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Encyclopedia Dramatica vs. the Commonwealth of Australia
March 16, 2010 7:52 PM   Subscribe

In January, Google Australia agreed to take down links to the Encyclopedia Dramatica. The Australian Human Rights Commission has now written to the owner of the ED threatening legal action.

The Australian 1975 Racial Discrimination Act forbids racial vilification in public. The Human Rights Commission has pointed to the High Court ruling in Gutnick vs. Dow Jones & Co in 2002 (PDF):
...legal proceedings should be undertaken in the place where the communication is received, not where the communication is sent from. This applies equally to internet communications, despite the new nature of the technology.
posted by Fiasco da Gama (120 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
link to the article in question fwiw
posted by p3on at 7:59 PM on March 16, 2010


Thanks p3on. The spectacularly NSFW site is filtered, not unreasonably, by my work.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:01 PM on March 16, 2010


OK, but unlike Dow Jones & Co., I don't think the ED owner exists in both Australia and the US. So, sound and fury signifying nothing?
posted by axiom at 8:01 PM on March 16, 2010


yeah, i should have nsfw'd that, sorry. also the article is spectacularly unfunny, even by ED standards
posted by p3on at 8:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've had a few lulz out of ED, but I've read the "aboriginal" article before and it was pretty sad. Not sure how I feel about the entire site being banned, however.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:12 PM on March 16, 2010


Not really my sense of humour, but there are funny bits, and it's called satire.. That link to AHRC goes to apprenticeships homepage btw.
posted by dabcad at 8:15 PM on March 16, 2010


So, sound and fury signifying nothing?

Well that's one racist toad that won't be arriving on our fair shores, so that's something.
posted by pompomtom at 8:17 PM on March 16, 2010


Dear Austraila,
Please do not feed the trolls!

Thank you.
posted by Xezlec at 8:19 PM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Did everyone down in Australia up and forget the internet is half fact and half LOL?
posted by deezil at 8:22 PM on March 16, 2010


Did everyone down in Australia up and forget the internet is half fact and half LOL?

Yes. We all think the same down here. It's because we're all convicts.
posted by pompomtom at 8:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


In the trolling game, you get a very score if you can get a site banned from an entire country.
posted by mullingitover at 8:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


I agree that the site is awful, but the only way to refute its points is through more speech and discussion - not censorship. The people who believe those things are still out there, only now they feel like martyrs.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:25 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


How is this significantly different than say the 'Taliban' suing someone in the US for violating Shria law?
posted by MrLint at 8:26 PM on March 16, 2010


Not really my sense of humour, but there are funny bits, and it's called satire..

nope
posted by p3on at 8:30 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


But online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia said that trying to stamp out the deplorable content would only create the "Streisand" effect, whereby an attempt to censor online content only brings more attention to it.

This really does sum it up. If you think ED is the worst of the web, I envy your innocence. All this has accomplished is making one especially offensive entry the majority of ED's pageviews for the month of March.
posted by mek at 8:34 PM on March 16, 2010


nope
wise words
posted by dabcad at 8:37 PM on March 16, 2010


How is this significantly different than say the 'Taliban' suing someone in the US for violating Shria law?

As mentioned in the article (as per the contrast with the Gutnick case), this is a criminal complaint, not a civil one. No-one is being sued. Some toad has been accused of committing a crime in Australia. Should he venture here, I'd expect him to be arrested.

As to your excellent example: the first things I can think of are many years of diplomatic relations and a longstanding alliance between the countries.
posted by pompomtom at 8:38 PM on March 16, 2010


wise words

satire is contingent on wit, hope this helps
posted by p3on at 8:44 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


He's gonna get such a booting.
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 PM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


satire is contingent on wit, hope this helps
argh. lighten up
posted by dabcad at 8:52 PM on March 16, 2010


it's called satire

In the modern age, you can get away with anything by calling it satire. I could break your grandma's ribs and say that I was satirizing the kind of person who'd break an old woman's ribs. Everyone would have to agree that I had a point and that satire is ok.
posted by kenko at 8:52 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


In the modern age, you can get away with anything by calling it satire. I could break your grandma's ribs and say that I was satirizing the kind of person who'd break an old woman's ribs. Everyone would have to agree that I had a point and that satire is ok.

what
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:55 PM on March 16, 2010 [31 favorites]


Why is censorship wrong?

"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

"The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion."

Henry Steele Commager

"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

What does censorship tell you about a society?

"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime."

Potter Stewart

"To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves."

Claude-Adrien Helvétius

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."

John F. Kennedy

Why censorship will never work?

"Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas."

Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

"You can cage the singer but not the song."

Harry Belafonte

What is obscenity?

"Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them."

Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

"Obscenity is not a quality inherent in a book or picture, but is solely and exclusively a contribution of the reading mind, and hence cannot be defined in terms of the qualities of a book or picture."

Theodore Schroeder

What is the only good censorship?

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.

Tommy Smothers

My opinion?

Censorship offends me. Can I have Australia removed from the Internet?

If Australian politicians want a safe Internet, they should consider joining North Korea's Kwangmyong Intranet.

PS. This post is only aimed at the very few Australians who entertain the folly of censoring the Internet. Most Australians are pretty great.
posted by stringbean at 8:56 PM on March 16, 2010 [106 favorites]


Censorship offends me. Can I have Australia removed from the Internet?

You can have it removed from your end.
posted by pompomtom at 9:09 PM on March 16, 2010


I agree that the site is awful, but the only way to refute its points is through more speech and discussion - not censorship.

I'm also anti-censorship, but I don't think there are really any points as such to refute on ED. It's just done for shock value. For example in the comments on the SMH link someone was pointing out that Josef Fritzl was Austrian not Australian, as if the writers on ED didn't know that. Pointing it out just invites ridicule for not getting the "joke".
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 9:10 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's an interview with one of the editors at ED that refers to this incident.
posted by sien at 9:11 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought that the "Great Firewall of Australia" thing was just going to be used for child porn, are they really going to use it in this case? Oh... okay, nevermind, Googling says that it's basically for everything and the Russian mob can apparently put things on the list.
posted by XMLicious at 9:17 PM on March 16, 2010


Encyclopedia Dramatica sucks. A lot. But the question of censorship should never be left up to questions of merit. Censoring this amplifies a stupid-ass webpage way more than allowing it would have. Just let it the fuck be, and be smarter and funnier if you have to refute it for any reason. Smarter and funnier than ED is the lowest of thresholds as is anyway.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Dear Google, please don't be evil.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:18 PM on March 16, 2010


stringbean.
posted by freebird at 9:20 PM on March 16, 2010


Not really my sense of humour, but there are funny bits, and it's called satire..

What do you mean by 'it'?

Look, I'm no fan of censorship, but believing in free speech does not mean believing that all speech is reasonable and done by moral people. The people who post this stuff are probably vile.

If you don't believe me, go back to the article and click the link that says "Possibly, you are offended by the content of this page. If so, please click here, and scroll to the bottom." (Note: no one else do that)
posted by delmoi at 9:21 PM on March 16, 2010


Honestly, finding something written to be purposely offensive on Encyclopedia Dramatica is about as newsworthy as finding air outside.

This is what it looks like when trolling goes global, I guess.
posted by Scattercat at 9:21 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Googlie, you're doing a heck of a job
posted by b1tr0t at 9:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, at least they can't be executed.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Censorsbip is dumb, but I do hate it when I see the equivalent of thirteen year old boys smearing shit on the toilet walls and then claiming they're freedom fighters. I mean honestly, from the interview:

"[ED] is the only collaborative publishing platform on the internet that allows completely free speech. " What?!

"Do you worry that families of dead people lampooned on the site could be offended? Why or why not?

It isn't a large concern, no. A truly free publishing platform comes with positives and negatives. I have seen the whole spectrum of pros and cons, and the pros outweigh the cons. ".

Don't even get me started on the epistemology crap. Possessing the right to be a dickhead doesn't mean it's incumbent upon you to exercise it.
posted by smoke at 9:25 PM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


People who frequent ED are the worst kind of trolls - and by that I mean they just aren't very good at it. It's where trolls go after they first feel that rush of adrenaline one gets when you make another person on the internet really angry, but before they figure out that shit like "it's over 9000" isn't actually funny.

I guess what I'm saying is a bad troll is like the Genesis device from Star Trek 2 and 3 - quick and destructive, but no points for style. Good trolls are sort of like the morphogenic virus created by Section 31 in ST:DS9.
posted by threetoed at 9:25 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


ED also stands for erectile dysfunction. That's when you have difficulty getting a boner.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:33 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the state bans the writing of nonsense, then only the state will be writing nonsense.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:35 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Doesn't matter that they're bad offensive trolls. Doesn't matter that they offend you. Doesn't matter that they're not funny. If they were inciting violence or shouting fire in a theater, there would be room for discussion.

Otherwise, it's just bad news for the state to decide tasteless stupid shit is to be banned. Look, it's a cliche but it's true: freedom of speech is almost never going to be about defending insightful trenchant prose and righteous political dissent. It's going to be about defending assholes and nazis. If you don't buy that, I don't think you truly believe in free speech.
posted by freebird at 9:42 PM on March 16, 2010 [46 favorites]


I didn't need to see that.
posted by dabcad at 9:50 PM on March 16, 2010


If they were inciting violence or shouting fire in a theater, there would be room for discussion.

....or slandering or libelling someone, I presume.

Why do you cite these particular examples? I presume (and am quite prepared to be corrected) because they are enshrined in US case law. In Australia, we have different laws, and one thing we add to these exceptions is inciting racial hatred.

If it helps, I presume I do not 'truly believe in' free speech.
posted by pompomtom at 9:51 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


That Russian skating performance did seem pretty offensive and not very well thought out.
posted by graventy at 9:57 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm a bit blown away that ED has something called an 'editor'. He was otherwise characterized as a 'moderator'. Was his job to try to maintain the civility and standards of the ED community. Instead of ED as a whole I wish the interviewer would have honed into what exactly was entailed in 'moderating' or acting as an editor of any sort to ED.
posted by el io at 10:00 PM on March 16, 2010


If it helps, I presume I do not 'truly believe in' free speech.

I guess you don't.

Sorry, I don't mean to be flippant; I do get that these are really complicated and grey issues. I do think that there are well intentioned people on both sides, and I respect the desire to stamp out racism.

But this is not the way to do it. This is the way to let it fester and evolve in the dark, like some cultural version of drug resistant bacteria. I mention the examples I did because they involve direct harm to specific people. Calling for violence against abortion doctors - even calling for violence against certain groups: these I support censoring. Though honestly, even that makes me nervous and feel should be done only in extremes.

Censoring speech which is derogatory, idiotic, offensive, racist, or just downright wrong? Nope. See all the quotes from stringbean above - it's not the right approach to solving the problem of racism, and it raises far more problems. Who decides? How far from actually doing harm do you draw the line, and who decides?

So, no. I think you're well intentioned and I respect your opinion, but if you thinkstupid, offensive, and even racially derogatory speech should be censored, I don't think you believe in free speech. And that's fine, there are certainly arguments for both sides of the free speech concept. I'm just on the other side, mostly.
posted by freebird at 10:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


argh. lighten up

I hate racist jokes. I'm not likely to lighten up about it.

And this is not satire. Nothing is being satirized. It's hatefulness being tossed up for the sake of offending and pissing people off, and that's where the lulz come from. It's the worst of the Web, and is the worst of humanity, masking itself as comedy. And maybe it is comedy, but it's the comedy of bullies.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


I wasn't say lighten up about racism. It's disgusting. I was just getting sarcasm, one worded replies and bad advice in the comments. I am just pissed off about censorship in Australia. One outrage leads to another, when does it stop? Sure the site is unfunny.
posted by dabcad at 10:09 PM on March 16, 2010


Oh, c'mon freebird. If you object to inciting violence with speech and shouting fire in a theater you've got a tenuous claim on "true" free speech. You're just saying that your free speech is better than his free speech. Go ahead and say that but leave "true" out of it, that's just silly.
posted by XMLicious at 10:13 PM on March 16, 2010


Agreed on that: It's crap, and it's the cheap form of "trolling" (or whatever) that I hate. I don't think that's relevant to a discussion of censorship, but I agree with the aesthetic assessment!
posted by freebird at 10:14 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be fair, all, nowhere in my post did I mention censorship, or Senator Conroy's blacklist.

I was interested in the AHRC's legal letter because of the (to me) much more interesting matter of internet-published material which breaches long-standing Australian law against racial vilification, laws from which publishers are not exempt just because they don't live in Australia.

By all means, I'd say, let ED have free speech according to United States law, and let them enjoy it in the United States, but should the publisher want to take a beach holiday in Australia, let him face the legal consequences.

I presume I do not 'truly believe in' free speech.

Seconded.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:17 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sure, that post is a bit racist, but ED is a bit sarcastic, and a bit in poor taste. (Just a bit.)

All I can say is that this is a fight that Australia will lose, even if they win. They're asking for a continent full of serious butthurt.
posted by markkraft at 10:22 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


FEI (for everyone's information): Racial Vilification Laws in Australia.

From the "exemptions" section:

To protect freedom of expression, the legislation sets out certain circumstances in which the prohibition will not apply, providing the person has acted reasonably and in good faith. First, if the communication is part of an artistic work it is not unlawful. Also excepted are academic and scientific works and debates or comments on matters of public interest. This permits a range of public policy issues to be debated such as multiculturalism, native title and so on. The media are given considerable scope in a third exception which permits fair and accurate reporting on any matter of public interest. This last exception enables the media to report on public issues, such as racial incitement or racially offensive conduct. It also allows editorial opinions and the like, providing they are published without malice.

Offensive racially-based material is permitted in these fields provided the person communicating the material has acted "reasonably and in good faith". Good faith generally means that there is no improper motive, such as malice. A lack of good faith can be shown by a deliberate intention to mislead or by a culpably reckless and callous indifference to the offense or denigration caused by the communication. Carelessness or indifference is usually not sufficient to show a lack of good faith. Because of considerations of freedom of speech, wide latitude is generally permitted when determining what is reasonable.

At the time the legislation was introduced in 1995, the Government explained that, "It is not the intention … to prohibit a person from stating in public what may be considered generally to be an extreme view, so long as the person making the statement does so reasonably and in good faith and genuinely believes what he or she is saying."


I think they're good laws.
posted by smoke at 10:23 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


XMLicious, if you're serious, I'm pretty OK with things not being black-and-white. I think doing something you know will likely cause direct physical harm to others (shout fire in crowded rooms, tell kids to eat poison, etc) is bad, and not part of the free exchange of ideas. I fully recognize this is a compromised view of "true free speech", but I think it's on the right side of the balance point. It's easy to demonstrate direct harmful intent.

Even the crappiest of offensive joke sites does not pass this test in my book. There's no direct physical harm, and it's close enough to "exchange of ideas" (even really lame ones) that I think it's on the other side of that blurry balance point.

I also think that independent of how you feel about free speech, censorship is a ineffective way to deal with racism.

It's a complicated world, and nothing is clean and simple. It's entirely reasonable to believe in "free speech" but feel that there are exceptions and compromises, just as with any philosophical or political construct. That doesn't mean I can't say free speech is important, and this sucks.
posted by freebird at 10:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's a really interesting point, smoke. Essentially the laws say "it's OK to say racist stuff - but only if you really mean it"? That's fascinating, and makes a weird kind of sense. I guess folks could argue that this is an "artistic endeavor" and thus exempt, but I'm really interested in the "good faith when you say bad things" aspect.

"Carelessness or indifference is usually not sufficient to show a lack of good faith", so wouldn't they have to show that ED not only didn't believe the stuff they said, but intended to actually fool people - rather than just irritate and offend them?

Huh!
posted by freebird at 10:30 PM on March 16, 2010


In many ways, it seems to me that ED is the internet heir of Baby Sue... which isn't afraid to be racist, so long as it gets a laugh for being excessively over-the-top.

Labeling ED as a racist website is a real insult to the intelligence of the Australian government. These people clearly do not get it.

Even Australians know that racism -- and encouraging racism amongst dumbshits -- is award-winningly funny.
posted by markkraft at 10:38 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you don't buy that, I don't think you truly believe in free speech.

Go ahead and say that but leave "true" out of it

Actually on rereading, that's a totally valid point. I let hyperbole get the best of me - I probably don't actually believe in "true" completely unbounded free speech as some folks, at least, would define it. Like telling kids it's OK to eat poison, shouting fire, whatever. I am in fact saying my definition of free speech includes some things that some of you would exclude, like this. And of course, I think my definition is better, because it's mine!

But yep, adding "true" to any argument is unhelpful and unclear. I'm not going to say you all do or don't "truly" believe in Free Speech - simply that you are WRONG! ;)
posted by freebird at 10:39 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to this, then, the heads of Google could be in the same boat because they have available the text of Linnaeus's Systema naturae per regna tria naturae. (The link should go straight to page 29.) Both villianize and defame groups based on ethnicity, and neither have any sort of warning or contextual note. Without prior knowledge of Linnaeus or Encyclopaedia Dramatica, they both clearly violate this law.
posted by clorox at 10:46 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know that old saw about how the best response to hate speech is more speech? That would be especially true for ED, which is a freely editable wiki. Of course now that the government of Australia has made this big stink about it, I'm sure the article is locked and/or people will revert any changes made on principle. It seems ironic that the Australian government of all people would be complaining about racism against aboriginals, though. How is that article any more racist than the Northern Territory National Emergency Response?
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 10:48 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


(edit) ...they both clearly violate this law in exactly the same way.
posted by clorox at 10:49 PM on March 16, 2010


Okay, so wait. According to the article linked in the FPP, Google agreed to take down its links to ED after a man filed a complaint with their Human Rights Commission. Quoth the article:
"Mr Hodder-Watt then undertook legal action, that resulted in Google acknowledging its legal responsibility to remove the offensive site."
Now, this is one of these articles that doesn't distinguish between linking and hosting. Still: If this is correct, it seems that Australian law doesn't either.

In Australia, do people who link to offensive sites become liable for their content? That seems to be the implication here. Where does the law on this stand in the US and Canada? (I suppose that they must, or else torrent sites would get off scott-free.)
posted by bicyclefish at 10:49 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Aboriginals are the niggers of Australia." - Encyclopedia Dramatica

"Woman is the Nigger of the World."
- John Lennon

Encyclopedia Dramatica... more popular than Jesus. (Really.)
posted by markkraft at 10:49 PM on March 16, 2010


But guys... I thought racism didn't exist in Australia!
posted by shii at 10:53 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


freebird: On where the line is - I think that an analysis of child pornography may be material. I'm okay with censoring child pornography and it seems to me a closer-to-the-edge case, one that's more like preventing the propagation of an idea than some of the other examples mentioned. It's things like that which make me less inclined to judge, if a society is going to choose censorship of libel or hate speech (and it's not a matter of political control like it is in China, of course).
posted by XMLicious at 10:59 PM on March 16, 2010


To what smoke posted above I would also like to point to hreoc.gov.au Cyber Racism Fact Sheet.

1. What is cyber racism?

Cyber racism is a term used for racism on the internet. It includes racist websites, images, blogs, videos and comments on web forums. Cyber racism is a not a term used to describe racist comments, images or language in text messages or emails.

....

4. Who is responsible?
...
There are several different parties that could be involved in an incident of cyber racism: the internet service provider, the content host, the creator of the website, or the person who has posted a comment, video or blog on a website. Depending upon the level of involvement in the incident and what outcome you want to achieve, you might seek to make a number of different parties responsible.


The Australian Human Rights Commission is going to be busy for a while it seems.
posted by vapidave at 11:01 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm okay with censoring child pornography

Well, then, you'd better start censoring Wikipedia.

Would Australia jail Richard Pryor for using the word "nigger" in his comedy routine? Would Australia jail Monty Python members for mocking religion in Life Of Brian? When does it end?

Once the "moralists" start, they don't stop until everything disintegrates.

The US tried to outlaw alcohol, and look what happened. The Mafia got its first real foothold in the country, and have been here ever since. And the government tried to poison alcohol, to keep people from drinking....
....and apparently killed thousands of people.

They've tried to outlaw marijuana, and now Mexico's border area is a corrupt and violent madhouse, and millions of Americans are rotting in jail for owning small amounts of a common weed.

Encyclopedia Dramatica is an experiment in free speech. If it is censored, then "free speech" no longer exists.

posted by metasonix at 11:10 PM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


That's a good point too, XMLicious. I'd also put child porn on the "please censor" side, though I'd argue that might still satisfy my "direct harm" test. It's greyer though I suppose - your "spreading a bad idea" analysis unpacks wonderfully. Honestly, I don't even want to think about the existence of child porn, so I won't argue the point!

Fundamentally, I agree that a society should probably draw the line somewhere - it's not an absolutist position. I just think the line is drawn in the wrong place in this instance.

Interesting points all around. I think I'll be thinking about that "in good faith" stuff a while: it's a fascinating inversion of what we usually reward if I understand it correctly.
posted by freebird at 11:12 PM on March 16, 2010


If it is censored, then "free speech" no longer exists.

Hee hee!

*bows out before we get back to arguing about what "True Free Speech" is...*
posted by freebird at 11:14 PM on March 16, 2010


I for one am delighted and relieved that the Human Rights Commission of Australia has apparently run out of actual instances of racism within Australia's borders, and is now reduced to googling for pages which contain the words "Australia" and "aborigines."
posted by koeselitz at 11:17 PM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


Would Australia jail Richard Pryor for using the word "nigger" in his comedy routine? Would Australia jail Monty Python members for mocking religion in Life Of Brian? When does it end?

Would Australia use ridiculous hyperboles and slippery slope arguments to make its points? Would Australia lock up someone who looked at them funny? Would they lock up every child ever born?

They tried to lock Mandela up, and look how that turned out!!! The Nazis made jews report to the government! This is exactly the same! Ahhhhh!

Your argument is like "Think of the Children!" except "Think of the male white westerners with all that privilege and a crucial need to mock everything!"
posted by smoke at 11:22 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yes. We all think the same down here. It's because we're all convicts.

I wish I could be sentenced to transportation.
posted by mlis at 11:25 PM on March 16, 2010


I for one am delighted and relieved that the Human Rights Commission of Australia has apparently run out of actual instances of racism within Australia's borders, and is now reduced to googling for pages which contain the words "Australia" and "aborigines."

Or, perhaps, responding to a complaint from an indigenous person, which actually happened.

Sheesh, I'm not arguing this is the best thing to do, but could we at least try to read the links and respond to the case (and laws) as they actually stand rather than bizarre caricatures and made up incidents?
posted by smoke at 11:25 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, then, you'd better start censoring Wikipedia.

Nah, I'll just let them do it. Did you even bother looking at WP:CENSOR, the actual censorship policy?
Content that is judged to violate Wikipedia's biographies of living persons policy, or that violates other Wikipedia policies (especially neutral point of view) or the laws of the U.S. state of Florida where Wikipedia's servers are hosted, will also be removed.
Look at your own link. If the people in that conversation have to scrounge up hundred-year-old sketches and images of cherubs sans fig leaf as examples of child pornography on Wikipedia, you really don't think that any censorship is going on? Seriously, compare what they were able to find with the (vast amount, though obviously mostly amateur due to copyright) legal adult porn that is on Wikimedia Commons. Any child porn you might upload there will be deleted immediately.
posted by XMLicious at 12:01 AM on March 17, 2010


I <3 ED. You need to learn to speak troll, mefi.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:08 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, ED serves as a lint brush for the internet.

Think about how decentralized trolls once were. Nowadays, if you avoid ED, 4chan, Yahoo! Answers and YouTube comments, you've got a pretty good chance of staying troll-free.

Thanks ED, for keeping my interwebs clean!

(Oh, and I doubt they're all that malicious. If I had to wager, I'd give you 10 to 1 they're an international hodge-podge of lonely, pimpled teens trying to impress their lonely, pimpled friends.)
posted by Galen at 12:12 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Australia, do people who link to offensive sites become liable for their content?

I don't know if the law has been changed yet, or if there's been new interpretation of it (doubtful, under Stephen Conroy), but as of 2009, linking to banned sites can cost you $11,000 a day. I'm already so far in debt that I doubt it will make a difference, so here's a crime in progress, ACMA!
posted by Jimbob at 12:13 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would Australia use ridiculous hyperboles and slippery slope arguments to make its points?

Your argument is like "Think of the Children!" except "Think of the male white westerners with all that privilege and a crucial need to mock everything!"


Slippery slope arguments, especially regarding the right to mock religion (a very important right btw) are completely legitimate in the case of Australia's Anti-Vilification laws. There was a case back in 2004 where the law (in this case Victoria's state law, not the federal law ED is being prosecuted under) were used to try to silence an outspoken Christian preacher (and Sri Lankan immigrant, so much for this being all about "male white westerners") who had published allegedly demeaning statements about Islam. The case was subsequently overturned on appeal but it does illustrate the real potential of these laws to stifle free speech, especially where criticism of religion is concerned.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:17 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ultimately, the problem the human rights commission faces, and Australia as a whole, faces here is this:

search for "aboriginal" "encyclopedia dramatica" on www.google.com.au (scroll to the bottom)

search for "aboriginal" "encyclopedia dramatica" on www.google.com (keep at the top).

To ensure Australians from see only the first and not the second Australia needs to either lobby for Google to comply with the censorship systems of all countries, which I'm not sure is the result that it wants, or block www.google.com from Australian users (as China did). It looks like Senator Conroy is already working on the technology to build that second option.

Alternatively, they could just block Encyclopedia Dramatica using the same system. But there'd still be some clues around the Internet that Australians weren't seeing something.
posted by ntk at 12:23 AM on March 17, 2010


If some ideas are so self-evidently bad that no reasonable person could accept them, then why do we need to be protected from them? We do not need laws or advertising campaigns dissuading us from biting off our own fingers or gouging out our own eyes. Censorship as a policy only makes sense if we believe that there are seductive yet terrible ideas. But this creates a problem: how do we decide which ideas are dangerous in this way when the very property that makes these ideas dangerous is their ability to corrupt?

The only way out is to appeal to an authority which is less susceptible to dangerous ideas than a normal person, but this has simply pushed the problem from deciding which ideas are good to deciding which authorities are good, and if people cannot be trusted to choose their ideas neither can they be trusted to choose their authorities.

But that's somewhat tangential; racism is not a new dangerous idea, but rather an old entrenched one. Like most censorship, this is not really about preventing the spread of legitimately dangerous ideas, but rather about consolidating government power.
posted by Pyry at 12:28 AM on March 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


ED is gonna be so amped. Banned on 14.8% of continental Earth!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:32 AM on March 17, 2010


Would Australia use ridiculous hyperboles and slippery slope arguments to make its points? Would Australia lock up someone who looked at them funny? Would they lock up every child ever born?

Wouldn't locking up every child ever born be kind of redundant in Australia?
posted by delmoi at 12:33 AM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Think of how completely unreasonable this kind of law enforcement is. You're not only saying 'the ignorance of the law is no excuse' for your own country, but for every country hooked up to the internet. If Australia is allowed to go after this guy, I'm not really sure why China won't be able to go after people critical of their government, or Thailand with people insulting to their king, etc.

There are plenty of places with fucked up speech or libel laws. Hell, I'm sure that was illegal to say somewhere, too. If this kind of thing is allowed to pass, free speech on the internet is dead.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:40 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmmm, how many internet connections to Antarctica are there? Maybe with a little judicious effort ED could manage to up that percentage even more.
posted by XMLicious at 12:42 AM on March 17, 2010


I'm really, really tired of the wink-wink racism of the ED/SA/4Chan variety. I get that over-the-top racism can be funny as a way to parody actual racism, but see, the thing is, I think that's often just a cover for actual racism in their case. Some of the racist shit that came out of the /b/tard hive following that Oakland bus fight was vomit-inducing.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:47 AM on March 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


Pyry, I think you're missing another angle here: It's not necessarily about the 'dangerous' or alluring qualities of ideas, necessarily - and definitely not in the case of these laws.

Again, I quote from the law itself:

It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people, and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or some or all of the people in the group


(emphasis mine).

Now, I may or may not feel insulted etc by those pages, but I am not an indigenous person who has spent my whole life in a culture of deeply entrenched racism and disadvantage, and frankly, I'm pretty bloody reluctant to tell that person they need to "get over it" - either because it's a joke, or because they need to take their medicine for the sake of greater freedoms. The freedom that you and a few others are discussing here is positive liberty - freedom to; but there is also negative liberties - freedoms from. One need not come at the cost of the other.

In this case, the law is not primarily aimed at addressing the promulgation of racist ideas, but rather the right for people (typically people in minorities) to live in an environment of safety and redress that more privileged areas of society take for granted.

By dismissing these concerns, we are essentially telling these people, "your feelings about the treatment of your race and culture do not matter. You don't own that treatment, you cannot control it." That may very well be true in some cases, however by removing agency, ownership and indeed a voice from these groups, you can argue we are essentially perpetuating the historical treatment of indigenous people in this country.

In this case, lacking the land we took from them, the education we gave to others, the jobs they are not hired for etc, you can appreciate that agency and having a voice that's heard is very important to a lot of indigenous people; in some cases it's all they have left (and shitty recompense from a white culture that stole an entire continent from them).

The discourse of indigenous people as lazy, illiterate, thieving, drug abusing animals is a white discourse - whether or not a few indigenous people participate in it - and in a country dominated by white discourse, where black voices are silenced, derided, or ignored I feel it is important to acknowledge that we don't have the right to pass comment on these things without particular framing.

Not because the ideas are seductive, but because they fuel a racist narrative in this country that is over 200 years old - a narrative that has incited child-stealing, and condoned abuse, rape, murder, prevents indigenous people from getting jobs, prevented them from voting, from medical treatment, from marriage, from worship, from ownership of land, funds, protection from exploitation and more. That narrative has and does directly affect indigenous people in this country every day, and I fail to feel any sympathy for some puerile bulletin board losers whining about their freedom to publish any rabid bullshit they like at the expense of promoting this narrative and the feelings and outcomes that go with it for indigenous people.

Freedom from censorship? Christ. How about freedom to control your own money, raise your own child, buy your own groceries, get redress when your father is killed by a policeman whilst in custody? Those are real examples from Australia and those the stakes involved.

I'm all for debate, but let's not forget the other - the black - side of the coin here.
posted by smoke at 1:06 AM on March 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


So, it seems like when you search Google .au for 'aboriginal' now, pretty much all of the first page results are going to refer back to the ED entry. This is the Streisand Effect, in all of it's tediously-predictable and easily-avoided lack of glory.
posted by Ritchie at 1:21 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about freedom to control your own money, raise your own child, buy your own groceries, get redress when your father is killed by a policeman whilst in custody? Those are real examples from Australia and those the stakes involved.

I do not think the ED authors are stopping anyone from doing these things, and I challenge you to find me one Australian oppressor who says "I abused and disempowered these aboriginals because of what I read on ED".
posted by Meatbomb at 2:02 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


smoke: “Or, perhaps, responding to a complaint from an indigenous person, which actually happened. ¶ Sheesh, I'm not arguing this is the best thing to do, but could we at least try to read the links and respond to the case (and laws) as they actually stand rather than bizarre caricatures and made up incidents?”

I accept that, smoke. And what's more I'm quite glad that they got the page removed from Google in Australia. I do not believe this is "censorship," nor a civil rights issue; the fact is that virulent racists are not free to spread their filth within the borders of Australia, a nation which (for better or for worse) has made it illegal to do so. Moreover I should point out that I believe Australia has made the right decision on this. Good for them, I say, in banning vile racist speech; and may the Human Rights Commission continue to pursue such cases of racist speech in Australia and stamp them out.

But – they've done just about all they can and should here, and they should probably be happy with what they've already gotten. This seems like it's really nothing more than a test case in jurisdiction; must a web site hosted on the other side of the globe conform to laws laid down in Australia? If so, the internet as we know it simply won't work, as every web site will have to be redrawn based on Australian law, and then subsequently on the laws of every other nation that gets into its head the notion that it wants to legislate people on the other side of the globe. No, this doesn't make sense. I applaud what they've done so far; it is, I think, pretty much the only thing they can do to get the site off of the Google index. And the Commission should have advised the fellow who made the complaint that they've done all they can. Or – they should have taken it up with whatever company or utility runs the lines into Australia and demanded that this site be filtered out. But to take it up with the site host in the US makes absolutely no sense.

Let's say I'm a fellow in the US who makes ping-pong balls with racist slogans on them. And let's say these racist ping-pong balls are being imported into Australia. In effect, this is as if the Commission on Human Rights had gotten a complaint about these ping-pong balls and promptly fired off an email to the ping-pong-ball maker in the US demanding that he stop making those offensive ping-pong balls, or there will be legal action. This makes no sense! The only thing that can really be done, given the problems of jurisdiction, is to block the import of the ping-pong balls. That's the only thing that can (and I think should) be done in this case; but apparently the Commission was to afraid to countenance the idea of blocking a specific website to the continent, so they've made this utterly futile gesture of lashing out at an untouchable enemy.

Finally, it should be noted that, though the despicable writers over at ED – which is as unfunny as ever – are being total douchbags about it, it's pretty clear to anyone who reads the article in question that the point they were trying to convey is clear: that Australians are virulent racists. Maybe that's an offensive thing to say in itself, but it's pretty clear that the Commission is oblivious to the pointed barb in ED's piece. And the thick irony is that, to the casual and impartial observer such as myself, it would appear quite likely that many Australians who are upset by this web page are upset not by the actual racism it contains but because of what it says about Australian racism. I have never been to Australia, though I'd like to see it someday, but the Australians I've know have all been somewhat bitter about the fact that society's racism is often being covered up; I hate to say it, but I can see this suit being supported by precisely the same people who would like to cover up Australian racism, simply because they'd rather people not talk frankly about it on the internet. Certainly that irony is not lost on everybody, but it's at least more interesting and complex than the Commission seeks to present it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:10 AM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


The freedom that you and a few others are discussing here is positive liberty - freedom to; but there is also negative liberties - freedoms from. One need not come at the cost of the other.

This is difficult to imagine. Would you explain how this can be the case?

By dismissing these concerns, we are essentially telling these people, "your feelings about the treatment of your race and culture do not matter. You don't own that treatment, you cannot control it."

Like most "translations", this is a rather biased retelling. Refusing to make an exception is not the same as telling them that their feelings don't matter.
posted by BigSky at 2:23 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not because the ideas are seductive, but because they fuel a racist narrative in this country that is over 200 years old - a narrative that has incited child-stealing, and condoned abuse, rape, murder, prevents indigenous people from getting jobs, prevented them from voting, from medical treatment, from marriage, from worship, from ownership of land, funds, protection from exploitation and more.

This seems like the very definition of a dangerous idea: a false yet seductive idea that when adopted causes great harm.

I don't deny that there are dangerous ideas or even that this is one of them, but to suppress ideas you have to invest an awful lot of power in an all too fallible authority. Australians may be comfortable with that bargain; I'm not.
posted by Pyry at 2:32 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Australia is kind of F'ed up.
posted by caddis at 3:54 AM on March 17, 2010


I do not think the ED authors are stopping anyone from doing these things, and I challenge you to find me one Australian oppressor who says "I abused and disempowered these aboriginals because of what I read on ED".

Meatbomb, if you can't understand the link between legitimising discrimination and its subsequent manifestation, nothing I can say will help.

Koesilitz, I think we're on pretty much the same page, here :) . I'm not defending the application of the bill, merely its right and reason to exist. I would argue that the contention that the page is attacking racists may not be as clear as you might think - especially to most australians. More below in replying to Pyry...

Big Sky, more information on the liberties here. See "One Concept of Liberty: Freedom as a Triadic Relation" for more info on the shades of grey involved with what I'm talking about.

Pyry, I see where you're coming from, but I think you are grossly underestimating the prevalence of racism in Australia. The problem isn't arresting the spread of these ideas - they are widespread - it is communicating that they are unacceptable. Hence the wording in the act that focus on public statements, rather than private or in confidence statements.

I appreciate your concerns with fallible authorities, but come on, this is hardly a lineball, here. When we get a case rife with ambiguity and questionable judgments (in which case, let the record reflect, we Australians are ecstatic to do a trial by media and soundbite politicians) , let's talk about the fallible actions of the department, then. Talking about it in relation to this page, these statements, etc. seems a bit disingenuous to me. The outline of the act is clear and unambiguous, and the dept is yet to overstep that boundary, in my opinion. The deptartment is also answerable to both its minister, and directly to the Senate Estimates Committee, which has the power of subpoena, among others. Truly, it is not a loose cannon.
posted by smoke at 4:28 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this case shows a poor understanding of how the internet works. I'm guessing that the people involved are old enough to find this whole interwebs thing a bit wacky.

But apart from that, I can't blame the Aboriginal guy for complaining about such puerile, hateful shit - and if your satire against racism is indistinguishable from actual racism, well, maybe you're more racist or less skilled at satire than you think you are. And I can't blame HREOC for saying "yep, that's some hateful shit right there, we'll see what we can do to make it stop".

I mean, their method of trying to wipe some of the crap off the internet isn't going to work, but they're right to make a stand against it. I really can't get myself worked up about the slippery slope of censorship here, it seems closer to cleaning racist graffiti off a wall than government oppression and I think Australians are sensible enough to be able to tell the difference. I don't believe in free speech at all costs. Speaking only for myself, I don't really need the pity or condescension that some Americans here are offering to our poor oppressed citizens.

And the thick irony is that, to the casual and impartial observer such as myself, it would appear quite likely that many Australians who are upset by this web page are upset not by the actual racism it contains but because of what it says about Australian racism.

Well, the guy who complained about it is Aboriginal. I think he's well aware of how virulently racist Australia is, and is probably sick and tired of seeing racist shit everywhere he looks. No-one else had even noticed it until he brought it up. You're a casual observer, yes.
posted by harriet vane at 4:41 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or you know, what smoke said. With all the references and stuff.
posted by harriet vane at 4:51 AM on March 17, 2010


I find Conservapedia offensive. Can we get that removed from the internet?
posted by scrowdid at 4:57 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let's say I'm a fellow in the US who makes ping-pong balls with racist slogans on them.

"Here's to you, Mr. Racist Slogan Ping-Pong Ball Maker"
posted by captnkurt at 5:25 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I appreciate your concerns with fallible authorities, but come on, this is hardly a lineball, here. When we get a case rife with ambiguity and questionable judgments (in which case, let the record reflect, we Australians are ecstatic to do a trial by media and soundbite politicians) , let's talk about the fallible actions of the department, then.

The Catch the Fire Ministries case isn't such a case? Even if it was prosecuted under Victorian state law as opposed to the federal equivalent, it does show the potential for abuse. Also, parts of the equivalent law in New Zealand were repealed in 1989 due to a problematic prosecution, and the other clauses have effectively not been enforced since 1979 (in a case involving neo-Nazis) due to the much higher threshold of prosecution now in effect. Are a bunch of /b/tards really enough to spring the trap for Australia? Canada's laws have also been plagued by controversial decisions. Does Australia really need to make these same mistakes for itself or can it learn from others? It's not like this isn't an issue that has been written about, debated, experimented with and pored over in detail for the last 300 hundred-odd years. It's kind of depressing the free speech still isn't taken for granted as an absolute right in 2010.

Talking about it in relation to this page, these statements, etc. seems a bit disingenuous to me. The outline of the act is clear and unambiguous, and the dept is yet to overstep that boundary, in my opinion. The deptartment is also answerable to both its minister, and directly to the Senate Estimates Committee, which has the power of subpoena, among others. Truly, it is not a loose cannon.

It's true that looked at in isolation there is nothing about this case that makes one sympathize with ED, but if the law is flawed and has a realistic potential for abuse then it should be opposed early and in toto, not only in problematic cases. Why wait?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:46 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It is not the intention … to prohibit a person from stating in public what may be considered generally to be an extreme view, so long as the person making the statement does so reasonably and in good faith and genuinely believes what he or she is saying."

So you can be an asshole if you're not joking. They're banning joking. They don't mind you calling people niggers as long as you aren't making fun of people who call people niggers or the people so being called. Australia has actually codified being offended by tasteless humor. They've made it against the law to offend someone.

I had just about saved up enough miles to go there, too. Australia. At least China owns up that it's about controlling the peeps and not for their own censored good. At least they grimly step up and admit they are fascist shitheads instead of pouring out this good on ya, frontier tough, we're part of the free world mate hokum.

Just keep thinking how smart making speech illegal is. Until they get to something you like.... Did you ever consider how turning the page or clicking the link and rolling your eyes instead of being offended might work better?

Everyone is offended by something. That is why you don't have to care about it.
posted by umberto at 7:24 AM on March 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Oh Australia. Your laws don't apply to this defendant. Stop pretending otherwise. Why would he even make a special appearance to rebut the jurisdiction argument? It's silly.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:13 AM on March 17, 2010


One offensive web page down, only >10^9 left to go!

-
posted by General Tonic at 8:42 AM on March 17, 2010


I'm very much for free speech. However, there's free speech and there's slander. Much of what ED writes is slander.

I wouldn't be all too upset if ED were wiped from the face of the internet.
posted by Malice at 8:42 AM on March 17, 2010


Ridiculous waste of time, effort, and money that will only bring more attention and eyeballs to the offensive article. Kudos, Australia!
posted by mrgrimm at 8:46 AM on March 17, 2010


Much of what ED writes is slander.

Only if you can demonstrate some sort of actual injury. I don't buy for a second that anyone takes ED seriously; maybe if they were doing some sort of very subtle Advocacy.org-style troll, where they purported to be an actual aboriginal organization or something, and you could find someone who believed it and acted upon it, then maybe you'd have an argument. But just saying something offensive? That doesn't cut it by any reasonable definition that I can come up with.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:04 AM on March 17, 2010


I don't buy for a second that anyone takes ED seriously

According to the OP's link, there are people who do.
posted by Malice at 9:27 AM on March 17, 2010


So you're suggesting the weight of the law should descend on you if some moron believes you when you're joking? You are moving intentionality from the producer to the consumer. This should fill up jails quickly.

And for the eagerly offended, I meant moron in the sense of a brain-dead jackass, not in some legal, won't-someone-think-of-the-mentally-impaired-children way.

And for jackasses that are easily offended, I.....never mind. This is where caring if you offend someone never ends.....
posted by umberto at 10:19 AM on March 17, 2010


I think both sides of this thread are largely looking for this to be simpler than it is.

The fact is that ED contains stuff that offends certain people, and infringes their "negative freedom" from being presented with negative portrayals of themselves. Whether you think they ought to be, or should be free in this way, is a different question. This is a fact.

Censoring sites like ED restricts the "positive freedom" of speech, pure and simple and also a fact.

So what this comes down to is how to reconcile these conflicting "freedoms". I do not agree with some posters above that both kinds of freedom can be fully respected - there are too many cases like this where they are in direct conflict.

I do however believe in a mushy grey world of compromise, and think that this is a case of deciding which freedom can be abridged to cause the overall least harm to society at large and individuals in specific.

My belief is that in the long term censorship will not in fact protect the "negative freedom" from racism and that the harm caused by this sort of censorship involving "aesthetic merit" and "intent" is quite grievous. So to me it's clear that this falls on the wrong side of the line.

But I do not think it's a simple or obvious issue, I do not think that "True Free Speech" is dead if this stands, and I do not think people are bad for having one opinion or the other about some website. So can we stop arguing about stupid straw men; defending or attacking ED; or making sweeping claims about people who don't share our view of this blurry issue.

Why? Because we're not going to make any fucking difference here. All we can hope is to learn something about the issue and our own beliefs in relation to it. So I'd like to come back to this thread and learn something and see good discussion. Not a bunch of soapbox ranting and one-dimensional proclamations for either side.

It doesn't matter AT ALL whether ED is serious, funny, or evil.
posted by freebird at 10:33 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think Australia throwing out all this effort and action towards internet censorship is going to come right back to them... I wonder if there's a word for that.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2010


ED is a useful resource if you treat it as being about racism. Reading it I learned about Australia in a way that Wikipedia could never cover - slurs, stereotypes, misconceptions. It is a valuable peek into an ugly corner of a people's mind.
posted by Tom-B at 11:23 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


@smoke

I read the link and I don't see how it's relevant to your earlier point.

That section of the article is concerned with showing how Isaiah Berlin's descriptions of concepts of liberty is inadequate. When considered in the abstract, it is myopic to define liberty in either exclusively positive or negative terms. Elements of both are always present. But that doesn't have anything to do with your statement that, "One need not come at the cost of the other". But it does, and necessarily so. These two rights, freedom of speech and freedom from offensive content, are in conflict with each other. They can't both exist in the same space, one will have to be sacrificed for the other. I understand that you want to redefine freedom of speech and remove the protection from racist content, and then we can talk about freedom of speech in both negative (freedom from someone acting maliciously by causing confusion, and freedom from racist speech) and positive (freedom to criticize the government) terms. But going from a more absolute position on free speech (the mainstream American view) to this redefinition does come at cost, and claiming otherwise is rhetorical sleight of hand.
posted by BigSky at 11:40 AM on March 17, 2010


CNN.com offends my intelligence. Can we remove that from the internet, please?
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:38 PM on March 17, 2010


Well said, freebird. I still can't really say which side of the fence I'm on here.

fwiw, I'm usually pretty far on the end of freedom here. I don't think it should be illegal to yell "fire" in a crowded theater (let the theater handle its own security (within law)), and I'm not even sure about child pornography (I think the act should be illegal of course, but I'm not sure about possession of material. I do realize the main reason for the latter is enforcement/deterrence, but it seems problematic (different thread).)

On the other side, I think hate speech (which this case would fall into) and libel/slander laws are fine. Again, it's not a black and white issue. For me, I'd need strong proof of either: 1. personal damage; 2. incitement to violence.

I'm not sure if ED does either. It's clear from the split here that this ED article is very much on the line of a variety of offenses. I tend to lean toward freedom and away from censorship. As someone above noted, it's always the Nazis and racists that test the foundations of free speech.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2010


If Australia doesn't want their people to read Encyclopedia Dramatica, why don't they just add the site to their government's blacklist of blocked sites?
posted by markkraft at 3:01 PM on March 17, 2010


I read about 2/3rds of this page before I realized that most of Metafilter has not figured out ED's shtick. But grouping ED into the Stormfront bucket doesn't help at all really, because in most cases each site is being used for a vastly different people to vastly different ends.

And neither one should be censored. What the hell, Aussies? Are you driving to drive this deeply underground so you can't keep a handle on it? Are you trying to actually make racism stronger? You do realize, Aussies, that repressive governments are the governments that are firewalling and censoring the internet. Governments like North Korea, China, Iran... You know, NOT western free-market democracies...
posted by Cathedral at 3:03 PM on March 17, 2010


Up until now I thought everything about Australia was perfect.
posted by Elmore at 3:06 PM on March 17, 2010




If Australia doesn't want their people to read Encyclopedia Dramatica, why don't they just add the site to their government's blacklist of blocked sites?

It's already on there! It's actually one of the reasons I think that whole blacklist is a joke, even if I think most of ED is in poor taste (which is the point), it clearly isn't a threat in general. Of course, people have every right to feel offended or vilified by some of its contents - but censorship is not the answer. (And I'm becoming increasingly embarrassed to live in Australia under a supposed left-wing government, only to see it reshaped by these conservative ideas.)

search for "aboriginal" "encyclopedia dramatica" on www.google.com.au (scroll to the bottom)

search for "aboriginal" "encyclopedia dramatica" on www.google.com (keep at the top).


So I think this means I'm going to stop using www.google.com.au - except the google search box in Firefox automatically directs me to the AU site (same if I put the non-AU address into the URL box). Is there any way to change that?
posted by crossoverman at 4:47 PM on March 17, 2010


Is there any way to change that?
Below the search text entry box, on the right, is a link that says "Go to Google.com". You can also set your default search engine for the search bar up on the top right of your browser to be google.com instead of .com.au. The latter will have the effect of making any right click searches via the US site too.
posted by GeckoDundee at 4:57 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, GeckoDundee!
posted by crossoverman at 7:10 PM on March 17, 2010


No worries. Now that I look at it again, you can make http://www.google.com/ncr your link to Google and the /ncr ("No Country Redirect") will prevent the automatic redirect.
posted by GeckoDundee at 9:48 PM on March 17, 2010


Just imagine what will happen if ED gets shut down. All that vitriol has to go somewhere. It'll be a diaspora of Really Dumb Shit, and all netizens are going to suffer for it.
posted by Galen at 11:01 PM on March 17, 2010


Or he may be extradited, as per Hew Griffiths or Gary McKinnon.

Yeah, the owner of that site should be subjected to a public booting to satisfy Australia's national honour.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:24 AM on March 18, 2010


One final thing, do a search on google.com then look at the top right hand corner of the results page. You should see a link labelled "web history". Click on that link to choose whether or not to have results customised according to your search history. (You will see a lot of Australian links even when you are searching US Google if you've been searching for similar topics in Google.com.au). You don't have to be logged in to google for this, I think it works on cookies.
posted by GeckoDundee at 3:19 AM on March 18, 2010


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