Minster of Justice Simon Power is ‘consulting’ on regulating the on-line communities to prevent violations of normal societal and legal standards. Clare Curran at Red Alert asks ‘hopefully’ that this isn’t simply a reaction to the idiocy of ex-National party member Whaleoil in how he chases readership. But I suspect that is exactly why this kind of foolishness has come back on the agenda again. Plus of course National would prefer that there wasn’t so much criticism of their wimpy leader and his habit of having poll driven responses rather than having or using his backbone.
There are existing systems in place that are generally sufficient. But they need to move closer to the speed of internet processes rather than the glacial pace that the courts have. It took almost a year between the time that Whaleoil started violating name suppression orders and the time he actually stood in front of a judge for sentencing. That is patently ridiculous and more importantly didn’t reinforce the lesson early enough. Simon Power has the ability to speed up the court process, but has been failing to provide the required resources. The delays are getting worse not better.
In his press statement Simon Power said…
It’s a bit of a Wild West out there in cyberspace at the moment, because bloggers and online publishers are not subject to any form of regulation or professional or ethical standards.
Bullshit – quite simply this is the statement of a fool that doesn’t appear to understand the way that the net operates. Which is the point that No Right Turn makes in his first post on the subject and I intend to expand on here.
But the ‘wild-west’ of blogging exists largely on the wild-right of the local blogosphere with their weak to non-existent moderation of comments. Perhaps the minister should have a talk to the erstwhile supporters of his government about voluntarily providing more effective moderation of their comments sections. Or in the case of Whaleoil, ask him to stop trying to take shortcuts to boost his readership while attempting to shroud himself in a spurious attempt to portray it as a deliberate activist activity. Failing to do that makes it look like Power is using a excuse manufactured by his own supporters to suppress the better managed blogs like this one and others that do moderate well within what the courts would allow.
Generally the net is populated not by ‘professionals’ but by individuals exercising their ability to say what they are thinking. That makes the whole basis of Power’s ‘review’ more than a little farcical. The closest thing that the local blogosphere has to a professional, outside of the few professional media driven blogsites like Pundit, is David Farrar. He runs a polling business that seems to have customers that are largely right wing political parties – mostly National. But even the contortions of his post at kiwiblog he seems to do basic spin control for Power, but anticipates my (and others) reaction to the news of this ‘review’.
But the way the Minister’s press statement has framed the issues is not good, and likely to rub a lot of people up the wrong way.
He is right, and I can’t see any of the potential benefits that he postulates are there. I can simply see it as destroying a system that is mostly already working because a Minster is too damn lazy to do his job in effectively improving the court processes, and doesn’t use the processes that are already in place inside the net itself.
Generally bloggers and almost all hosting providers abide by the rules of society, not only of their own societies, but also of others when requested to do so. We certainly do. The content that we provide and permit on our overseas server pretty much conforms to a standard that we think that the local courts would permit if a case was ever taken. This is a strictly voluntary moderation standard but as far as I can see most local bloggers tend to conform to the same standard to one degree or another. With a few exceptions the standard of moderation has improved considerably over the last few years without the Ministers inept interventions. Bloggers that don’t abide by this informal standard tend to get the treatment that Whaleoil did – widespread derision. We mostly ignored the deluded fool and we waited for the court process to take its laborious but inevitable course.
Besides if the courts, police or Minister had wanted to shortcut their own glacial processes then they could complained to his hosting provider. Generally if a complaint is received by most hosting providers either locally or internationally, they will look at the specified examples, make their own decisions, and in all likelihood they would have at least warned Whale or taken the site down. That is how the net tends to operate and has done so for decades. It is exactly the procedure that we take when we receive complaints about material on this site. Moreover whatever decision was made and whatever action was taken would have taken days or even hours – not the months that Simon Power’s justice system took.
However there appears to have been no attempt by the police, courts, or department of justice to take that effective action. It hardly shows the concern that Simon Power dribbles on about in his statement. To people on the net that lack of effective action indicates that officials were not particularly serious about the damage it was doing to our court system. People on the local net appeared to be far more concerned about it than either Simon Power, the police or the courts were based on the comment on the subject.
Quite simply either Simon Power has no real idea about how the net currently operates, and the way that it has done so for my 30 years around network communications, or this is some kind of idiotic attempt to suppress and intimidate the local blogosphere. Personally I suspect the latter because Simon Power is too young to have not been exposed to the net in his youth. The local blogosphere has increasingly attacking an ineffective government – for all points on the political spectrum. This looks like the same idiotic type of net-nanny approach that we have been suppressing for decades in select committees to backbench MP’s (I last did it in the late 1990’s) and advice to our more elderly politicians who didn’t grow up with the net.
Perhaps the Law Commission should look at the reality of how the net actually operates, informally and internationally and look at how to establish effective actions using the existing methods that the network provides. But since there are very few literate (in my terms) lawyers then I suspect that is a pious hope. They’d probably feel more comfortable requesting that Simon Power looks at how to put more resources into the court system so cases like Whaleoils name suppression violations can be done in a far more timely manner.
What we don’t want to see is how some fool of a politician would prefer it to operate so that they can stifle public opposition by citizens. Even the ever more desperate operation of the great firewall of china can’t prevent information flowing in and out of China, and I hardly think that the NZ Government has either the nounce, finance or commitment to mount such an effort.
If the Law Commission are foolish enough to to try to regulate the local net on the flimsy pretext that Power is proposing, then I will treat whatever ‘solution’ they come up with as simply being an network impediment, and bypass it. I’d suspect that many bloggers and even their hosting providers around the net would feel the same. Personally if Minster prefers to make an arse of the law with a Canute like proclamation, then I’d be willing to sit down and spend some time writing code to simply make a monkey out of it. Unlike the poor deluded Whaleoil, I’m not only a professional programmer but I also understand the law enough to do a pretty good job of twisting it into knots and make it look completely ridiculous. I don’t think that I’d be alone.
The likely outcome of a foolish decision by either Simon Power or the Law Commission is that the current voluntary restrictions that almost all bloggers currently observe (apart from the delusional Whaleoil) will cease. Once New Zealand gains a reputation as a impediment to the network, then international providers are also likely to cease their current levels of potential cooperation