This Photo of the Week relates to the new bill that allows censorship of the media in Japan. Journalists could face prison for publishing anything that could be (even vaguely) related to national security. This has been reported in the media at places like the BBC, Japan Today, the Korea Herald, and The Straits Times, among others. What is interesting, there has been little follow up on this story. In fact, The Straits Times’ story is about how the bill is set to pass, but as of a few days after the fact, they have not announced the bill had passed. The Australian ABC does not have a story on the issue at all. For more information you can see the Wikipedia Censorship in Japan page, but ironically it appears out of date. Finally, few days ago I made an announcement the media secrecy bill on this blog.
The Japanese LDP led Diet has passed a bill that allows both media censorship and criminal charges and imprisonment for journalists. This is despite strong opposition including 77% of the public disapproving (Japan Times). Fortunately, it still has to be approved by the upper house.
It’s one of those sad days when a democratically elected government tries to hide their goings on from their people. They’ll be able to hide their mistakes, exploit the voters ignorance, and act with near impunity. No government should ever be allowed to criminalise at whim reporting to the public by a “free press”. Please show your opposition to this horrendous bill: http://www.avaaz.org/en/days_to_save_our_rights_to_know_d_eng/. For this photo, and other Japanese media related photos, see the Media in Japan gallery.
As you may know, being an English speaker in Japan, my main and almost only tangible contact with the Anglophone world is via the internet. How else does one keep a healthy state of mind and remain up to date? So, personally and professionally speaking, freedom on the internet is vital for me and the millions of expats from all countries all around the world. Threats to internet freedom is sure to have a stifling affect. Worse still, any such legislation created in the US will affect
People who do not live in America
People who have never been to America
People who cannot vote in American elections, and cannot (and shouldn’t) affect American policy.
So, the gist of CISPA is that your browsing and internet information (things you do, and info you leave on websites) can be shared with American government agencies. Who as access? It’s a long list, the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice Presidents Children, the Forest Service, J-2 Intelligence, West Point Military Academy, (ironically) Office for Civil Rights, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and lots more (EFF, Under CISPA). What can you do? Go to the http://internetdefenseleague.org/ website and show your opposition to the planned legislation, even if you’re not American.
Here we go again… According to the respected Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), CISPA is potentially back in the US (EFF). It is supposedly to allow private companies to eavesdrop on us, which the police would normally require a search warrant for. However, the private companies can gather any information they want, and then hand it over to the law enforcement. Effectively circumventing privacy laws, whilst deteriorating a fair justice system. Effectively, companies and law enforcement in the US can begin to collude, especially for the benefit of companies. Too bad if you support independent film makers, or are one yourself, and too bad if you support freedom of the press, an ethical media, and no media blackouts. Here’s EFF on Google+. In any case, I’m glad I’m not American, but hating the fact that this law will surely affect everyone else beyond America’s borders.
Chase Jarvis, a famous photographer in the social networking sites, reported that Apple has removed the 500px application from it’s iTunes Store because the app allows nude art to be found. In fact, the precise words were “nude photos”, not pornographic, but nudity was apparently the problem. What is the problem? Well, of course in some cultures viewing nude photos can result in quite adverse repercussions. However, a computer company has taken it upon itself to decide what is art and what isn’t, and so an entire business (the 500px website) and artistic community lost its access to Apple users. Even if the 500px application was only available in the US, why should this be removed? Should art like Michelangelo’s David be removed from public viewing? Should Botticelli’s Birth of Venus be removed, too? Why am I upset? I guess because there’s too many cat photos being shared on social networking sites, and too many flower photos shown off by beginning photographers (though I’m guilty of that, too). I’d much rather preserve and protect variety, rather than support the narrowing of acceptability.
Screenshot of the JapanesePhotos.Asia profile on the 500px.com website.
Again, I haven’t been able to post anything nice so far this new month. An email arrived from Google today with this information. The International Telecommunication Union is having a closed-door meeting today and for the next few days in Dubai regarding, presumably among other things, restricting freedoms and imposing censorship on the internet. Vint Cerf of Google wrote:
I published my opinions on CNN.com last week explaining my concerns — and I am not alone. More than 1,000 organizations from 163 countries have raised concerns about this upcoming closed-door meeting in Dubai. They are joined by Internet users from just about every country around the world — take a look.
The end result could allow governments unprecedented power to gather all our internet traffic data and use it as evidence against us at times of their convenience, and despite whether we are nice good citizens or not. In effect, it would prevent an Arab-Spring like protest against Western governments like ours, and of course stifle the normal democratic discussions society has been able to enjoy in the post-war era. Potential new legislation will also give unprecedented power to large corporations. In the post-Napster era, we’ve seen the music industry pursue teenagers who downloaded music for free and demanded millions of dollars of compensation from teenagers who do not have such future earning potential. The new legislation will seriously curtail any competition against such large companies preventing legitimate small companies from being able to compete.
Usually censorship is a good thing. It filters hate groups and other non-family friendly content. Such content is often still allowed to exist, but not be broadly publicly published / viewable. I have no disagreements with such policies. However, mainly American film and media organisations have tried to create international laws in the form of PIPA, SOPA, and ACTA (Wikipedia), (which each have seen protests against, and were successively abandoned). These laws used the ‘censorship’ word to severely restrict the internet with the express aim of allowing corporations to protect their own products at the expense of internet-based free speech (political, artistic, expressionist, etc) and possibly blocking out rival products, whilst at the same time allowing governments to include laws that curtail freedom of speech in democratic countries. The kind of internet censorship being discussed is undemocratic and can result in ordinary good citizens being labelled as criminals, and has nothing to do with protecting family values and curtailing hate group propaganda.
An international meeting will soon be held on the topic of the Internet and will include discussion on censorship (DailyWireless, TechRadar, Google/TakeAction). After the protests in the EU earlier this year on the same topic (TechCrunch: Tech Companies Against SOPA), EU leaders now understand that they cannot sign off on a law that is simply put in front of them, and so they are apparently suspicious of any talk of internet censorship.
If you support democratic free speech, and enjoy the current culture you enjoy on the internet, then you must take a look at Google’s page called “Take Action”.
There was an interesting interview regarding the latest attempt to censor the internet with newly proposed legislation called CISPA, here on YouTube. The main argument against it is that it is an internet version of wire-tapping and snooping. For telephones, police need to argue for and have credible evidence to obtain warrants from courts and judges, but CISPA attempts to circumvent this. A spokes woman from the Centre of Democracy and Technology in Washington says that “…it creates a real civil liberties problem”. Furthermore, she states that there are already law enforcement tools that the various police forces are currently using to regulate the internet, and these don’t infringe on civil liberties.
The problem with CISPA, like PIPA and SOPA, is that these are blanket bills, these attempt not to regulate only Americans in America, but anyone who uses internet services that have connections to the US. Potentially, a crackdown on freedom of speech on the internet can impact beyond the US jurisdiction and infringe on the sovereignties of other countries. However, I’m not American, I have never been there, but I don’t want that government (or any other government of a country I have no ties to) obtaining my information. They simply have no sovereign right to my information.
I, and many other people all around the world rely on a free and open internet. Intimidation on the internet can only hurt the legitimate business environment on the internet. I need my agents, advertising outlets, and portfolio hosts to remain open, independent, and unintimidated. So I had to oppose the American SOPA and PIPA legislation. There does need to be an effective anti-piracy legislation in all countries, but not one that is arbitrary, skewed to favour American oligarchs and their economic interests, and not one that re-creates a Communist-style censorship of the internet.
So for about 36 hours, spanning from just before the designated blackout day the 18th January to just after, this website was blacked out in protest of the SOPA and PIPA bills that were to be put forward to US politicians. If you clicked on the picture on the homepage, you would have been taken to americancensorship.org that has a summary of SOPA & PIPA and the reasons for the opposition.
Happy New Year, and all that malarkey. 1st of January is the start of the Gregorian calendar and therefore the start of the Christian New Year. The Chinese New Year is yet to come, and the Pagan New Year, too. It is an arbitrary date, but interesting to see Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines celebrate the Eve and the New Year at that time just the same.
What is a worrying start to whichever new year you follow is the Stop On-line Piracy Act (SOPA) being proposed in the US. Effectively, any website can be shut down almost arbitrarily if there is even one link, photo, or reference to a product from Hollywood. It appears that the movie and music industries of the US wants to have a total and uncompromising grip on their products. Really, I should be supporting this, as it means that my products also get protection. However, I’m worried that the opposite effect might occur.
If the bill is passed, it is possible that legitimate companies, who legitimately buy my photos, may stop buying my photos as they decide to save their pennies for possible litigation from accidental breaches of SOPA. It also means that the very places where my photos can be virally promoted may also be shut down. If you take a look at my homepage JapanesePhotos.Asia, you’ll notice that at the bottom of the slideshow is a “Share” button, this allows other people to show-off my photos (also see the Steve Jobs memorial photo below). This is one form of promotion I can do on the internet. If you take a look at one of my galleries hosted on PhotoShelter, the Seoul South Korea gallery, you’ll notice that there is a FaceBook, Twitter, and other buttons that help spread the word of my great photos. The problem is, SOPA threatens the very means I use to promote my photos, and could destabilise the internet economy. Finally, what if the very companies I use to even have a presence on the internet, Asia Photo Connection, PhotoShelter, and my webhost are closed down because of SOPA, then where is my ability to have an income? SOPA is not what the internet needs, and the very nature of SOPA is very, very wrong.
On a final note, seeing the reaction of Americans on the internet, it feels like SOPA has the very potential to smother democratic discussions, thereby making life for Americans no different to that of oppressed communist countries like North Korean and China.