Thursday, July 15, 2004

return of the postal scrotum!

Yes, a letter! This is from reader "A":


Good news that you're thinking of going to see MIC about the blogjam. Brave man.

They will blame the ISPs for all this, as you're obviously aware. Weasels.

The MIC gave the ISPs a list of sites to ban and will deny they asked for a blanket blog ban. So the MIC ought to put pressure on the ISPs to do their job properly and stop being so indiscriminate.

There is legislation (which I can't read) about the Rights of Telecommunications Users under the Telecommunicatons Business Act 1983 rev 2000 (accessible here: Ministry of Information and Communication) which may just give you some ammunition to make them get tough on the ISPs. Or not - but I live in hope. Anyway, their policy goal includes "Improving the environment, laws and regulations to facilitate informatization."

There is a precedent for this big blockade, when the whole of Geocities was banned in 1997. Sorry, you probably know this already, but here's a link in case not: Wired News: South Korea Blacks Out GeoCities. I've been unable to track down how it was resolved, if it ever was. (Funny, when you google "korea geocities unblocked" you just get a load of porn sites after the first unhelpful page.)

On the MIC's FAQ page there are lots of indignant Qs about the censorship, and no As. (No names I recognise there, but all good stuff.)

There many things that baffle me about this. I fail to understand why they can't filter out individual urls. (Not that I approve of that either.)

And how did they determine which sites to ban? how did they find them? Were they trawling for them anyway, or did some hapless net surfers just stumble into them to be traumatised and outraged? I think not.

And where is the official record of the determination to ban these sites? (Sorry - it's the lawyer speaking.) If you go to MIC's appalling Internet 119 site - and a more weasely specimen of snitchfest is hard to credit - you'll be hard-pressed to find any evidence of a determination that 39 sites were banned for showing or linking to the beheading video. The only categories of complaint on the drop-down menu on the snitch form are Child Porn, Child Erotica, and Other. So one would expect a whole batch of Other complaints to have been determined around the time of the ban. They just aren't there. What happened? (And what a miserable apology for open government the whole thing is!)

You may not have much patience with these technicalities, and actually I sympathise with that, but these are the things by which civil servants triumph or fail. And from what I hear, failure sits ill with Koreans.

And yes, get them talking about ICEC and the inconsistencies. Oranckay's got a great post today about the inconsistencies with Yun Geum I (whom I hadn't heard of) and the middle school students Sim Mi Seon and Sin Hyo Sun. Let alone Nick Berg et al.

And finally, I'm a bit bothered about the Get Deported meme, which I'll write about in another email. It's got slightly distorted and I really don't know if you all need to worry.

Best wishes, and good luck.


Just a reminder to other readers that the Marmot's the one who's pushed hardest for visiting the MIC, even though we've been kicking the idea around for a bit, as noted in this post. I think it's a reasonable proposition.

As for getting deported: it's probably not an immediate issue, though I wonder whether it might become one if (big if) we gain a decent amount of press coverage.

"A" asks some great questions, which I hope some folks out there might answer. The one that bugs me most is: Where is the official record of the determination to ban these sites?

Where, indeed? I'm proceeding on the assumption that the journalists who initially reported the ban got it right in attributing the ban to the MIC, which hasn't exactly been screaming scandalized denials. However, Oranckay and others questioned, early on, whether this was in fact an MIC effort. Since then, we've discovered that some MIC officials say one thing while others say something different. I handled this problem earlier with my Vatican analogy: large bureaucracies don't always act as a single mind. The Marmot's general feeling (correct me if I'm misreading you, Robert) is that we're essentially witnessing massive incompetence and a general lack of communication. This may be why he's suggesting direct dialogue with the MIC, which I agree would be a good thing. I, however, tend to view the MIC more dimly and think that there's definitely something amiss here, because the two-pronged dodge (bureaucratic and semantic) seems to be borrowed straight from the PRC's handbook: (1) obfuscate the question of accountability, and (2) convince the wronged parties that what's happening isn't censorship. What fuels my suspicions is the fact that some MICers have explicitly not denied their involvement in the ban, but have instead proffered various justifications for it.

Wow-- the censorship must be working. I didn't say "fuck" even once in this post.


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