Index On Censorship's new issue on "cyberspeech"

The latest volume of the magazine Index on Censorship focuses on issues related to free speech online. I'm among the contributors. Here's a snip from the issue overview:

The Internet was supposed to spell the end of censorship – instead governments now have unprecedented possibilities for controlling what we do and what we read. But this is a revolution in free expression that can’t be stopped. Index examines the explosion in communication, the rise in new forms of censorship (and the ways to get round them) and the impact on social attitudes.

I wrote about what I've learned about internet filtering technology from my experience co-editing BoingBoing, which is routinely blocked by various censorware applications for all sorts of silly, inaccurate reasons. Nearly every day (certainly every week) we receive a perplexed message from a would-be reader asking "why is BoingBoing blocked from [library/airport/hotel/whatever place name] in [location name somewhere in the world]?"

Subscribe to the Index in print here. Longer list of other contributors to this issue, and their chosen topics, after the jump. This is a fine publication, and a fine bunch of writers from around the world sharing important ideas and testimonies -- what a shame the contents are not freely available online.

Nart Villeneuve how to beat the censors; Jon Garvie on free trade free speech; David Weinberger the Internet race for the White House; Shiraz Maher on cyber jihad; Emily Bell on the engineers of expression; Steven Murdoch and Ross Anderson new borders; David Livingstone the challenge of extremism; Gus Hosein Big Brother comes of age; Ethio Zagol blogging in Ethiopia; Yetaai taking China Telecom to court; Andrew Wasley new activism; Nii Ayikwei Parkes the view from Ghana; Stan Cohen on how downloading became a crime; Bill Thompson on the end of privacy; Richard Morgan on a science fiction writer resists the messianic urge; Jimmy Wales, Don Tapscott, Iran Proxy and others call for freedom online; Geoffrey Robertson and Andrew Nicol examine the state of the media freedom; Leo Murray direct action on the front line; Alex de Waal on Darfur; Kamila Shamsie dissects the West’s image of Pakistan; Maleiha Malik takes on incitement; Martin Rowson on Stripsearch.



  1. @takuan, I don’t agree that what they’re doing is censorship. I do think it’s a terribly outdated way of thinking about information distribution.

    The magazine seems to be primarily aimed at social good, not profit, per se, but they’re relying on what amounts to an elitist, oldfashioned business model.

    They’re well-meaning people, and they produce a terrific publication. They’re not evil, they’ve just made what amounts to (IMO) a bad decision, and it’s all the more unfortunate because of the subject matter in this particular issue.

    Perhaps they’ll change their policy sometime soon!

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  3. That word you keep using, I do not think it means what you think it means.

    The act of censorship necessarily involves examining a work to decide if it is permitted to be published.

    In the present case the work is not being examined, the wallets of people who might want to see it are being examined.

    If you wish for some reason to use the word “censorship” to mean “preventing anyone from seeing anything for any reason” then we’ll need to come up with another word that means “examining a work and deciding if it is permitted to be published”, so we can have a name for that entirely reprehensible practice. It seems to me more reasonable to adopt a new word for the entirely reasonable practice of sometimes preventing some people for some reason from seeing a published work. Otherwise people might get confused and think that there was something wrong with that entirely reasonable practice.

    Words like “censorship” and (for example) “hoax” have clear and unambiguous meanings. Coining new words for new meanings is a better way to go than trying to morph those old words, with all of their moral baggage, into new meanings where none of their moral implications apply.

  4. But in a capitolistic society, the wallets of the people have to come into play at some point or we’d all be holding signs on the side of the road.

  5. Practically, how does one do to see if a website is blocked in some areas or by some of those censorwares ? I have a modest site and some people have reported that they can’t access some pages from misc locations. Of course it works fine when I test it. Is there a website that can test accessibility ?

  6. So I just spent ten minutes trying to subscribe to Index on Censorship and the website has defeated me. I even called a US sales manager and left a message. I created an account, agreed to a TOS statement, responded to an email confirmation, followed the links to subscribe online only to be told there are no subscription options available. This journal is not only not free, it’s not available at all as far as I can tell.

  7. @Bill Simmon, gosh that’s terrible.

    I really didn’t want this thread to turn into a public bashing, I like these guys. Let’s try to remember that they seem like a pretty modestly-sized operation, without an excess of funding or resources. But that’s really too bad. Great ideas are not of much use if nobody can get to them.

    Hopefully someone from INDEX will chime in here, and/or the accessibility issues will be resolved.

  8. I just tried again and was successful this time but they sure don’t make it easy. You have to really want to subscribe. They made me create an account and sign in before they would even show me the prices for subscriptions, which are as follows…

    2008 print-only subscription – US$73
    2008 online-only subscription – US$235
    2008 print & online subscription – US$248

    I assume the subscription will start with the 1st quarter 2008 issue, but if I want to purchase just this issue that you (Xeni) contributed to, it will cost me another $64. I believe you that they’re good people and that it’s a good publication (obviously, since I bothered to subscribe), but yikes!

    Not sure what the problem was before, but when I tried again it worked (though the process is needlessly cumbersome).

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