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Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

On January 25th, I wrote about Bill White, a neo-Nazi extremist with a habit for posting cruel blogs in particular regard to Jewish people.  I would like to follow up on this with the recent developments in his case.

As of December 6th, 2008 White was being held in the Metropolitan Correction Center in Chicago, Illinois. He remained there a year until the trial back in December 2009. At this trial, he was convicted of on four counts for crimes he has committed. In recent developments, the charges were dropped regarding an incident with Ottawa Lawyer, Richard Warman. Three counts still remain on the table and his sentencing is due to take place on April 14th. If all these charges stick, he faces up to 30 years in prison (Hammack, 2008).

The reason I bring this up again is because I want to emphasize the point that even though the internet is not a physical entity, what you say on it may have lasting consequences. Whether it be via Facebook, Twitter, a public blog, a text message or an MSN conversation all these forms of communication can potentially be a channel for hate speech and a breach of our rights. I believe that Bill White breaches section 2B of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian equivalent to the American first amendment. He breaches the free speech barrier and stands by his own rules, the “offend –as- many- people- as- you- can- with- your- personal- opinions” mantra.

My mother raised me in such a way that if I didn’t have something nice to say, then I shouldn’t say it. Perhaps, hate speech bloggers should take a lesson from my childhood and seriously consider what is happening to Bill White for his actions.

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Hate, it is a cruel thing in our world that unfortunately is here to stay for awhile; unless we do something drastic to change it. McMasters in his article, Must a Civil Society Be a Censored Society?, says that “most Americans want to do something about the hate” (McMasters, 1999, p.2). However, wanting to do something and actually doing something is very different.

Bullies exist in our society at every age. There will always be someone who hits a nerve with us and just annoys and bothers us. The extent to which they bully us varies however when it comes down to it they affect us all the same because they hurt a part of us. When we have someone annoying us a common thing for others to say is to just ignore them, however it is much easier said than done.

The Internet, with the World Wide Web, has been bombarded with hate since its beginning. Activists have tried to eliminate these bullies by “using the Internet to give the lie to hate speech, to monitor hate groups, and to highlight the problems of hate” (McMasters, 1999, p.1). This hate that I am speaking about is speech that “offers, threatens, or insults groups based on race, [colour], religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, [etc.]” (McMasters, 1999, p.1). Activists have also started drafting proposals to eliminate this hate speech. Their proposals basically come down to saying that “words can and do harm the targets of hate in painfully real ways; hate speech silences the member of victim groups and denies them their rightful standing in society” (McMasters, 1999, p.1).

The goal of these activist groups is to “silence individual members of victim groups if the speech against others falls within the definition of hate speech or if individuals within the group are only allowed to represent that group in their speech” (McMasters, 1999, p.2). However to silence these individuals and groups is very hard. Codifying a law is a very difficult process. It must go through a series of steps and many important people. Even if the concept is beneficial it must be determined that it is beneficial for the greatest amount of people and for those it is not helping it is not completely minimizing their rights.

The end hope is that by censoring some things these ‘haters’ will realize the impact they are having on people and will start changing these negative claims to positive ones or if they can’t do that than just don’t say them at all. American likes to feel that it “has room for everyone” and that it is a place of “tolerance, equality, and justice” (McMasters, 1999, p.1) so hopefully by censoring these speeches it will start becoming the kind of place it claims to be.

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Scandals, we find them every day in our papers. However, in order to be critical thinkers we must reflect on the fact that what is excluded from the papers is equally as important as what is.

Trafigura is a Swiss company who “handle[s] every element involved in the sourcing and trading of crude oil, petroleum products, renewable energies, metals, metal ores and concentrates for industrial consumers” (Trafigura Corporate Brochure, 2009). During 2005 and 2006 e-mails were sent internally describing “plans to clean and re-sell contaminated oil from Mexico and deposit the wastes in Africa, since they were too toxic for regulators in Europe or the U.S” (Cook, 2010, p.19). Four-hundred to five-hundred tons of toxic waste would finally get dumped in Abidjan, on the Ivory Coast (p.19). After this, tens of thousands of people from the Ivory Coast were reporting to doctors’ offices for illnesses related to being exposed to toxic waste (p.19). The UN even claims that there are 12 deaths directly related to this purposeful dumping (p.19).

On September 11th, 2009, Trafigura went to the British High Court to ban a scientific report to be public information (p.19). This document held all information regarding health and safety issues concerning this toxic waste. They also were granted an order so that the report could not be mentioned in British Parliament (p.20). Nonetheless, a Member of Parliament mentioned the incident in Parliament and subsequently a journalist at The Guardian got wind of the story. Trafigura ordered the stories be deleted off the website; however, the British newspaper did not (p.20). While Trafigura wanted the articles down to save their reputation and keep the public blind to the atrocities that they had committed, it all backfired. Thanks to Twitter, the story generated much more attention than this company wanted considering they sought legal action to prohibit this from happening. On October 16th, just over a month after they had gone to court, Trafigura removed their injunction (p.20).

“What the media have called a cover-up was simply a routine injunction to protect a document that was “confidential, legally privileged, and which had been obtained unlawfully,” said Adam Tudor, Trafigura’s head lawyer.

As we can see, large corporations as always looking for a way to cover their backs and make sure that the public is oblivious to their actions and in this case, the willingness to put human life at risk in order to save a multi-billion dollar company money. Without the leaking of internal e-mails and Twitter updates this all would have transpired without any public knowledge, which is completely ludicrous.

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Facebook is the fastest growing social networking internet website in the world. According to the ‘Facebook Press Room’ there are more than 400 million active Facebook users and 70% of those users live outside of the United States of America. Facebook allows people all over the world to connect and share personal messages, information, pictures and videos with each other. Ted Janusz author of Marketing on Social Networks: Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook Demystified states, “with over a billion photos and over 14 million added each day, Facebook is the number one photo-sharing site on the Internet” (Janusz, 2009, 124-125). These numbers show how much Facebook is valued in today’s society and the importance it holds to it’s subscribers. In some cases Facebook has become extremely addicting to people and some people because of it’s addicting ways have lost jobs because of it. A website called ‘How to Avoid Getting Fired By Facebook’ gives it’s readers tips and tricks to use in order to avoid losing your job because of Facebook. The website states, “people are losing their jobs over this. Take the Goldman Sachs trader Charlie Barrow for instance. He became addicted and got fired for spending too much of his time prattling. He went as far as adding a warning letter from his employer on his profile.” People need to realize there is a consequence for everything you put on the internet about yourself and that others (including your employer) do have access to this information. Although it may seem harmless to write next to your Facebook profile name ‘Wow, I hate my job!’ or ‘My boss is a tyrant!’ these messages can be taken very personally and people are losing their positions everyday because of what they do, say or post on Facebook.

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Bill White of Virgina, USA. Does he have a right to free speech on the internet?

In August 2006, columnist David Reevley from the Ottawa Citizen wrote an article on free speech blogging. Free speech on the net extends to everyone, even to anti-Semites like Bill White. In my previous posting, I pondered the idea of anonymity on the net; when it goes too far identities must be revealed in order to stop demeaning comments. However, in this case, Bill White of Roanoke, Virginia is a proud neo-Nazi and is not hiding under a pseudo name; in fact he relishes media attention since it gives him more hits on his blog. As described by Michael Strangelove in his book, The Empire of Mind : Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement, “with a new structure of media [ blogging, IM, texting ] came new expressive freedoms and new motivations to participate” (Strangelove, 2005, p.5) . This is absolutely true for Bill White.  He posts blood boiling comments about the superiority of the Caucasian race and degrading ones targeting Jewish communities on his blogspot.com website to get his audience raging. An Ottawa lawyer who was being attacked by White asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to block his website from coming to Canada for his hateful slurs (which do not abide to Canadian laws). However, they declined since they had no precedence and it would need a full hearing before any action could take place. All this to say, when can we limit free speech?  This article was published 4 years ago. Today, I tried to access this site to see if I [a Canadian citizen with a Canadian IP address] could. Sure enough, I received a message saying “This blog is in violation of Blogger’s Terms of Service and is open to authors only. FINALLY. Someone has found a way to protect individuals without suppressing freedom of speech. With this warning in affect at least there is a buffer between a hateful opinionated blog and the masses.

David Reevely.  “The net keeps speech free — even for neo-nazis :[Final Edition]. ” The Ottawa Citizen 28  Aug. 2006,Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies, ProQuest. Web.  25 Jan. 2010.

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Blogging is in a way the freest form of online speech. It is an outlet expressing personal feelings, sharing news or other information. In China, where the internet is patrolled by the government bloggers must be careful not to express oppositional political views. The Chinese according to a survey done by Chinese researcher Guo, use the internet primarily for “general browsing… reading national and local news, downloading or listening to music, and sending or receiving instant messages” (2007).They also use blogging as a means of “news and information gathering, entertainment, and interpersonal relationships” (Hong & Wong, 2010)

Also in Guo’s survey,

more than 80% of the respondents considered the control of online information very or somewhat necessary and believed government (84.8%) and Internet companies (78.8%) should play the most important role on it. In terms of specific forms of content that should be controlled, about 44% of the respondents said politics” (2007).

According to Guo’s survey we can infer that the government in this case could be considered like a mass corporation in the Western countries. They will do whatever it takes to cover their own necks and will try to control the population to conform to their beliefs. If they do not or have not conformed, the public will keep their mouth shut in fear of serious repercussions. I find it interesting that the public says that the government should play the most important role on the internet. Perhaps it is because they were concerned that the information they gave the researchers would be sent to government officials or perhaps that is their true belief. However, either way it is evident the mark that the Chinese government has had on its population. In a sense this is a form of cultural branding. If you are from here you must behave THIS way and not THAT way. Through some of these stats, I see the correlation between the two.

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation, otherwise known as EFF, claims to “fight for the right to free speech (EFF).”  Their latest campaign is revolving around the legal rights of bloggers and citizen journalists. This diverse group of people form a non-profit organization who state “to continue successfully defending your digital rights”(EFF). EFF have nine rights that they are fighting for everyday people which are the following:

  1. You have the right to blog anonymously.
  2. You have the right to keep sources confidential.
  3. You have the right to make fair use of intellectual property.
  4. You have the right to allow reader’s comments without fear. 
  5. You have the right to protect your server from government seizure.
  6. You have the right to freely blog about elections.
  7. You have the right to blog about your workplace.
  8. You have the right to access as media.
  9. Know your rights and prepare to defend them.

 This is a particular set of statements considering some of them can be put to question, for example, the right to blog anonymously. There are millions of sex offenders around the world and a large majority of these people are doing their dirty work with the help of the Internet and sites like Facebook and My Space which were created to interact with one another and blog about certain things. If the right to blog anonymously was instated with no exceptions, these sex offenders would be kept hidden from the public and from the police department which could possibly increase crime rate. Someone could blog about intentionally hurting someone, hurting themselves, posing a threat of any kind on a city or country, etc. and these events could not be prevented because we have the right to blog anonymously. Certain restrictions should apply to ensure the safety of everyone, including the blogger. So does the Electronic Frontier Foundation actually have good intentions for the people they are fighting for?

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