar architecture to those sites you used to see that allowed for anonymous browsing - excpt with the encryption layer in the middle
just a thought..

Re:circumvention (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619222)

of course, they can't block any content thats encrypted

What do you mean they can't block any content thats encrypted? They can examine every packet, if it contains anything that the server doesn't understand it gets dropped. It's easy to block encrypted data, as long they know that the data is encrypted.

Re:circumvention (1)

nyteroot (311287) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619255)

i meant that if they can't examine it, they dont know what it is
the impression i get from the article in the nyt is that the filtering system only blocks that which is 'bad', instead of only allowing that which is 'good' .. which makes sense, because youd need a huge database of 'good' .. shrug

Re:circumvention (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619289)

Nope. Just because you don't understand a packet on mathematics doesn't mean you get to drop it. That kind of firewall would break, well, everything really, in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Don't forget that pictures can be embedded into executables, and encrypted; even if it wasn't encrypted there's currently no reliable way to filter for porn automatically; even the courts can't decide what constitutes it!

encrypted? (1)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619287)

of course, they can't block any content thats encrypted

Actualy the can quite easily. They just have to block all encrypted data. Might cause problems with .zip files or other binary data though.

I'm sick of Corpratist Corporations too (5, Funny)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619193)

Jon Katz is right!

Corporate Corpratists are jerks! I think we should attack all countries that do not share our views on free speech and expression. We can replace the gov't of Saudi Arabia and China with truly democratic regimes.

Before we take on nations, we need to take the fight to the Elitist Global Corporate Entities like Websense. It's about time!

Re:I'm sick of Corpratist Corporations too (2)

chabotc (22496) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619248)

Heh, in that case i would start at home. If i am not mistaking, between censureship of the 'war on terorism', the dmca (and alike laws) and capturing people who did not commit a crime according to 'logic', and banning books like harry potter in a lot of libraries and a large pressure to install the same internet filtering software in public places such as libraries; I think the US should be our first target, as a country who does not share 'our views on free speech and expression'. ;-)

AHHH (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619198)

John, Stop the damn Globolization crap. you are like a 3 year old that just learned a cool new word!!

Freedom of speech vs freedom of listening (1)

Marx_Mrvelous (532372) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619199)

What's the difference? I think it is an often-missed point that freedom of expression is severely limited by freedom to experience that expression.

Even in the US, the free access to information and expression is limited. I think we need to focus on that, make it a constitutional right!

So what? (3, Informative)

sharkticon (312992) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619201)

Not so what so much for the oppressed citizens of Saudi Arabia, but this is just the logical conclusion of the US's policy towards the country. This is just the corporate world getting their cut of the profits out of the situation.

After all the US has been happy to prop up a corrupt, undemocratic and brutal regime there just to ensure the free flow of oil to fuel SUVs and cheap fuel. Every time a USian moans about the price of fuel they're helping to keep the citizens of Saudi Arabia under oppression. And since our country is all about money, money, money at the expense of little things like decency and human rights, why shouldn't our corporations get involved in helping? It's not like they don't have enough practice at oppression themselves.

Sorry, but if you're getting upset about this I suggest you first take a long look at what our government has done in Saudi Arabia first. Whining about censoring the net when these people lack even a pretense at human rights just shows you're hopelessly naive.

Read Between the Lines (4, Interesting)

Knunov (158076) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619208)

"Take, for example, the corporatist American and European companies happily selling blocking software to countries like China and Saudi Arabia so their governments can pervert the Net to deny their citizens basic freedoms."

Or, look at them as providing the necessary obstacles to encourage entire legions of new hackers. There is no better way to motivate a person, especially a young person, into doing something than by telling him/her that s/he can't do so.

The Americans/Europeans get to profit from these oppressive governments while simultaneously and surreptitiously undermining those very regimes.

Perfectly brilliant plan, in my opinion.


Tunelling (2)

under_score (65824) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619215)

I don't know any details about the Saudi firewall, but why doesn't someone set up a publicly accessible http tunelling system that gets around this? You could have a (moving?) node in the US which accepts http requests for 3rd party web pages and then "encrypts" (rot13?) them so that they aren't recognized in transit through the Saudi system. Then client software is accessed by the browser (at localhost) as a proxy and connects to the central node, doing the translation work and returning the page to the browser. There is always a way, using technology.

and risk getting your hand cut off? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619274)

And risk getting your hand cut off?

Seriously, you don't want to rock the boat over there.

Re:Tunelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619276)

Actually it can work this way or in a much easier way, have a friend run a squid proxy for you in a box in the states on a non standard port, say 6566 or something and voila. Yes, it works.

Re:Tunelling (1)

nick_burns (452798) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619277)

This would work, until their government finds out and bans encryption. They'd probably pass this law without the user knowing it, and show up at his house the next day and cut off his index finger to keep him from ever clicking on a hyperlink again.

Re:Tunelling (1)

_DMan_ (105238) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619283)

There are a few problems with this:

First of all, how do you advertise the site to the people that would use it without the Saudi government finding out (and blocking it)?

Second, any country that will go through the trouble of blocking any "undesirable" sites would presumably be willing to disconnect the Internet completely if they felt that filtering was not effective. In this case, the result is that even more freedoms have been lost by the citizens.

Re:Tunelling (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619330)

Wonder what they do about international phone calls- all you'd have to do is dial up an international ISP, or your mate's server.

Presumably they can tap the phone line if they suspect you.

Selling Out ? - I Don't think so. (3, Interesting)

Astrogen (16643) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619225)

I don't think that there is any selling out going on here. There is a difference between globalization and communism.

The fact that people are selling the software to China and elsewhere is proof that globalization is occuring, we are all seeing each other as neighbors, and business partners now. That means if I don't sell them my software someone else will.

It is not up to us to judge our neighbors, we may or may not like how they do things, we may even use other methods to try to "encourage" them to change but Im not going to let my competitor sell them my legitimate product because I disagree with how they use it; thats up to their government.

Business is business, and business in a global economy as in any "free enterprise" economy means you supply the consumer what they want, because if you don't someone else will. This does not mean that business is relieved of any moral obligations; however in this case the businesses are not supplying weapons to terrorists; the business is merely respecting the governments attempts to "protect" (and yes I agree its not the best way to protect) their citizens from outside influences. But what China is doing is not really that much worse than what Australia has been doing in recent years.

Re:Selling Out ? - I Don't think so. (3, Insightful)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619288)

I think the most annoying thing that makes the issue so complicated is the hypocracy. On one hand, we denounce China for being communist; but then, we let them into the WTO. Why? Money. Actually, fastest growing GDP annual, at 7%. But Cuba? Still no access to the largest economic market in North America. It's the hypocracy that bothers 'the people'. I think it's quite clear that if a consumer has money (say, China), all values are thrown out the window. (Communist state? Yeah, we called them 'reds' for 60 years, but now that they can start buying our shit, we're all buddy buddy.) Then Cuba ... communist dictatorship, but .. no money to be a consumer of American exports. So they end up being the poster child for 'bad communist'. Basically, the frusterating thing is that these words like 'freedom' and 'democracy' and 'communism' get thrown around like so much water, but when it comes down to it, a 'socially/morally bankrupt consumer' with deep pockets (China) is A-OK, while a 'socially/morally bankrupt consumer' with no money to buy (Cuba) is made an example out of. And that's the hypocracy that I find so hard to swallow.

Companies are not governments (1)

jcronen (325664) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619227)

I hate to say this, but all corporations, American or otherwise, are in the business of making money, not setting global policy.

Sometimes these interests come close to each other, a little too close, and it's up to the government and citizens to do our part. We can vote, and not just with our political right; with our dollars, our euros, and our pounds.

However, globalization does NOT necessarily include thrusting the American way of life onto nations that do not want it. No wonder globalization's become a bad word in the eyes of many.

If Saudi Arabia wants to block content from its people, that's their problem and it needs to be discussed in the forum of human rights. The government does need to be enlightened as to how the free flow of ideas is helpful. But don't criticize the US companies trying to make a buck off of this. Whether or not they sell a solution or the Saudi government creates their own solution for filtering, the filtering will still be done nonetheless.

WTF, Harry Potter banned?! (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619229)

JK> Remember that the Harry Potter series is now the most banned book series in American libraries.

Is this actually true?!?!

I haven't read the series (yet.) What's *so* bad in the books, that they must be banned?

What's the world coming too, when ideas must be repressed by a minority.

Re:WTF, Harry Potter banned?! (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619254)

Could be on of two reasons:

a) The books are complete crap. b) It's a marketing gimmick from some corporate tie-in.

Could be both, I suppose.

Re:WTF, Harry Potter banned?! (2)

radja (58949) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619301)

some christian fundamentalist groups seem to have a problem with it promoting 'the occult', which is a tool of satan(the devil, not the portscanner). And the US is bordering on being a christian fundamentalist country.. no european leader would end every speech with 'god bless '.


It's called Capitalism (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619232)

Judging by how Americans break out in a cold sweat at the mention of words like "Socialism" I would say that Capitalism is the preferred way of doing things around here.

And as we all know things like "morality" or "ethics" do not figure into business decisions a system driven by profits - that's what makes it work.

I am actually not trying to pass judgement one way or another, just pointing out that this is the way things work around here. And I believe that under the PATRIOT Act (or was it the ATA?) criticizing the way the US does things, justifies you getting drawn and quartered (I am not sure about this one though, I'll have to check).

Seriously though (and I've been told this many times) - this is Capitalism, if you don't like it, go to Romania.

[OT] Boycott JonKatz please (0, Flamebait)

image (13487) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619233)

After this disgusting display [] of the worst kind of irresponsible journalism, I can't condone JonKatz writing for Slashdot any longer. I realize that Slashdot is a private organization, and can publish whatever it wants. However, the article "Message from Kabul" was at best exagerated, and at worst an outright fabrication. Katz never responded to the numerous requests on Slashdot for evidence supporting his claims -- this makes me question his journalistic integrity.

Sure, I can just filter his posts. But I am offended that a site like Slashdot would let him get away with this.

Mod me up if you agree (I'm at the cap anyway). Mod me off-topic if you want. Mod me a troll, whatever. This is my first public flame of anyone, anywhere. I'm that disheartened by his apparent dishonestly.

If the Saudi's really want that freedom... (3, Insightful)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619238)

they can fight for it, just like the US did, after all, a people that gives up freedoms for security deserve neither. The Saudis have the power to change, *IF* they want to change, thats *their* option...

Re:If the Saudi's really want that freedom... (1)

Alpha_Geek (154209) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619322)

People said the same thing about the Afghan people and the Taliban. Look at the mess that created.

Freedom = American Values? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619240)

This highlights the menacing way corporatism exploits technology, undermining the most basic American values

Which really is quite staggerringly hubristic, really. The Net delivers everybody freedom? Well yes, but only if that freedom is American-defined freedom.

And isn't corporatism the most basic American value of all? Who invented the large world-spanning corporation anyway?

And your point is? (1)

SplendidIsolatn (468434) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619244)

Ok, a large number of Slashdot readers live in the United States or other country which has supposed freedoms of speech, etc. I can understand how such an article would raise the ire of these people.

However, the countries in question are NOT the same as the countries with such declared freedoms. They do not have a Bill of Rights or the freedoms many of us have been given. It is the declaration of the US Government that the people of the United States have these freedoms. If the governments of other nations choose not to give those freedoms, that is their concern. It isn't any more right or wrong, it is just their way of ruling. I agree it isn't always fair, but that is my US-centric view.

If this occurs in the US, it will be because the censorship will be of a popular morality. It doesn't matter who is 'correct' in these matters--the majority will rule. This very well might cause problems for those who want a more limitless freedom, especially in the wake of a post 9/11 hysteria over anonymity and freedoms.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

Re:And your point is? (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619291)

Your second paragraph is slightly misguided - the people of the US also believe that the freedoms bestowed on them are generally a good thing. And as such they wish that people in other countries also partake of those freedoms. Some people even work towards such goals.

Your second third paragraph is just plain naive.

Beep bweeeeep (-1)

Guns n' Roses Troll (207208) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619246)

Old hairy faggot alert.. bweeep bweeep bweep. Sensors overloaded.. bweep bweeep bweeeep. Explosion certain.. bweep bweep bweeep. Too much faggotry [] .

You're still allowed to write here? (1)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619249)

I was hoping after the last article, you'd be gone, I didn't expect it, since slashdot seems to have zero accountability.

Nope, but here you are again, presenting the exact opposite thesis. And almost as poorly.

In fact, the Saudi government is helping to pioneer something once thought impossible -- a sanitized Net for an entire nation and culture.

Not thought impossible by the Chinese or even the Australians (a western democracy even!). Did you just get a copy of Lawrence Lessing's new book or something? I mean, it's always possible to excerpt some measure of control over something, if the internet's structure 'routs around' censorship, then all you have to do is change the structure.

This might be a good idea (2)

Technician (215283) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619250)

Before you tag this as flaimbait for the title, consider this. Without any blocking, there may be no access at all. With blocking, stuff will leak. To see what I mean, think MP3 file trading. No access at all will kill trading. (think computer with no modem or NIC) Blocked access is not 100%. Stuff will get in. (think cyber patrol) Don't expect the leaders to freely open the doors just because it is there. There is lots of stuff out there to be afraid of. Getting a foot in the door is a step in the right direction.

If only... (-1, Offtopic)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619252)

I could block Jon Katz stories.

Lets not forget the Net is International.... (3, Insightful)

caesar-auf-nihil (513828) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619256)

"This is a radical assault on the spirit of the Net, of its open, point-to-point design, its great promise to democratize information."

I'll agree with some of what you write, but, I can't agree with all of it. We look at other governments and their policies through our own set of lenses, which paint things in terms of democracy, liberty, and all sorts of other American ideals. Now while I'm not saying the censorship certain nations apply should be aplogized for or encouraged, those nations have their own set of ideals and therefore, may not see things the way we do when it comes to certain civil rights. Take Saudi Arabia for example. You have a monarchy which has a strong fundamentalist religious belief system. So Saudi Arabia prevents its citizens from seeing porn and subversive material. We take offense. Did it occur to you that the majority of the Saudi Arabian citizenry may actually WANT those things blocked so their children or family cannot see the things which may offend them? Just as there are southern baptists who rant and rave over the local Rock and Roll concert and demand that it is banned, I suspect there are those in Saudi Arabia who do the same thing. The big difference is that for the most part, those rabid baptists get ignored. In Saudi Arabia, they are the majority and cannot be ignored. Certainly, there may be citizens in Saudi Arabia who don't like the censorship, but there is probably an equal or larger number who are glad that it is there. If the majority of the citizens don't want that information available, then they have the right to ask their government to block it.

Since different cultures have different belief systems, and put emphasis on different values, their version of the Net will be different than ours, and therefore, blocking certain information makes sense to them. So this isn't a radical assualt on the whole Net, just the American Centralized view of it. If the Internet is supposed to be the great democratizer, then no wonder it is viewed as a threat to a government or nation's culture. We already do a wonderful job destroying world cultures with our consumer-based culture, and now we have a method to send it out as fast as possible. Since a majority of the world's internet sites are US based, and designed by those with US values, the Net therefore looks like an American value-based highway of information. Perhaps the censorship, while not always good, may allow for the creation of local culture-based website, un-inspired (untainted perhaps?) by American-based web/net culture. Then they can send this information back out to the Net and we can learn about their unique point of view.

Let me say again that I don't support censorship, but I also don't agree that our value system should be shoved down other people's throats. For that matter, I don't think anyone's value system should be forced upon anyone else. Make the information available, but don't shove it. If they don't want to hear it, fine. Go pass it along to someone else then.

Re:Lets not forget the Net is International.... (1)

fizban (58094) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619321)

Look at this moral relativist bull-crap.

How the hell do we know what the people of a country "really" want if they don't have the ability to voice their opinions without fear of retribution?

Cut the crap and realize that a free democratic society is the better way to live. A country who's rulers force everyone to not watch porn is completely different from a country where the people themselves have decided to not allow porn through a majority opinion.

Censorship and Terrorism (2)

sterno (16320) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619258)

Terrorism is an alternative for of communication. People who feel they have no effective means of expressing their concerns about the government, etc, get frustrated and try to find a way to get their message out. When communications channels are closed down in a heavily censored state, it drives people to the only means they have available, getting guns and bombs (and germs?) and wreaking havoc.

One of the reasons this country has had a consitent government and relative stability despite the dramatic changes we've made over the last 200 years is the freedom of speech. We don't feel as compelled to resorting to violent revolution, etc, because for the most part we feel we have a voice for our grievances. It is only when people feel powerless that they start resorting to to terrorism.

So, interestingly by promoting existing powers in certain countries who are oppressive we are sowing the seeds for more future terrorism. Of course that terrorism won't stay within their borders because we are acting as backers and are thus guilty by association.

Love the concept, now get real... (2, Insightful)

iworm (132527) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619268)

I both detest the Saudi govenment and would love all Saudi's to have unfiltered Internet access.

So, following JK's logic (well, there's none really. Notice no real suggestions, it's just a well-intentioned rant), "we" (the West) should maybe stop the sale of any filtering software to the Saudis. And what have we achieved then? We've ensured that Saudi's then get NO Internet, filtered or not.

Filtering is undesirable, but in practice is, in the best possible sense, the thin end of the wedge: i.e. give them some access and it will improve their society just a little. Then maybe the filtering will ease just a little. And so on... Iterate until sanity achieved.

Sure, it's not certain to work, but what else should we do?

Jon, Jon, Jon, by now you should know the order: (2)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619281)

Like it or lump it, the natural order of things:

1. Money
2. Power
3. Freedom

If the US is so free... (3, Funny)

graybeard (114823) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619294)

then why do Brits get to see tits on the telly & we don't?

Better than nothing (2)

DaoudaW (533025) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619297)

The Net can, in fact, be used to make money and suppress freedom.

I'm not sure quite what Jon means here. Sure some companies make money by restricting information, but that's been true for a long time. Most school districts in the U.S. have some sort of filtering software in place and there are plenty of firewall companies out there, some are even Open Source.

But suppressing freedom? I think that even heavily filtered Internet access is better than nothing. How are Saudis less free by having 90% of the Internet available to them than by having no Internet?

Finally, if I'm reading it correctly, even the Open Source Definition [] wouldn't prevent companies from doing business with Saudi Arabia, so I'm not sure how critical we can be of companies doing business as usual.

Technology ! = Making money with sales (1)

andr0meda (167375) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619300)

Read the topic.
End of story.

Lots of people to blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2619303)

Look, there's lots of blame to go around. Saudi Arabia's kings are to blame for unfairly blocking information, such as humanitarian and religious websites, from their citizens. Their citizens are also to blame for endorsing such behaviour, as there obviously isn't any threat of a coup d'ta over there anytime soon. Corporations are to blame for claiming they "don't know what they do with the software once we sell it to 'em." That's like the US telling the American public it had no idea Bin Laden would use that weapons grade plutonium in a nuclear bomb! Gasp! (I'm just kidding to make a point).

Maybe if we could all realize that there are absolutes in this world of good and evil, and everyone needs to be finding out who sets the absolutes, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.

A little perspective... (1)

Debillitatus (532722) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619306)

Countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and China have been surprisingly successful at wiring up certain segments of their societies while controlling information deemed insensitive for political or religious reasons. The Net can, in fact, be used to make money and suppress freedom. These governments have undercut the great promise of globalism, prosperity, technology and democracy, allowing corrupt and anti-democratic governments to prosper, in part by censoring information -- something many of us thought the Net would make impossible.

I've heard this argument quite a few times, which essentially boils down to "when a country censors the net, the citizens become less free, thus the emergence of the Net has reduced freedom, not encouraged it". But perhaps a little perspective? If Saudi Arabia restricts the right of its citizens to use the Net, how are they less free than if the Net never existed at all? This isn't a step backward for these people, it's at worst the status quo.

Plus, it's just a matter of time. Saudi Arabia's restricting of the Net certainly doesn't help the country; look at the US. Any country which does this kind of stuff will have to pay the piper down the road.

Newsflash: Dollars over Democracy (2)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619318)

Why do I always feel like Katz asks such sophomoric and naive questions in his rants?

The US has been aiding the oppresive Saudi regime for years. Hell, the US went to war for the Kuwaiti regime - one of the most backwards and repressive in the already repressive Middle East.

You can bet that if the dollars dictate, the US will prop up China too. Look at how we have already backed down on Taiwan.

Look at Chile back during the cold war - the US wasn't beyond toppling an elected leader to put a US-friendly dictator in charge when it suited their purposes.

How naive are you Katz?

John Katz is 100% right... (1)

spamkabuki (458468) | more than 12 years ago | (#2619326)

as far as he goes. Yes, corporate interests will sell out ideals for cash. Is this news?

Yes, the Net is being throttled in some places. This is simply an instance of the far more pervasive and damaging censorship that has always gone on. (Compare newspaper-reader-years to net-surfer-years in China.)

But, to Katz' argument, are corporations under some obligation to export US rhetoric re: free speech? I don't think so. Do corporations do anything within reason to make a buck? Sure.

Let's look at how they will make a buck next. I like to see politics here, but /. is for tech issues, too. OK, Net access is blocked outside of Riyadh with US corporate help. The way I see it, that creates a market hungry for porn, South Park, Salman Rushdie novels, and Britney.

Here is the incentive for other companies to throw up another satellite and bypass the chokepoints. I understand that two-way (no phone line req'd satellite-based net service is just over the horizon.)Illicit sat dishes have been a feature of Iran rooftops for years.

That is just the first idea off the top of my head. The point is that companies are motivated by cash. Governments are motivated by a whole lot of things, including paranoia. One corp will sell blocking software, another will sell tools to get around it somehow. Sell to both sides.

Does this solve the problems with governments everywhere poking around where they don't belong? No, but it is a start. Remember the power of technology to subvert governments has a long track record.

On a final note, more insidious is the bastardization and dumbing down of culture. Katz mentioned Harry Potter. What the hell is a Sorceror's Stone? Last time I checked it was a Philosopher's Stone. Why must the US public continue to put up with corporations blocking access to the real goods to line their pockets...?
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