If you read tech blogs — and only if you read tech blogs (or a handful of online techzines) — you already know that, on July 9, some unnamed government agency, for unnamed reasons, ordered BurstNET to take 73,000 blogs permanently offline. All were part of the same WordPress platform called Blogetery.
A week later, a forum-creating service was shut down just as mysteriously.
If you rely on mainstream sources for your news — or even online mainstream alternatives — you haven’t heard a peep about any of this.
Why did some unnamed government agency order the death of 73,000 blogs?
Nobody has a clue. First guesses were that a few of the blogs that shared the same server were suspected of violating copyrights — although BurstNET denies this.
What unnamed agency issued the order?
Nobody has a clue.
On what authority did they do it?
Nobody has a clue.
Did anybody perform even a vestige of due process?
Nobody has a clue — although if any “due process” was used at all, it sure wasn’t the sort that the Constitution and Bill of Rights require; that would involve public disclosure, court battles, and presumably a guilty verdict before any legal shutdown could be ordered. More likely the mass slam-down was justified under one of the new star-chamber undue processes the federal government has recently granted itself. But who knows? (We don’t even know for sure that a federal agency is responsible — though the action and the secrecy reek of “fed.”)
Why is BurstNET not telling the world why it shut down the server with all those blogs on it?
Apparently — and presumably also under some “security” law — the same unnamed government agency ordered them not to talk.
Were all 73,000 blogs guilty of something? Anything? Let alone of offenses that can only be dealt with via summary mass-execution, carried out in totalitarian secrecy?
Why is all but the xtreme tech-media silent?
Hm. Maybe they don’t want to risk their proposed government bailouts. Or maybe they’ve just outlived their usefulness; no great surprise there. But there was a time not long ago when even the stodgiest mainstreamers would have hopped right on such an obvious First Amendment violation.
Above all … Is this any America that anybody recognizes?
I just wrote an article for S.W.A.T. magazine on Joe Lieberman’s proposal to give the federal government a “Internet kill switch.” (The article will be published in the print edition in a few months.) Some of you guys helped me a lot on that, thank you.
If you recall, Lieberman seemed mystified by our objections and said that the U.S. would merely be emulating China’s policies on free speech and press freedom and what could possibly be wrong with that? He seemed to be under the impression (or wanted us to be under the impression) that in China and the U.S. both, this would be strictly a war-time power.
Anyhow, in the article, I focused on what you good folks — smarter than Mr. “Authoritah” Lieberman gives you credit for — already know: that China’s power over the ‘Net has nothing to do with war and everything to do with daily political control — and so would any ‘Net power given to the U.S. fedgov.
I didn’t know it at the time, but one of my S.W.A.T. editors, Kathy Allard, lives in Hong Kong. (Don’t you love the Internet?)
She sent kind words about the article. But she also sent an email detailing a bit more about China’s use of its powers.
With her permission, I give you Kathy’s words. Will this be coming soon to a technosphere near you? Until lately, I’d have said Americans wouldn’t be supine enough to accept such heavy-handedness. But now? Well, think about those 73,000 assassinated blogs and the silence of the media and judge for yourself:
[L]iving here in Hong Kong on China’s doorstep, I see examples of gov’t control of information every day.
— No Facebook in China.
— In China most people don’t use Twitter, they use a Chinese-language imitation called Wei-Bo. One Hong Kong writer who uses it said that on June 4, she posted as her Wei-Bo, “Good morning. It is the 4th of June.” One HOUR later her post had been removed!
— In Xinjiang last year [where there were anti-government riots], not only did the gov’t shut down the internet, but they shut down all cell phone service immediately, and kept it off. The vast majority of people have cell phones only, so that did away with anyone calling others to say, “Meet at x place at 8pm.”
— Whenever there is some problem in China, there is a news blackout (but the ‘net is getting around that, which is one reason word of trouble in Xinjiang got out, and hence gov’t stepping up efforts to control the ‘net). If something happens just over the border from Hong Kong (and which may very likely affect family members of people in HK), our news will report the rumor but then state there is a news blackout. E.g., the Chinese gov’t seizes land from farmers and other poor people in order to build luxury condos or whatever on it for the growing upper class, and sometimes the farmers riot.
— Last week was the anniversary of the Xinjiang riots, and without mentioning why they were doing it, CCTV ran a week-long series on its English-language news called “Xinjiang Stable Society.” Most of it was interviews with people in Xinjiang talking about their neighbors like this: “She is a Uighur. She is nice. Everybody likes her.” The odd thing is that, I can easily believe this flying with Chinese people (apologies for the racial profiling, but I’ve traveled a lot in China and have formed definite opinions), but this news program is aimed at English speakers living in China. How naive do they think we are?
— But on the other hand, on the same CCTV English-language news broadcast, I’ve heard U.S. news that I’d NEVER heard on any mainstream U.S. news, particularly regarding the wars.
China still isn’t the most oppressive country that I’ve been to — in Burma/Myanmar there isn’t even any email, there’s almost nothing that can be accessed online at all.