digital knowledge. digital culture. digital memory.

14.5.07

Blocking anti-military blogs may harm military


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There have been numerous reports in both the Fijian and international press over the past few of days about the interim government working with FINTEL to censor troublesome blogs. I think that this would be a mistake. In fact, blocking these blogs may actually harm the interim government.

Here are four reasons why Fiji's interim government should reconsider asking FINTEL to block access to anonymous anti-military blogs:

1. Clearly, some of the remarks in Fiji's anonymous political blogs regarding members of the interim government are libelous. Fiji's Defamation Act and supporting Common Law allows for an injured party to ask the court to instruct an Internet Service Provider to turn over records relating to a customer who has published defamatory remarks. No additional legislation or special measures are required. However, some anonymous bloggers cover their tracks and will not be caught by this method.

2. The perception of government tampering in FINTEL, Fiji's pivotal Internet Service Provider through which all Internet traffic flows, would dampen high-tech investment in Fiji. Off-shore service centres rely on the perception of data communications security in order to assure their customers that the confidentiality of their data will not be compromised.

3. Information warfare theory shows that censoring blogs may cost the interim government more than it gains. Power is the ability of a combatant to take an action and have it result in a desired effect. In information warfare, where the weapons are ideas and the battlefields are people's minds, cultures, and ways of life, the power of a combatant is limited by the combatant's perceived legitimacy. Every action that can be perceived as taking the interim government one step further from a return to democracy is going harm the government's perceived legitimacy in the eyes of major international stakeholders - the EU comes to mind here - and in the eyes of at least some proportion of the population of Fiji. This reduced perception of legitimacy then constrains the interim government's future efforts to exercise their power. In an information war, which is certainly what Fiji is currently experiencing, combatants must carefully weigh the consequences of any action before executing it as one's own actions can be more damaging than an enemy attack.

Figure 1.
Any action that weakens Fiji's interim government's perceived legitimacy weakens its power to act.
[diagram from K A Taipale, 2006.]


4. Most importantly, blocking blogspot.com or a hand full of offending blogspot sites will not be effective. Anonymous political bloggers and their readers will simply shift their activities to other available Internet resources, such as:
  • A new blog on blogspot.com (unless they just block the whole blogspot domain)
  • Any other free blog site such as Wordpress, Livejournal, or countless others
  • Any social networking site such as Hi5, Facebook, MySpace, or others
  • Any free website provider such as Google Pages, Geocities, or others
  • Any instant messaging service from the venerable IRC to jabber, yim, gtalk, or others
  • Any group discussion technology from the venerable USENET to Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, or others
  • Any p2p technology to circulate files or to chat such as Skype or FWD
  • Or users could do any of the above, including reading any blocked blogs, by using open proxy servers, an anonymizing service, or The Onion Router

In the final analysis, little or nothing would be gained by the interim government by blocking access to Fiji's anonymous political blogs - Fiji's anti-military bloggers and their readers will carry on regardless - but there certainly would be a price.

Photo by: FelipeArte

13 comments:

Kirakishou said...

Thats exactly what the military doesn't realise; that blogspot is but one of thousands of blogging avenues for the average browser-cum-blogger.

FINTEL may, in the worse case scenario, shut down net access for the whole country....but jeebus, imagine what that would do for our already ailing economy.

Wilson said...

I just hope that all this backlash on the local blogging community doesn't spill over to those who's blogs are not of political content...yes...i'm thinking of simple minded fools like me ><

thrashor said...

k - it would be a disaster to me personally if they pulled the plug on the net. it would be a return to the dark ages! however, i do not think that it will come to that.

thrashor said...

w - expressing yourself (including blogging) about what matters to you is important. keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Could you please post a list of these anti-military blogs, so we can check them out? Thanks, JLS.

thrashor said...

JLS, to quote the May 11 Fiji Times:

"Military Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti made the comment yesterday.

He said military officers were working to put an end to the lies contained in the three blogs.

The blogs are intelligensiya, resistfrankscoup and fijishamelist, he said. Colonel Driti was unable to reveal the number of officers working on the matter or the number of suspects involved, only saying he believed the three blogs were affiliated to a major body."

laminar_flow said...

It appears that even the US army have banned blogs including My Space, stating operation security, according news sources.
Would that make it dangerous to the US effort on the war on terror?

hyde.n.ceek said...

I think "anti-military" is a misnomer.

I am one of them but I do not consider myself "anti-military". Rather, I'd like to think I'm "pro-democracy".

Granted some pro-democracy blogs do tend to be a little militant in their approach.But at the end of the day, our blogs give a great many people a platform to vent their frustrations digitally... which I think is healthy.

I agree though that we do need to exercise some responsibility about the content of the articles we publish, but this must be balanced off against the needs of our readers to express themselves... freely.

Anyway, Im a big fan of your blog.

I've read all your articles.

I'd like to put a link to your blog on my blog (http://hydenceek.wordpress.com)but I don't want getting into trouble with military.

Thy're understandably a little bit twitchy these day.

thrashor said...

Laminar: I think the US military reason for blocking "milbloggers" is to ensure that confidential information is not disclosed - perhaps even inadvertently. Imagine, for example, a blogged photograph giving up a unit's position.

-cht

Anonymous said...

The Military Government should just hurry and start with elections and stop wasting taxpayers money.

Cause we all know that none of them (top guns)in government right now will ever be elected to government again.....

garth said...

I don't think it would be a good idea to let your site be linked to anti-military websites.

Here in Datec, one of our staff recently had their site linked to an anti-military site which the military picked up immediately. They contacted the staff member and warned her about supporting such sites and in fact went to the extent of sending her an email about her family's personal details as well as her work details in order to show her what they were capable off. If my memory serves me correct, then I think she was even warned her work visa as well as her family's would be revoked and they would be told to leave the country if she continued to show any support to the site.

But this is just my opinion...

Anonymous said...

there's nothing anti-military here as far as i can see - in fact, it looks like sound advice for the military - shutting down blogs and arresting bloggers as has been done elsewhere in china and egypt is obviously the result of (in this case) unreasonable paranoia - bloggers with info on fiji that the mainstream presses refuse to run will get it out one way or another - shutting them down makes the military look more foolish than is necessary IMO.

Anonymous said...

The following 2 blog sites will give some balance:

---1---

http://loyalfijian.blogspot.com/

---2---

http://www.bulafijicoupthankyoufrank.blogspot.com/

Vinaka, ><> Sairusi