Monday, May 08, 2006


Revenge of the nerds

Sunday's Toronto Star had a front page feature describing software called Psiphon, from the so-called Citizen Lab at University of Toronto. The software is designed, in theory, to help people in oppressive regimes circumvent national restrictions on free access to content by more easily offering proxy servers on the outside.

It is an interesting piece of 'hack'-tivism. Not really news (the Globe and Mail carried a story about Psiphon in February). In some ways, I suppose that the intent of the software is a modern day equivalent of Radio Free Europe - spreading the word of democracy by opening up communications.

I'd like to look at an unintended consequences of this initiatives. Will Psiphon help spread child exploitation images? Do folks at the Citizen Lab believe that images of children should also be free of any restrictions in their transmittal on the internet or does the Citizen Lab agree with the concept that freedom to communicate can have some restrictions?

Michael Geist is quoted in the Star article saying "There are international instruments that override even sovereign governments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Let's not forget there are also international instruments that restrict freedoms, such as the Convention on Rights of the Child statements on child exploitation images.

As a father of young children, perhaps the director of the Citizen Lab, Ronald Deibert will turn some attention to the issue of reasonable limits on internet freedoms.

Illegal Content on the Internet isn't clearly defined. We'll be examining the issue in a special session at The Canadian Telecom Summit next month.

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