We need much better logic in terms of how we handle censorship and the influence that platforms have to change how censorship is enforced. There has always been information that people did not want people to know about in one form or another. Fortunately there has always been a way to get communications in and out of countries or regimes that practice censorship. It is that very act of rebellion that makes books like 1984 by George Orwell and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow so interesting to read. People have always tended to find ways around dystopian regimes even if it was for a short bit of time. This is also what makes today’s op ed in the Washington Post so unbelievable to read, the author basically whines about the inequities of the future, a future that is rapidly becoming tied to Apple, Amazon and eBooks.
There is always going to be a way around censorship, attempted or real. Too many devices have been hacked, the explosion of intellectual property theft, the explosion in other forms of sharing without borders like Creative Commons tells me that censorship on a global basis in the internet environment will be nearly impossible, regardless of the platform being used. The Ipad is no different than the Kindle, than the Nook, than the PC or Apple computer.
This is what makes the argument by Frédéric Filloux in the Washington Post this morning so interesting and so unbelievable. On one hand he is arguing that the Ipad is a tempting opportunity for evil in terms of censorship but devastates his own argument by stating that one way around censorship in France was to resort to paper that was passed out during the tragic war in the Algiers that France conducted during the 1960’s. Yes, any system is an opportunity for evil, even the IPod. You can download software that on one side is a wonderful tool for testing a network, but on the other side of the same tool can be used to scan a network for open systems that can be hacked. And the tool can be downloaded for 1.99, this is hardly the action of a company that is interested in censorship or how their technology is used by people who have access to it.
What strikes me the most about Apple is not that they are an opportunity for evil; the main line of history is about how technology transforms home and how we conduct control over populations. Human history is filled with examples of populations that have fought back against repression. Our two most modern examples are Nazi German with the White Rose movement and small but significant protests against the USSR throughout its history. We even see this happening in the Middle East and in China, in those small protests taken on by ordinary people have a weakening effect on regimes that attempt to expand control. We have seen this in technology with the backlash against IBM, Microsoft, the Banking System and the Automotive Industry. Even Frédéric Filloux slays his own argument because he talks about how people were able to get around censorship. This is an argument about nothing, unless the editor at the Washington Post decided to take out significant sections of the article so that it would fit time and size constraints.
While interesting, and while I have a deep respect for what the Author of the “Apple’s iPad could be game-changer in digital-media censorship”, there really is no argument here. What he is doing is whining about a problem that is currently ongoing, it happened last week with Google taking down many of the blogger based music blogs regardless of the legality of those blogs. What we need is something survivable, we need the very pamphlets that Frédéric Filloux discusses in how censorship was beaten. The Ipad is not the only game in town, but we have learned from the same examples that Frédéric Filloux uses that content owners get very cranky when the “stream of revenue” slows down or stops. The damaging effect to eBooks should large scale deletions or copyright issues would be more detrimental to Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and a host of other sellers around the planet.
With the blogosphere how it is, these actions tend to get amplified well beyond their actual monetary damages. That alone will chill the eBook market, and no one is going to want that. Regardless of how systems are used, regardless of censorship, regardless of lawsuits, information has always found a way to get into the open. While Apple might be draconian in its approval processes for the app store, it is hardly likely that they will want to piss off customers or content providers. That would be eBook genocide that has a simple solution in actually buying a real dead tree product and sharing that with your friends.
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(Cross-posted @ TechWag )