Silenced: Progressive Sites Censored

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Malibu Arts Reviews

Silenced: Progressive Sites Censored

by
Kriss Perras Running Waters

MALIBU, Calif. - Last fall 30th Congressional District Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) came to Malibu to address concerns of residents prior to the midterm elections November 7, 2006. At that time, Waxman warned residents questioning him about Net Neutrality that changes were underway."Sometimes I think Net Neutrality, who knows about it?," Waxman said at that meeting. "What's going on now in the communications area is we are moving to a duoplet. We'll have the telephone companies. And we'll have the cable companies. They both have wires that go into the home. You'll have a choice of one or the other for your telephone services, cable services, and Internet services. Those are going to be provided by one or the other."

Waxman said at that meeting this is a shame since many in Congress fought the situation by trying to support the competition in telecommunications.

"Competition would be better for the consumers," Waxman said then. "But both are united right away on saying that services over the Internet could be taxed by the cable company or the telephone company. Well the great innovations we've seen in recent years have been through the Internet. People with start-ups in their garages have made fortunes or at least broken new ground with new ideas through very skimpy investments to figure out new ideas to use the Internet."

They want to go to Google, Yahoo and very successful Internet companies and make them pay to get on the Internet service or to be featured in a prominent way, Waxman said.

"The ones who will be bread out of it are the ones who are struggling to get started," Waxman said. "The idea of Net Neutrality is, phone companies, cable companies, will deliver Internet services but won't dictate those Internet services. That is what I believe in, and it's called Net Neutrality."

As of recent months, there have been many accounts of Progressive news sites and Progressive sites in general experiencing difficulty on the Web. Some sites have been completely censored off the web for a period of time such as BushFlash.com which last week was offline and in place of its home page was a Department of Homeland Security logo. The statement from the government was the site was under investigation for violations of the Patriot Act. The site was started in March 2003, after the publisher watched the corporate media completely ignore the groundswell against the coming Iraq war.

This journalist - who publishes only on the Web strictly due to project budget contraints - last year was contacted by Dominion Resources, one of the nation's largest producers of energy that includes coal, nuclear, gas, oil and hydro and a $13.97 Billion company, regarding an article on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Washington Gas pipes titled The National Battle to Fight LNG. The pipes leaked around the seals because Dominion's LNG burned too hot for the American pipes, LNG being a gas used mostly in places like Japan. The difference is something like how an American hairdryer needs an adapter to be used in a European socket. Dominion's representative aggressively demanded the article be removed citing the Federal Government's reversal of the court's decision - not the courts overruling a previous decision but the Federal government - which of course had been accomplished through lobbying efforts. He was promptly told he had no say in the editorial content of the news site and was hung up on. He continued to phone and email for a few hours after the first contact. On the last phone call, he was told apparently he did not understand the meaning of the word no and hung up on again. He ceased contact after that phone call.

Another site owned by a prominent figure known not only to attend but organize anti-war rallies is Perceval Press, owned by Actor Viggo Mortensen. This evening Mortensen posted a note on the site stating, "Apologies to anyone who has been temporarily blocked from connecting with percevalpress.com by something called '(Content)Watch,' which apparently involves state censorship dictated by moral judgments on what '(Content)Watch' calls 'Hate/Violence' and 'Pornography.' I haven't the faintest idea what could have roused the watchdogs, and, frankly, do not care to know. This is the world we live in. I certainly hope it wasn't the recently-posted Sun-Sentinel link regarding restoration of constitutionally-guaranteed voting rights for ex-cons in Florida. We at Perceval Press will continue to provide whatever information we see fit to post on our site. Hopefully you will be allowed to view this information at your personal discretion so as to be able to draw your private conclusions with regard to 'content.' Happy Easter."

On the Perceval site, you can purchase items such as an "Impeach, Remove, Jail" shirt at affordable prices, in addition to finding sources of alternative news articles, books and poetry.

In an article tiled, "2005: The year the US government undermined the internet" the U.K.'s The Register states the Internet, "will see greater state-controlled censorship on the internet, reduce people's ability to use the internet to communicate freely, and leave expansion of the internet in the hands of the people least capable of doing the job." This article discusses how the, "US government-provided reason to turn over Kazakhstan's internet ownership to a government owned and run association without requiring consent from the existing owners. The previous owners, KazNIC, had been created from the country's Internet community. . .ICANN then immediately used that "precedent" to hand ownership of Iraq's internet over to another government-run body, without accounting for any objections that the existing owners might have."

Last month a federal district court ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union's longstanding challenge to an Internet censorship law, ACLU v. Gonzales. Although the law was enacted in 1998, courts immediately forbade the government from enforcing it because it suppressed a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech. At issue was the ACLU's challenge to the "Child Online Protection Act" (COPA), which would impose draconian criminal sanctions, with penalties of up to $50,000 per day and up to six months imprisonment, for online material acknowledged as valuable for adults but deemed "harmful to minors." COPA represents Congress' second attempt to impose severe criminal and civil sanctions on the display of protected, non-obscene speech on the Internet. A first attempt, the Communications Decency Act of 1996, was declared unconstitutional by all nine justice of the Supreme Court in Reno v. ACLU.

One of the plaintiff's in that case was the very popular Progressive news site Salon.com. Joan Walsh, editor in chief of Salon.com, said parents, not the government, should control children's access to information and ideas. "Whether minors should read Salon is a question for their parents, not the government."

Another plaintiff in the case was the well-known UrbanDictionary.com. Aaron Peckham owns and maintains Urban Dictionary.com, an online dictionary of contemporary slang with more than 400,000 definitions for slang words and phrases.

"Urban Dictionary has always been about freedom of expression -- the freedom to share your words and your meanings (and your humor) with the world. I started Urban Dictionary in 1999, and in the last seven years people have sent more than two million definitions to Urban Dictionary. They range from "adorkable" (both dorky and adorable), to "top up music" (music you only listen to when your car's windows are closed), to heated definitions of what we really mean by "liberal" and "conservative." They're funny and opinionated, and each definition gives readers an idea of what the author's life is like," Peckham said when the verdict came down.

Phone companies have spent more than $175 million in lobbying money to defeat Net Neutrality.

Introduced in Congress in 1999, the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was signed into law in 2000. The ACLU and the American Library Association filed a lawsuit, Multnomah County Public Library et al. v. Ashcroft, seeking to get the law enjoined because it violates the Constitution to require libraries to use filters on public computers. In a nuanced ruling, in 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the law, but modified it so that if a patron asks, the library must remove the filter.

In the name of National Security, numerous sites have been removed form the Web including Raisethefist.com, an alternative media site conversing on a diversity of subjects including anarchism, activism, and current events not reported by mainstream media.

The site is active again and states, " On Jan 24, 2002 the FBI, Secret Service Los Angeles Joint-terror Task Force armed with sub-machine guns, shot guns, and bullet-proof vests raided the home of Sherman Austin (former webmaster of Raisethefist.com and founder of RTF Direct Action Network). Sherman Austin was 18 years old at the time. Federal agents came armed and ready to kill with the house completely surrounded and guns drawn before approaching the front door. They left with all computer equipment and political literature seized. A week later he attended the World Economic Forum protests in New York where he was arrested by the FBI for "distribution of information related to explosives or weapons of mass destruction". However Sherman never distributed or authored any information about explosives. In fact the FBI referred to a completely different site authored by a completely different individual (whom they visited and questioned in person) but purposely lied, fabricated evidence, and lied in court documents to frame Sherman and paint him as a terrorist. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to a year in federal prison on Aug 4, 2003. He was released a year later with 3 years of strict probation which prohibits him from having access to a computer as well as knowingly associating with individuals who "espouse violence for political change."

In 2001, the fan discussion forum "Rage Against The Machine" was shutdown because the FBI called the ISP stating too much anti-American rhetoric was posted on the board. In February 2003, the popular alternative news publication YellowTimes.org was shut down without explanation.

Control or suppression of the publishing or accessing of information on the Internet is a violation of free speech. You wouldn't put up with censorship if you were on a street corner rally holding a sign with your own political point of view - be it a sign that states "support our troops" or one that says "Clinton Lied. Nobody died."

©2007 Malibu Arts Reviews

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