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Old 11th May 2008, 12:13 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Anybody can censor your blog !!!!!!!!!

There is freedom of speech on the Internet - until the people who don't like what you say shut down your site.

THERE'S a new kind of censorship online and it's coming from the grassroots. Thanks to new collaborative, social media networks, it's easier than ever for people to get together and destroy freedom of expression.

They're going do-it-yourself from the bottom up, instead of the way old-school censors used to do it from the top down. Call it user-generated censorship.

Now that anyone with access to a computer and a network connection can post almost anything they want online for free, it's also increasingly the case that anyone with computer access and a few friends can remove anything they want online. And they do it using the same software tools.

Here's how it works. Let's say you're a community activist who has some pretty vehement opinions about your city government. You go to Blogger.com, which is owned by Google, and create a free blog called Why the Municipal Government in Crappy City Sucks. Of course, a bunch of people in Crappy City disagree with you - and maybe even hate you personally. So instead of making mean comments on your blog, they decide to shut it down.

At the top of your Blogger blog, there is a little button that says 'flag this blog'. When somebody hits that button, it sends a message to Google that somebody thinks the content on your blog is 'inappropriate' in some way.

If you get enough flags, Google will shut down your blog. In theory, this button would be used only to flag illegal stuff or spam. But there's nothing stopping your enemies in town from getting together an online posse to click the button a few times.

Eventually, your blog will be flagged enough times for Google to take action.

And this is where things get interesting. Google has the option of simply shutting down your access to the blog. They rarely do that unless your blog is full of illegal content, such as copyright-infringing videos.

Generally, what Google does if you get a lot of flags is make your blog impossible to find. Nobody will be able to find it if they search using Blogger or Google.

The only people who will find it are people who already know about it and have the exact URL.

This is censorship, user-generated style. And it works because the only way to be seen in a giant network of user-generated content like Blogger (or MySpace, Flickr or any number of others) is to be 'searchable'.

If you want to get the word out about Crappy City online, you need people searching Google for 'Crappy City' to be able to find your blog and learn about all the bad things going on there.

What good is your free speech if nobody can find it?

Most sites that have user-generated content, such as photo-sharing site Flickr and video-sharing site YouTube, use a system of flags similar to Blogger's that allow users to censor each other.

Sometimes you have to give a good reason why you are flagging content - YouTube offers you a drop-down menu with about 20 choices - and sometimes you can just flag it as 'unsafe' or 'inappropriate'. Generally, most sites respond to flagging the same way - they make the flagged stuff impossible to find.

Censorship isn't working the old-fashioned way. Your videos and blogs aren't being removed. They're simply being hidden in the deluge of user-generated information.

To be 'unsearchable' on the Web is, in a very real sense, to be censored. But you're not being censored by an authority from on high - you're being censored by the mob.

That's why I find myself rolling my eyes when I hear people getting excited about 'the wisdom of crowds', 'crowdsourcing' and all that crap.

Sure, crowds can be wise and they can get a lot of work done. But they can also be destructive, cruel and stupid.

They can prevent work from being done as easily as they can make it go smoothly. And just as the Web is making it easier for crowds to collaborate, it is also making it simple for mobs to crush free expression.

By Annalee Newitz, a contributing editor at Wired magazine.
Published: May 6 2008,
The Straits Times

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Old 11th May 2008, 12:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Anybody can censor your blog !!!!!!!!!

This is nothing...China has the Great Firewall whereby they can censor any website that violate their communist ideals...

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Old 11th May 2008, 01:14 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Anybody can censor your blog !!!!!!!!!

This can get crazy if silly people start flagging the blogs they don't know.

I don't know what the heck, but some things should be left alone?

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Old 11th May 2008, 01:19 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Anybody can censor your blog !!!!!!!!!

hmmx, sounds abit unreasonable? o.O

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Old 11th May 2008, 05:10 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Anybody can censor your blog !!!!!!!!!

Buy your own web hosting domain etc.?

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Old 11th May 2008, 05:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Anybody can censor your blog !!!!!!!!!

You can remove the top bar that have the flag button, so people cant flag the blog easily. My blog dont have the top (navigation) bar.

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Old 11th May 2008, 05:50 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Anybody can censor your blog !!!!!!!!!

Originally Posted by djchris View Post
This is nothing...China has the Great Firewall whereby they can censor any website that violate their communist ideals...
The Great Wall Of China ???

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Old 11th May 2008, 05:55 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Anybody can censor your blog !!!!!!!!!

0.o a bit unfair?

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