Techbytes 2013

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Summary: Stallman speaks about erosion of freedom on the Internet

TODAY’S part deals largely with the Internet and the full transcript follows.

Dr. Roy S. Schestowitz: I read an article yesterday in the Canadian press, I think it was CBC, writing about the ban effective today or yesterday of using a mask in a protest, so you can face up to 10 years in jail for merely attending a protest with something to conceal your face.

Richard StallmanDr. Richard M. Stallman: Really? Where is this banned?

RSS: In Canada.

RMS: Oh, yeah, this sort of tyrannical law being spread around the world. You know, the ban on burqas in France is a ban on just covering your face, so this is in itself tyranny.

RSS: I think that recently the issue of free speech online [...] has been cracked down [on] in Korea — and when I say Korean I mean South Korea — because they don’t necessarily like the comments people make online.

RMS: No, they gave up on that. They [have tried] that and they gave up. They backed down.

RSS: There is a very famous case, people say about Carl Sagan when he was writing anonymously in favour of legalising marijuana for example. These things show you that in order to challenge an existing law, which may itself be unjust, you have to preserve people’s right to anonymity when they write things and as long as you try to take this right away you’re basically discouraging, scaring people’s away from being…

RMS: Yes. Well, yes indeed, those laws are tyranny, but we see in governments that work for the plutocrats around the world, they act like governments of occupation. So, systematically they change laws to make democracy just a shell. It’s lip service while everything possible is done to eliminate real democracy, to make democracy unable to oppose plutocrats.

RSS: There is a certain degree of overlap between the operations of the government of course. And to give an example of one revolving door, here in the UK a few days ago the manager of BT moved into a government position, some kind of a manager in charge of something and I made a joke basically because BT and a company which came from BT, called Phorm, was responsible to a great degree for DPI, for deep packet inspection in the UK, so everything that goes through my line — landline or Internet basically — is subjected to inspection and to analysis by BT and that’s another issue which relates to the need for privacy and the fact that even the ISP [...] it will be able to tell who you are and what you’re sending back and forth through the line. And that’s another topic people don’t tend to touch on very often.

RMS: Yeah, well, you know, they’ve just announced that censorship would be applied to the Internet in England.

RSS: Yeah, because we have to “protect the children”. Or the “Terrorists”.

RMS: And the thing is, censorship would be applied to everyone that doesn’t have a private Internet subscription.

RSS: Right. By default. So you’d…

RMS: But in public Internet ports it won’t be possible for you to turn it off. So the point is, it will be censorship that you can’t avoid unless you have your own Internet subscription and note it will be censorship of whatever they decide to censor. Now, they say they are going to censor porn. but every past attempt to do so has blocked other things as well.

RSS: I think the Great Firewall of China as it’s called actually started as a copyright thing, which is kind of funny because it’s in China… so they said we have to do this for copyright reasons…

RMS: You should check that because I don’t think that that’s true.

RSS: I read it somewhere. I found it to be quite dubious, but I thought…

RMS: Well, I don’t think that that’s true. They merely used porn as the excuse because they do try to block access to porn.

RSS: OK. And of course it starts with…

RMS: But I don’t think they would have given copyright as the excuse.

RSS: Well, that’s the trajectory. You start with the children and terrorists and then move to copyrights and expression of political dissent.

RMS: There was a case where we know that that’s an intended trajectory. You can try to find a reference for this, but somebody from the IFPI, which is the international organisation of record companies, said in an international meeting that he was in favour of filters to block child pornography because then they would be able to use the same filters to block other things.

RSS: There was a case where, I don’t think it was law-based person but a person working for Hollywood, [who] spoke about how they really like child porn and terrorism because that’s a very convenient pretext for them to bring…

RMS: I’d like you to… Can you find the reference?

RSS: ….Ars Technica at some stage. I did try…

RMS: Can you find it? Because the [incomprehensible - statement?] I found a reference for at one point and linked to concerns somebody from IFPI, not from Hollywood. It sounds like maybe you are thinking of the same case.

RSS: It was around 2010 or 2011, I think.

RMS: Well, that’s later than the one I’m thinking of, I think, so I’d be interested in seeing if there’s a second case of this.

The next part will be out later this week. Stallman will also be touring the UK very soon, so I may try to get video interviews with him (depending on my work schedule).

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