Archive for the ‘censorship’ Tag

Wal-Mart threatens union with injunction over website

Wal-Mart threatens union with injunction over website

Retail giant Wal-Mart Canada has filed for a court injunction against a workers’ rights website over alleged trademark infringement, but the union operating the site says it is simply an attempt to thwart organizing efforts and stifle expression.

“This injunction request is an over the top assault on freedom of speech and on our ability to effectively communicate with Walmart workers,” said a statement from Wayne Hanley, national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada union.

The retail corporation filed the injunction with the Quebec Superior Court earlier this month in regards to the name, designs, slogans and images used on a UFCW website called walmartworkerscanada.ca.

“They recently revamped their site and in doing so we believe they have infringed on the Wal-Mart trademark,” said Andrew Pelletier, director of vice-corporate affairs for Wal-Mart Canada.

Specific complaints include phrases such as “Walmart Workers Canada” and “Union for Walmart Workers,” and photographs of people wearing blue vests – a uniform of Wal-Mart employees.

The injunction also seeks to stop the use of the website’s slogan “Get respect, live better,” which the corporation says plays on their new slogan “Save money, live better.”

Wal-Mart Canada is simply trying to protect its brand, Pelletier said, and denied it is attempting to thwart free speech.

“We are big advocates of free speech and open communications from the way we operate internally to the way we operate externally,” he said.

But the union strongly disagrees and launched a public awareness campaign this week in response to the injunction.

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Force disciplines police blogger

Force disciplines police blogger

A serving detective whose anonymous blog carried criticisms of government ministers and police bureaucracy has been disciplined by his force.

The action, by Lancashire Constabulary, follows the exposure of the blogger “Night Jack” by the Times newspaper.

He was unmasked after the High Court rejected his plea that his anonymity be preserved “in the public interest”.

Lancashire Constabulary said the blogger, named as Det Con Richard Horton, had received a written warning.

I was so, so sure this was going to be Inspector Gadget

Anonymous in Iran

Anonymous – the online subculture/movement/group/meme noted by many for its fight against the Cult of Scientology – has recently turned its attention to the popular uprising in Iran. WhyWeProtest.net and The Pirate Bay have joined up with others in creating an anonymous discussion forum for the situation as it unfolds, describing itself as follows:

This forum aims to be a secure and reliable way of communication for Iranians and friends. Use it to discuss what is happening in Iran. Post in the forum either anonymously as a guest, as a registered user, or login with your facebook-account. We are not a government agency, nor are we Iranian. We are simply the internet and we believe in free speech. Read here for more: http://iran.whyweprotest.net/showthread.php?t=29

This forum is backed by thepiratebay.org, Anonymous, and numerous other internet-friendly forces.

On a related note, the Pirate Party now has a seat in the European parliament. Which will not be news for anyone reading this but somehow I managed to miss it.

Mormons demand ICANN plugs net smut hole

Mormons demand ICANN plugs net smut hole

Mormon anti-pornography activists led by SCO Group chairman Ralph Yarro III are calling on ICANN to give more political clout to those who want to kick porn off the web.

Scores of Yarro’s followers have this week petitioned ICANN to OK the formation of a new “Cybersafety Constituency” which would help develop binding policies for the internet’s domain name system.

The drive is being orchestrated by Cheryl Preston, the top lawyer for CP80.org, an “Internet Zoning” censorship campaign headed by Yarrow, who is also the chairman and largest shareholder of controversial Linux vendor SCO.

CP80.org wants all adult material banned from Port 80, the standard protocol port for the web, and confined to a new port. It also suggests that “ISPs could simply block all IP addresses originating from a non-compliant country”.

facepalm.jpg

The discussion on the proposal can be found here, while more information on the Cybersafety Constituency itself can be found here.

Obama declares proposed IP treaty a “national security” secret to refuse sunlight, 10 Mar 2009

From the good folks at wikileaks:

Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) rejection letter from the Executive Office of the President Office of the United States Trade Representative.

ACTA is a proposed intellectual property multi-lateral trade agreement with censorship and privacy implications, the first concrete details of which were released by Wikileaks.

The agreement is being negotiated with little transparency and has generated heated opposition by civil rights groups in many countries. It is being pushed by the copyright and patent industries in Western countries, especially the United States.

As an trade agreement, ACTA will come into power under as an international treaty, and bypass the legislatures of many democratic countries.

The document presented here shows that although the new Obama administration has preached increased transparency, it has here classified various ACTA documents as “national security” secrets, and refused to release them under the FoIA.

For more information see:

* http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2009/03/obama-declares.html
* http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/09/100-groups-demand-to-see-secret-anticounterfeiting-treaty.ars
* http://www.michaelgeist.ca/tags/anti-counterfeiting+trade+agreement

Manchester man arrested for alleged sewer-grate photography, held as a terrorist

Manchester man arrested for alleged sewer-grate photography, held as a terrorist

Still think that if you’re innocent, you have nothing to fear from surveillance and control laws? Have a look at this news-video about Stephen Clarke, a man who was accused to taking pictures of sewer-gratings in Manchester and arrested. Though the police couldn’t find any photos of sewer-gratings on his phone (and even though “what a sewer grating looks like” isn’t a piece of specialized terrorist intelligence), he was held on suspicion of planning an act of terror, imprisoned for two days while the police searched his home, his phone and his computer. When they couldn’t find anything suspicious, they released him, but kept his DNA on file, as the biometric of someone who had been accused of plotting a terrorist act.

The video.

Labour’s gay group asks for ban on God Hates Fags church members

Labour’s gay group asks for ban on God Hates Fags church members

LGBT Labour has written to the Home Office asking that members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church be refused entry into the UK.

The church, a tiny sect with around 60 members, often picket funerals in the US.

They claim God is punishing the world because homosexuality is tolerated.

The group said on their website GodHatesFags.com that they would be protesting at a performance of a gay-themed play in Basingstoke on Friday.

In a letter to Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, LGBT Labour co-chair Simon Wright referred to the Home Office decision to ban a Dutch MP who is critical of Islam from entering the UK because he would harm community relations.

UK ‘bad’ pics ban may stretch beyond possessing to looking

UK ‘bad’ pics ban may stretch beyond possessing to looking

The government could be planning to up the ante when it comes to material it doesn’t approve of – it may become illegal to even look at images, not merely possess them.

Some odd, ambiguous remarks by Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, raise this gruesome possibility. Evidence for it emerged from an elliptical exchange between Starmer and Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central during the committee stage of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

Miss Willott has clearly done her homework. She noted that whilst the Internet Watch Foundation focuses on images that can be downloaded – the traditional web route – images accessed through other means, such as streaming, are not within its remit. She asked Mr Starmer: “If someone is watching streaming images online, there would be no actual copy on their computer, so they would not technically be in possession.”

He replied: “It would be for the courts to interpret the meaning of possession. We would proceed on the basis that there should be no such loophole.”

Mr Starmer’s reply can be interpreted in two ways: streaming is not a loophole, either because the government is not interested in going after it; or because they intend – or hope – that in time the courts will extend the definition of “possession” to the simple act of watching something unfold on a screen.

Happy Rushdie Day!

Twenty years ago today, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s offence had been to write a book, The Satanic Verses, which contained an unflattering depiction of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

The novel’s title derives from a story, incorporated as a subplot, dating to the earliest years of Islam. The claim is that Mohammed was given a revelation that the people of Mecca could worship three of their pagan goddesses provided they recognised the supremacy of Allah. These verses were later rescinded and replaced by new verses confirming a belief in one god alone, while the originals were described as the work of the devil – hence, the “Satanic Verses.”

The book contained a number of other allusions to Islam and Muslim history which some readers found offensive. Complaints began to mount, with angry callers bombarding publishers and retailers with complaints, and bombings of bookshops taking place in several countries.

Then came the fatwa:

In the name of God the Almighty. We belong to God and to Him we shall return. I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book Satanic Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, and those publishers who were aware of its contents, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, where they find them, so that no one will dare to insult the Islamic sanctity. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God-willing. In addition, if anyone has access to the author of the book but does not possess the power to execute him, he should point him out to the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May God’s blessing be on you all. Rullah Musavi al-Khomeini.

While Rushdie himself managed to avoid death, violence resulting from opposition to the book resulted in several murders and assaults. Most notorious of these was the Sivas massacre in which 40 people were killed in an arson attack on a hotel due to the presence of a translator of the Satanic Verses.

The word “over-reaction” springs to mind.

To celebrate this anniversary, here’s a few other works of fiction which managed to get peoples’ pants in a tangle.

The Profit

The Profit is, as IMDB puts it, the story of “a cult leader’s rise to power and his subsequent descent into isolation and paranoia. More specifically, it is a satire on the life of Lafayette Ron Hubbard, sci-fi author, drug fiend, occultist and founder of the Church of Scientology. Better known to one and all as the Commodore, or simply LRH.

The film satirises a number of instances from Hubbard’s life, including a notorious incident early in the development of Dianetics. In it, a woman was presented by Hubbard as the world’s first “Clear” – a person who has freed themselves from the damaging effects of engrams and is endowed with a variety of abilities including improved mathematical skills, immunity to a range of diseases – and an infallible memory. The latter became something of a problem when it turned out she could not remember when asked the colour of Hubbard’s tie.

The film depicts a number of other instances from the development of Scientology, including the creation of the Sea Org, the “elite” group within Scientology. As a consequence, the cult went to work trying to disrupt filming and smear the film before it had been released:

Filmed in eight weeks last summer amid the backdrop of Fort De Soto Park and the bustle of Ybor City, the production was the target of constant harassment from Scientologists, Alexander said.

At one point, he said, members of the Foundation for Religious Tolerance of Florida handed out fliers denouncing the film’s backers at the film site and followed crew members home to press them for information about the content of the film.

Mary DeMoss of Clearwater, a Scientologist and founder of the Foundation for Religious Tolerance of Florida, calls the movie a “hate propaganda film.” She denies anyone from her organization followed anyone home and says the fliers were intended to “let the people know who was behind this.”

Eventually, the film was barred from release worldwide as the result of a court order in April 2002 claiming that it could influence the jury in the Lisa McPherson case. In November of that year, as the result of a great deal of legal wrangling involving the producers, the cult, and a number of Scientology critics, the film’s release was put on indefinite hold.

In March 2008, the film was leaked onto the internet and may now be downloaded and enjoyed in its entirety. Preferably while scoffing psych drugs out of a bowl shaped like the head of Freud.

Verismilitude

Harry Nicolaides is an Australian Greek author who spent several years living in Thailand. His 2005 novel Verisimilitude, describing life in Thailand, led to his being sentenced to three years imprisonment for the offence of “lese majeste” – insulting the monarchy.

The offending passage reads as follows:

From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives major and minor with a coterie of concubines for entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a son they conceived together, for an undisclosed indiscretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumoured that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.

The book can be downloaded in its entirety via wikileaks.

Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin

Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin is a children’s book released in 1983 in English (1981 in Danish). Like many children’s books, it features a little girl and her parents. Perhaps unlike many children’s books, those parents happen to have matching genitals.

Moral conservatives, while puportedly opposed to homosexuality, do seem to have an overwhelming fixation with it. And so, when the Daily Fail made it known that a school in London stocked the book in its library, the atmosphere for a good old-fashioned moral panic was set.

It could only have been worse if Jenny, Eric and Martin were in fact asylum-seeking Muslims with the psychic ability to lower house prices.

For a children’s book it did, however, manage to have a significant impact on the adult world. In particular, it contributed to the passing of Section 28 for its apparent attempts to push the “gay agenda” (silly me, I thought it was about helping kids with unusual family structures).

Baronness Knight, in a 1999 debate on section 28, referenced the book:

I was keen to get rid of the books but I know they still exist because they were produced to me by parents. I was shown what the children were being taught and told why the parents objected so much.

Another book, which I should have thought everyone would remember, was called Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. It depicted, on its cover, a little girl of about six years old sitting up in bed with her naked father on one side and his naked lover on the other. I shall quote the exact words used in the book because that, more than anything else, shows the age for which it was intended. It stated:

“Jenny is a little girl. Martin is Jenny’s dad and Eric is Martin’s lover. They all live happily together”.

The book went on to state that Eric, the father, drew Jenny a series of cartoons of two men who were saying:

“I love you Fred”
“I love you too, Bill. Why don’t we move in together?”
“That’s a good idea”.

[…]

I do not know what could cause more grave harm than to try to promote, as does the book Jenny lives with Eric and Martin, marriage as being outdated; that we should not have a mummy and daddy and can just as well have a daddy and a homosexual lover.

How atrocious. I can practically feel society crumbling as we speak.

This one, unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for.

Amanda Palmer on abortion, rape, art and humor

From the blog of Amanda Palmer:

my label in the UK has been gearing up to promote “oasis” as a radio and video single.
a few days before i left for london i got this email from someone at roadrunner:

”Hi Emily/Amanda,

Hope you are both well,
I just thought I’d let you know that we have been met by fierce opposition on the Oasis track.
Which is disheartening, as combined with the video, we all felt it was a great promotional tool and track.
All our TV outlets have refused to play the video due to it “making light of rape, religion and abortion”. This is the audio as well as visual.
Many of the stations like the track, and even the video but are bound by strict broadcasting rules. I personally find this quite ridiculous.”

dude.
wasn’t this the UK, land of black humor blacker than blackest black itself?

i emailed back and asked which outlets. the reply:

”NME tv, Scuzz, kerrang, MTV, Q, the box … to name a few. There is only a few networks: bauer, chartshow and MTV. They control all stations and they all had the same issue….”

and i sat there thinking, wow. here we go again.
why can’t ANYTHING just be effing EASY this year?

it isn’t a simple issue, obviously. but the fundamentals seem clear to me.

i sat down one day in or around 2002 and wrote a tongue-in-cheek, ironic up-tempo pop song.
a song about a girl who got drunk, was date raped, and had an abortion.
she sings about these things lightly and joyfully and says that she doesn’t care that these things have happened to her because oasis, (her favorite band) has sent her an autographed photo in the mail. and to make things even better (!!), her bitchy friend melissa, who told the whole school about the abortion, is really jealous.

if you cannot sense the irony in this song, you’re about two intelligence points above a kumquat.

The video and song in question:

Amanda Palmer – both solo and as part of the Dresden Dolls – is like an awesomeburger coated in win. Listen to her, for she is correct in all things.