Posts Tagged ‘censorship’
“We are the only species on the planet, so far as we know, to have invented a communal memory stored neither in our genes nor in our brains. The warehouse of this memory is called the library”*…
The Internet Archive has been saving copies of the web for almost as long as the web has been around. Brewster Kahle, the archive’s founder, studied artificial intelligence at mit in the 1980s. Later he helped found two technology companies — Wide Area Information Server, a system for text-searching databases on remote computers, which was bought by aol, and Alexa Internet, which helped catalog the web and was acquired by Amazon. Kahle launched the Internet Archive in 1996, in a San Francisco attic. Over the years, a few computers have blossomed into one of the largest digital libraries in the world, encompassing 279 billion web pages, 12 million books, and millions more copies of music, films, television shows, and software. (In the lobby, a new arcade machine lets visitors play 500 vintage games from the past 40 years.)…
On the day after the election, Kahle published a blog post addressed to the Internet Archive’s supporters. “I am a bit shell-shocked — I did not think the election would go the way it did,” he wrote. “As we take the next weeks to have this sink in, I believe we will come to find we will have new responsibilities, increased roles to play, in keeping the world an open and free environment.”
The archive had already started backing up copies of every government website that existed during the Obama administration — a practice they began at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. And this January, they released a searchable database containing 520 hours of Trump’s televised speeches, interviews, and news broadcasts.
Still, they were not prepared for the spike in public attention after Trump’s election. A few days after the inauguration, Reuters reported that White House officials had ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to take down its climate change page. People sent messages to the archive, asking if they planned to preserve the information. Similar questions came when the Department of Agriculture abruptly removed thousands of documents from its website, including animal welfare inspection records for some 9,000 labs, zoos, and breeders across the country. “We have all that,” Graham said. Lately the archive has started receiving phone calls from people claiming to have inside information about government websites under threat of getting scrubbed…
And for an even richer look (and listen) to the Internet Archive and its band of bad-ass librarians (including a fascinating interview with Brewster Kahle), check out “Where to find what’s disappeared online, and a whole lot more: the Internet Archive.”
Let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.
– Thomas Jefferson
* Carl Sagan
As we prioritize preservation and access, we might spare a thought for Judith Fingeret Krug; she died on this date in 2009. An American librarian, proponent of freedom of speech , and critic of censorship, Krug became Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association in 1967. In 1969, she joined the Freedom to Read Foundation as its Executive Director. Krug co-founded Banned Books Week (and here) in 1982. The eighth edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual, published in 2010 by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, was dedicated to Krug’s memory.
“I was supposed to say, ‘In a pig’s eye you are,’ what came out was, ‘In a pig’s ass you are.’ Old habits die awfully hard.”*…
Explore expletives at “Strong Language.” (Though it probably goes without saying: NSFW.)
Special word-lover’s bonus:
* Ava Gardner,
As we flirt with forswearing swearing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1644, at the height of the English Civil War, that Milton’s Areopagitica (or Areopagitica; A speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England) was published. An impassioned philosophical attack on censorship and defense of the principle of a right to freedom of speech and expression, it is regarded as one of the most eloquent arguments for press freedom ever written; indeed, many of its principles form the basis for modern justifications of that right.
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country, from which they compile lists of challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools.
From Persepolis and The Kite Runner to The Bluest Eye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower— the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014.
* Dwight D. Eisenhower
As we celebrate Banned Book Week by taking the General’s advice, we might recall that it was on this date last year that thousands of students in Jefferson County, Colorado stayed home to protest School Board action that “edited” the District’s AP History curriculum to “promote patriotism” and not to “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” Two days later, the School Board backed down.
“Maybe the only significant difference between a really smart simulation and a human being was the noise they made when you punched them”*…
The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny; it has only has 302 neurons. These connections have been completely mapped in the OpenWorm project, which is building a complete simulation of the worm in software. One of the founders of OpenWorm, Timothy Busbice, has embedded the connectome in an an object-oriented neuron program– which he has installed in the simple Lego robot pictured above…
And the result?
It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward…
Are we just the sum of our neural networks? More at “A Worm’s Mind In A Lego Body.”
* Terry Pratchett, The Long Earth
As we cram for the Turing Test, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that the BBC banned “I Am The Walrus” for play on their air. The Beatles had grabbed and used a snippet of a BBC broadcast of King Lear (which has also influenced Lennon’s lyrics), but that wasn’t the problem. Rather, the lines “pornographic priestess” and “let your knickers down” were deemed inappropriate.
“The start of visionary works before they enter main stream consciousness”: The Origin, a collection of manuscripts of genius…
As we concentrate on our cursive, we might send carefully-circumscribed birthday greetings to Thomas Bowdler; he was born on this date in 1754. A physician and philanthropist, Bowdler is better known for publishing expurgated editions of English classics, edited by his sister Henrietta Maria Bowdler, intended to be more appropriate for 19th century women and children than were the originals… to wit the eponym “bowdlerize,” referring to the prudish censorship of literature, motion pictures and television programs.
…Imagine you’re a new parent at 30 years old and you’ve just published a bestselling new novel. Under the current system, if you lived to 70 years old and your descendants all had children at the age of 30, the copyright in your book – and thus the proceeds – would provide for your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.
But what, I ask, about your great-great-great-grandchildren? What do they get? How can our laws be so heartless as to deny them the benefit of your hard work in the name of some do-gooding concept as the “public good”, simply because they were born a mere century and a half after the book was written? After all, when you wrote your book, it sprung from your mind fully-formed, without requiring any inspiration from other creative works – you owe nothing at all to the public. And what would the public do with your book, even if they had it? Most likely, they’d just make it worse.
No, it’s clear that our current copyright law is inadequate and unfair. We must move to Eternal Copyright – a system where copyright never expires, and a world in which we no longer snatch food out of the mouths of our creators’ descendants…
A bold idea such as Eternal Copyright will inevitably have opponents who wish to stand in the way of progress. Some will claim that because intellectual works are non-rivalrous, unlike tangible goods, meaning that they can be copied without removing the original, we shouldn’t treat copyright as theft at all. They might even quote George Bernard Shaw, who said, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”…
Certainly we wouldn’t want to listen to their other suggestions, which would see us broaden the definition of “fair use” and, horrifically, reduce copyright terms back to merely a lifetime or even less. Not only would such an act deprive our great-great-grandchildren of their birthright, but it would surely choke off creativity to the dark ages of the 18th and 19th centuries, a desperately lean time for art in which we had to make do with mere scribblers such as Wordsworth, Swift, Richardson, Defoe, Austen, Bronte, Hardy, Dickens, and Keats.
Do we really want to return to that world? I don’t think so.
As we return to our senses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1632 that Galileo Galilei “published” Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo)– that’s to say, he presented the first copy to his patron, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Dialogue, which compared the heliocentric Copernican and the traditional geo-centric Ptolemaic systems, was an immediate best-seller.
While there was no copyright available to Galileo, his book was published under a license from the Inquisition. Still, the following year it was deemed heretical and listed in the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum); the publication of anything else Galileo had written or ever might write was also banned… a ban that remained in effect until 1835.
In danger no longer! (source)
Gawker reports [from the Hindustan Times] that Pakistan’s Telecommunications Authority has issued a list of 1,700 words [and phrases] it considers “offensive and obscene,” and has demanded that mobile providers begin filtering them from text messages as of Monday. The list, which contains hundreds of familiar swear words as well as some truly puzzling choices, is meant to curb SMS spamming, according the PTA, which it defines as “the transmission of harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal or unsolicited messages in bulk to any person without express permission of the recipient.”
Some of the words:
Flogging the dolphin
Go to hell
The full list is on Google Docs, here… after a careful consideration of which, your correspondent will be choosing his words more carefully.
As we reconsider our morning glazed donut, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 that the American Statistical Association was formed in a meeting at the Boston home of the American Education Society by William Cogswell, teacher, fund-raiser for the ministry, and genealogist; Richard Fletcher, lawyer and U.S. Congressman; John Dix Fisher, physician and pioneer in medical reform; Oliver Peabody, lawyer, clergyman, poet, and editor; and Lemuel Shattuck, statistician, genealogist, publisher, and author of perhaps the most significant single document in the history of public health to that date.
Over the next few decades, the membership grew to over 100, including Florence Nightingale, Alexander Graham Bell, Herman Hollerith, Andrew Carnegie, and President Martin Van Buren; by 1939, the roll had expanded to 3,000. But it was after World War Two, and the explosion in the physical and social sciences, that the organization began to balloon. Today the ASA has over 17,000 members, and 23 special interest section (like Business and Economics; Biometrics, and Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental).