Has the Planet Gone Mad? Scary Visit to Online World

By Spencer F. Katt  |  Posted 2002-06-24

A fire in an unlicensed cyber-cafe in Beijing, which killed 24 people and injured 13, made El Gato reflect on the ways technology is viewed internationally. The blaze gave officials cause to close the few existing government-sanctioned Internet cafes for three months, pending investigation. Spencer imagines that tougher crackdowns on the some 2,000 unlicensed cafes reportedly operating in the city will be just as swift.

Since the Kitty reported in his June 10 column that the Greek government, after admitting its inability to distinguish between a harmless video game and illegal gambling, decided to ban all electronic gaming devices, folks have been pointing out other tough electronic policies to the Furball. The Kittys notation about Greece, which includes possible fines of up to 75,000 euros and imprisonment, seems almost tame when compared with similar "offenses" in Egypt. According to human rights activists, Egyptian law enforcement officials use the Web to target and arrest gays. Apparently, Egyptian police go online pretending to be gays seeking partners. Anyone who responds and arranges a meeting is arrested.

Authorities in Egypt and Turkey have also reportedly been repressing any negative views of their governments expressed on Web sites created within their countries. According to Europemedia.net, Turkeys Constitutional Court recently decided to uphold communication laws that restrict the launch of Web sites without government approval. Hard-copy examples of Web pages might also be reviewed by authorities before content can be posted—even content deemed pessimistic might be censored.

In January 2000, the Australian Broadcasting Authority received the power to censor and remove whatever online content it considered inappropriate. Granted, content containing child pornography shouldnt be tolerated on the planet, let alone in cyberspace, but critics of the Australian policy are more concerned with the secrecy in which the ABA is allowed to operate. An Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal recently upheld the ABAs right not to disclose what Internet information it blocks or censors.

It seems to the Furry One that the Internet only reflects, rather than causes, societys ills.

Whatever side of the fence youre on in the battles that rage in the United States over downloading MP3s, blocking spam or the use of online surveillance tools such as the FBIs Carnivore, our passionate debates seem almost patriotic after scanning the global online village.

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