The Star reports that :
Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye called on the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to block bomb-making websites.
“We live in a troubled age. Previously, it was unimaginable, but now even from your home, you can make a bomb. The MCMC must do a comprehensive check to see how we can block sites that are harmful to the nation,” he said.
Now, apart from the fact, that there aren’t any dangerous substances used for bomb-making today, that wasn’t around in the 1970’s, the entire statement is one made from ignorance.
The Anarchist Cookbook, one of the most famous manuals for making home-made bombs, was written in the 1970’s and improvised in the 1980’s–stuff that was flammable 20 years ago, is still flammable today. It’s not like as though, the atmosphere has changed and petrol no longer burns.
But calling for the MCMC to ‘comprehensively’ block sites that are ‘harmful’ to the nation is something no one, especially a Vice-chairman of an NGO should ever do. We can’t allow for the MCMC to be given a rein on the internet, even if the intentions are good–after all, we know what the road to hell is paved with–we can’t allow good intentions to create bad consequences such as internet censorship.
Anyone that calls for the blocking of websites needs to understand the reasons I don’t condone blocking of websites.
Reason 1: It just doesn’t work
The most obvious reason is that any attempt to censor the internet has never worked–or ever will.
Imagine we managed to create a 99% accurate censorship program, a program so amazing that it would be right 99% of the time. However, 1% of the time it would wrongly flag a good website as bad (false negative) and the other 1% of the time it would flag a bad website as good (false positive). Now if the internet were 10 Billion webpages (that’s a conservative estimate), then that would mean 100 million false positives and 100 million false negatives, still more than enough for anyone to learn to build a bomb, or miss out on some important content simply because a website promoting breast cancer awareness is too similar to a porn website.
We can’t build programs to 99% accuracy, but even if we could, it still wouldn’t be good enough, the sheer size of the internet mandates 100% accuracy for censorship to work effectively and we’re no where close to achieving that.
Both China and the UK have tried–both have failed.
Reason 2: It’s an invasion of privacy
In the past if the government wanted to censor something, it would block a a newspaper from publishing it, or a tv station from broadcasting it. The government could easily target the sources of the information, and use regulatory power to shut them down.
With the internet, the reach of the government has greatly diminished. The government has no power over foreign newspapers or youtube the same way it has power over local broadcasters. However, Malaysian internet users have equal access to foreign newspapers as they have local ones. This fundamental shift has caused internet censorship to move away from censoring data at the source, but instead to censor data at the consuming end.
Which means, the government is censoring your internet connection, and not the website (that’s published for the rest of the world to see). This is a paradigm shift in censorship, something that ensures the government is interested in your internet connection–and it’s actively looking into the data you receive and send to the world wide web.
The analogy to this is that the government is opening your mail, and reading it, before resealing an envelope and sending it on to you. This is an invasion of your privacy–it means the government is reading your internet content and acting on it–which it shouldn’t.
Reason 3: Censorship is wrong
Censorship is wrong, even if the intentions to censor are good. Censorship grants the government power to block content from reaching me, after all why shouldn’t I have access to guides to make bombs? I’m no threat the country. If we grant the government power to censor bomb making websites, what’s to stop them from taking it a step further and using this power on other things, like political websites, or religious ones? After all, we’ve seen the lengths the government will go to in censoring political dissent. Asking them to censor bomb making websites, is rolling us down a slope, where full government control of the internet is legitimate, simply because we asked for it to begin with.
Reason 4: The government promised not to do it
The MSC Bill of guarantees specifically mentions that the government won’t censor the internet. It’s as clear as day, and we should abide by our promises–even though we’ve broken it on more than one occasion.
Reason 5: It’ll slow down the internet
Censorship is a technical process. The data packets flowing into Malaysia would require to be processed to determine their content and if they are deemed ‘bad’ then they’ll be censored. Even with super fast computers this process takes time, slowing down the internet, even for the legitimate ‘good’ data. This is a terrible price to pay for something that even if executed to near perfection would have no effect at all on criminals finding ways to make bombs (look at reason 1)
Reason 6: I don’t like it
Yes, me not liking something is good enough reason to not pursue it. If the government ever intended to censor even a snippet of the internet, I will make it my life’s mission to teach Malaysians how to overcome and bypass that censorship–mark my words–I will teach you to bypass censorship if it’s the last thing I do.
Censorship is bad–internet censorship is just jack shit crazy talk. The internet was never meant to be censored, it’s architecture was built to be de-centralized and route around censorship and blockages. To censor the internet is to reduce the value we as a country can obtain from being connected to the greatest thing to ever exist on the planet.
As a final bit, I’ve embedded a youtube video of the stuff detailed in the anarchist cookbook. Enjoy: