As a long time opponent of most forms of censorship and a life-long student of the human experience, I am curious about something that I am hoping someone can explain to me.
Wikipedia has been embroiled in many a court action over the past few years regarding the use of explicit pornographic images. They have also made a concerted effort to remove them where possible, especially in the area of child pornography.
Many a website, including giants such as Megaupload who enabled the piracy of digital content, including movies and music, have been shut down because commercial entertainment entities were being denied their royalties.
Hundreds of websites selling counterfeit products have been shut down by federal agents after ripping off consumers and authentic merchandise vendors.
And yet. the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire, a hate-filled diatribe that promotes violence against Americans and allegedly provides suggestions, ideas and plans on how to carry out acts of violence is still widely available on Wikipedia. This is the case even though in places like England, mere possession of the magazine can result in prosecution.
Apparently included in one of the issues are plans on how to use pressure cookers as a bomb component to hurt Americans.
And now we have the events of the Boston Marathon and preliminary information that such a device was used to kill and wound so many innocent people.
As a strategy guy, I understand the concepts of follow-the-money, all-things-for-a-reason and all of that.
But I can’t understand why Wikipedia is allowed to present all of this material given everything else that authorities have shut down so quickly. I even sent an email regarding this material to various government agencies almost two years ago and never received a reply.
Personally, regardless of my beliefs about censorship and information sharing, I would NEVER allow anyone to use anything associated with me to enable people to commit atrocities or acts of violence.
And yet this American organization allows and enables such actions.
Since we are so quick to shut down websites that adversely impact other organization’s financial well-being, why can’t we shut down content that threatens someone’s personal well-being?
I think there is a consistency / priorities issue here that warrants an explanation.
I also think that when it comes to doing what it takes to minimize the level of terrorism we face, if we really cared and were sincere in our intentions, then we would remove obvious sources of information for terrorist wannabes.
I also also think that we can never be perfectly safe and that we face a difficult balancing act when it comes to security versus freedom as I noted in Boston: Freedom, Security and Difficult Choices.
And finally, I think that everything happens for a reason.
What do you think?
In service and servanthood,
In my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, MHA Gerry Rogers was found in contempt of the House yesterday for being a member of a Facebook group where someone else had made threatening remarks against the Premier of the province. According to the Speaker of the House, Ms. Rogers is considered to be automatically condoning such remarks merely because she is a member of the Facebook group and therefore she should apologize immediately (which she refused to do, as would I).
While I recognize that we are the company that we keep, if any of us are considered to be automatically condoning any social media content just because we can be loosely associated with it, then how do we explain allowing Wikipedia to continue to carry such content, given how many of us have contributed to its content somewhere along the way.
A slippery slope indeed.
Addendum 2 – April 23, 2013
Officials finally admit that the Boston bombers may have gotten their ideas and plans for the explosives from Al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine.
Are we really doing what we can to protect ourselves? The new CISPA bill now before the Senate will allow employers to demand social media passwords from employees / employment candidates under the guise of “security” while Al Qaeda’s bomb making plans are on Wikipedia.
Everything happens for a reason. I just wish I knew what this one is. I have some ideas but they are best left private …. for now.
Addendum 3 – May 9, 2013
It is intriguing that shortly after viable 3D gun plans are made available on the web, they are removed at the request of the Pentagon as noted here. Meanwhile, the bomb making plans remain available. Curious indeed.