Simon Canute and the blogs

Written By: - Date published: 12:17 am, October 17th, 2010 - 29 comments
Categories: blogs, dpf - Tags: , ,

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

29 comments on “Simon Canute and the blogs”

  1. The mainstream media, private or public, has been easy to control for the elite interests they serve. ‘Professional’ journalists/editors self censor to the point that nothing controversial is reported in a way that might adversely affect the illusion of authourity with which the centers of power cloak themselves. I believe the ruling elite are extraordinarily fearful of the radically democratic potential of the internet.

    The internet, although clumsy and crude at the moment, offers a large section of the community a forum where they can discuss policy decisions with a diverse mix of their peers. Previously the decision making process has been heralded by obedient broadcasters and newspapers to a passive audience. Aside from letters to the editors, discussion was largely limited to workplaces and small social gatherings or, if serious enough, union meetings and public rallies. Nothing in the past has matched the internet’s capacity for allowing dissenting ideas to coalesce into coherent resistance at such a swift pace. It is in the interests of those who control the decision making process to ensure the internet is constrained to disseminating information in as passive a manner as possible.

    The pretext Power is operating under, in the pursuit of passivity, is flimsy to the point of irrelevancy. The offending blogger was successfully dealt with using existing legislation. If a newspaper had printed the same material, in contempt of court orders, the editor/owners/journalist would have been dealt with in a similar manner. I doubt Simon Power would be “…’consulting’ on regulating…” the fourth estate “…to prevent violations of normal societal and legal standards.”. If violating court orders was socially relevant blog sites everywhere would be participating in the violation, it didn’t happen.

    I am sure there are contemporaries of Simon Power, throughout the ‘free and democratic’ societies of the west, who are dredging up pretexts around which they intend to craft regulations that limit the participatory nature of the internet. There is nothing more threatening to the centers of power than an informed and politically active public. From the perspective of the bosses this must be prevented where possible.

    I do not envy those who have been ‘offered’ this task, King Canute’s attempt to order the tide to cease its advance had a far greater chance of success. The tide will come in.

  2. comedy 2

    I thought the latest theory was that Slater was on the Nat payroll ?

    Is this just a Machiavellian plan to confuse the punters oh noes !!

    • lprent 2.1

      I tend to take people at their word, unless of course I have contrary evidence (eg Paul Henry frequent proforma insincere ‘apologies’) or a bad attitude on the day and a desire to stir. In this case I suspect that Slater has left National. But that doesn’t stop a cynical politician from using his ravings to stir up a shitstorm

      That might confuse you, but that really doesn’t seem to be a onerous task.

      • comedy 2.1.1

        So to sum up your approach to life.

        ‘I take people at their word unless I don’t like them and choose not to ‘……. right o

        Guess that’s what it takes to be a political blogger and party activist.

        • lprent 2.1.1.1

          Oh no, you really get to know if I don’t like someone. It usually involves someone wasting my time..

          I note that you haven’t said anything about the substance of this post. I’m aware that you have a genuine problem with having a shallow mind, but surely you have an opinion about regulating the blogs that you comment on?

          • comedy 2.1.1.1.1

            “I’m aware that you have a genuine problem with having a shallow mind, but surely you have an opinion about regulating the blogs that you comment on?”

            Much like I’m aware that you have a pathologic need to insult almost everyone who calls you on your hypocrisy.

            Now onto the pertinent question, should blogs be regulated and how.

            I’m very much for free speech so in principle would oppose any “blog regulation” that prohibits such discourse. I do however note the not infrequent banning of commenters and deletion of comments on blogs which does seem to be somewhat hypocritical.

            • lprent 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Good to see that you have an opinion but still appears shallow and sloganist to me. From memory you were against the free speech when it came to people expressing their opinions about Paul Henry and what they intended to do to his supporting advertisers.

              You have free speech pretty much anywhere but subject to the rules of the various private sites and the willingness of societies to take action against you. This is what free speech is – you can say what you want, but you take the consequences of your action.

              But many ‘free speech’ advocates do not consider that they should be responsible for their actions. They are as Paul Thomas pointed out yesterday

              Given the likelihood that these episodes were essentially stunts that got out of hand, it’s curious that Henry’s defenders – a distinct minority among the many readers who responded to last week’s column – see it as a freedom of speech issue and the outcry as evidence of creeping totalitarianism in the guise of political correctness.

              This freedom of speech is a one-way street. They have the right to say whatever they like and we have to wear it.

              As the great American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out, using the example of someone falsely shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre, freedom of speech isn’t absolute.

              As I said you sound as if you’re more into uttering a slogan than thinking about the consequences.

              • comedy

                “From memory you were against the free speech when it came to people expressing their opinions about Paul Henry and what they intended to do to his supporting advertisers.”

                Your memory is failing.

                • Pascal's bookie

                  I do however note the not infrequent banning of commenters and deletion of comments on blogs which does seem to be somewhat hypocritical.

                  Really. Lynn can stop people commenting on the whole internet and delete their dribble from any blog? Fuck, that’s some powerful fu.

                  • lprent

                    Yeah, I am so all-powerful that I can moderate other sites.. (not)

                    We’re pretty clear about when people get comments deleted or if they get banned and why these things happen. The only people who just get comments deleted are those that we have never approved a first comment for. They keep getting them deleted until they raise their standard to a minimum level.

                    I keep an eye on the trash to make sure that comments aren’t just deleted by over-enthusiastic authors. It isn’t efficient to trash comments without an explanation because the commentator doesn’t get an opportunity to learn better behaviour.

                • ghostwhowalksnz

                  ‘Free speech’ , that you refer to is the right from government interference in what you think or say.

                  • lprent

                    I would have put it as unreasonable interference. I have few quibbles with preventing tainting the jury decision process. The background threat of the defamation process is sufficient to reduce the more idiotic outpourings to acceptable levels. The biggest issue is actually the vexatious misuse as were performed against hager a few years ago.

                    What irritated me is having a posturing publicity seeker looking for a cheap shot rather than exercising that options that are already in his power.

                • bbfloyd

                  can you feel the bite of the hoist C? that’s your own petard you can feel.

                • roger nome

                  The oxymoronic comedy act is wearing thin. He’s not funny, not thoughtful, and not even very much fun to laugh at (unlike d4j). What purpose does he serve here?

                  [lprent: Sometimes he rouses himself to a higher standard. Usually you have to torment him a bit first before he will exert himself. ]

  3. Rharn 3

    A thought provoking article on a subject few of the public know little about.

  4. Santi 4

    Power is a pompous fool. All politicians, including wimpy Key and useless Goff should be open to the fiercest criticism in the blogosphere.

    Lousy comments from a lousy minister.

  5. prism 5

    Listening to the news this morning I thought of our present being an analogy to Brave New World. There are manipulators of parts of society that has a zeitgeist of being happy, wanting to party, not allowing troublesome thoughts or concerns about ethics and morals to be examined.

    This regime encourages Paul Henry who is allowed to pursue an unethical line that brings in money for powers-that-be, he has fans that are catered to because they are the consumer mass with money and easy to manipulate like the brain-washed soma drug takers of the book, people who rail against Paul H and his ilk are like John the Savage trying to find a moral compass and depth, drawing on past writings and thinking which are varied and confused making discussion essential to find a clear path. John Savage is doomed because he is on his own and his idea of life purpose though confused is extensive, but the rest of his world has no desire to search for a life purpose, but to live mindlessly in the now.

  6. prism 6

    Last thought – a Burmese dissident who has escaped the country has a sister in law away for 65 years for being an uppity thoughtful democracy supporter. He and his whole family are affected by the punitive rulers of Burma. He fights for an ideal and sacrifices his ease of life and perhaps life itself.

    Yet what happens when people have democracy? After a while they take it for granted, many don’t bother to vote, or play along with it as a system to rort in all the ingenious ways that humans can think of? Sorry to be thinking so much this morning about ‘inconvenient truths’ and human tendencies. We have so much potential to be higher species on all levels but fail as a group to realise it, though some individuals do and illustrate what could be achieved. And that’s not requiring perfection in any aspect, just to be able to grasp the vision and work towards it.

  7. Simon Power is too young to have not been exposed to the net in his youth

    Ah, no. He was born in 1969. When he was a child, there weren’t even home computers. When he was a teenager, there were home computers, but no public network. While the net had made its way into student use in universities by the time he went there, it was mostly in computer science departments. He was studying law. And he would likely have graduated before there was a web.

    And Power is one of our younger politicians. If you want politicians who understand the web, who grew up with it, you need to look to the next generation beyond him. As for the older ones, they’re fossils.

    • lprent 7.1

      I was born in 1959. Computer networks were available when I went to university. At Waikato there were terminals all over the campus. It was much the same at Otago 5 years later. PCs and modems were widely available and not too expensive for clones when I was in my mid to late 20’s.

      Before the web there was Usenet and bbses. Both were widely available when I was in my early 30’s.

      All of those opportunities were available to Power except when he was a decade younger. But more importantly he would have contempataries or even older people with the required skills to make judgements about practicality. This review shows no understanding of the topic. All it will do is piss off literates by pandering for a PR line. We are not particularly tolerant of idiots who don’t make an effort to understand the issues

      Agreed that most of the ministers are fossils, but that really doesn’t stop them from knowing and trusting literates – preferably ones with better knowledge levels than DPF.

      • Idiot/Savant 7.1.1

        You’re mistaking availability for exposure, theoretical opportunity for using it. Yes, computers and the net existed when Power was young, but they were confined to the techno-priesthood. Even when he was at Vic, they were the domain of computer science students and early adopters. They weren’t ubiquitous enough to assume that he was properly exposed to them, let alone enough to have a clue.

        (Remember, you’re a geek. Power is a lawyer. Your technological experiences are very, very different).

        But I agree: this review is utterly uninformed by even a hint of a clue, and he clearly didn’t bother to talk to anyone who had one. And as a result, Power looks like a dick.

        • lprent 7.1.1.1

          The first degree was techno-geek (well science) at a technically literate uni. But the second? I was doing an MBA (ie management) at Otago, and yes we had more gear than the undergrads – but not by much. Admittedly the legal fraternity tend towards being a tad conservative at a tech level. It appears to be a career requirement after they look at prior cases and the potential consequences.

          But that is part of the issue as well. I find it hard to see how a group of people from a traditionally technophobe profession who are even older than Power can contribute.

          What would the average age of the members of the Law Commission be? Ummm http://www.lawcom.govt.nz/about/commissioners They look like they range in age from quite a few years older than I am to about 70+ for Palmer

          I’ve been having to educate people older than myself on how to think about computers and networks forever. There is quite an impressive shortfall in basic understanding for people that are older than I am, and even more so for older people who aren’t technically inclined. The way of thinking that is implied in the existence of open networks, and the implications, just seems to be quite beyond their comprehension. If you understand why it was almost impossible to build it any other way, it is pretty obvious.

          But I’d agree that for people who grew up with the web it appears completely obvious. Their problem is the opposite one. They accept the status quo and don’t understand the implications of what even small changes could imply for the network survival – they’ve never examined the alternatives.

          Update: re-read this, and no I’m not interested in trying to educate yet another lot… It is a lot less interesting than writing code.

        • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.2

          He probably had exposure but it would have been limited. He’s a year younger than I am and all the secondary schools (Rutherford, Green Bay and Tokoroa) I went to had computers that we were taught how to use.

    • lprent 7.2

      If he was studying law, then he’d definitely have been exposed to the computer nets. My ex spent inordinate amounts of time on Lexis when she was doing law in the mid-80’s

  8. Ari 8

    I think there’s room to regulate professional blogs, if they’re good standards and careful of free speech. (for instance business blogs of newspaper columnists, or people who make a decent living from running a blog) Trying to regulate anyone who’s not actually blogging professionally and is just having their say is pretty much lunacy though.

    • lprent 8.1

      I don’t think that they need more regulation than already exists through the courts and net cooperation. What Power should concentrate on is making sure that these are used in a more timely manner

  9. “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.

    Fuck what Simon says, I regulate like Nate Dogg and Warren G.

    Regulators…mount up

    Fight the Power !!!

  10. roger nome 10

    Polly i know – i’m sick of the kid-glove left. Bring back Robinsod etc. These power-obsesed rightists need to be told it like it is. Also, the NZ left has been bending over to take the searing-hot poker of rogernomics, ruthanasia and third-wayism for far too long. They all equate to the same thing – i.e. if you’re born poor, the market will make sure you have a great big pit to climb out of, which most will never scale. The result – most stay poor, alienated and disenfranchised for the rest of their lives. Well fuck that. Where are the people with balls in this movement? Too many simpering cowards, afraid of confronting the fundamental sickness of the right.

    I like the attitude of Woody Guthry who used to tour with a guitar, which had a message on it “this machine kills fascits”.

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woody_Guthrie_NYWTS.jpg

    He wrote the song “this land is your land, this land is my land” – fuck yeah. We’re entitled to share in the wealth of this earth just as much as Key and any of the other born to rule types. Fuck them all if they try to tell me any different.

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