censorship, anyone?

By Peter Mirus (bio - articles ) | Aug 25, 2006

I don't like the idea of Big Brother looking over my shoulder to see what I'm doing. And in this day and age, governments all over the world (including the United States) have an increased interest in online snooping.

I don't mind the government digitally looking over the shoulders of online sexual predators. I just mind the government taking a look at what I’m doing (fishing without cause) on the chance that I might be one.

Here’s a better example:

I don’t want the government monitoring online usage to prevent people from becoming the victim of a hate crime. I’ve occasionally had a negative thing to say regarding the desire of militant gays and lesbians to destroy traditional marriage in society. Not to be a part of this traditional structure, but in fact to destroy it.

When my company (Trinity Communications) was doing web work for the Alliance for Marriage, we had trouble with content filtering software (such as that used by WatchGuard) blocking their online content. Why? Because the gay community had complained that the Alliance for Marriage was a “racist hate group”.

You can take a look at their web site: www.allianceformarriage.org. Does it look like a racist hate site to you? The only sin of this organization, if you can call it that, is to encourage the US Congress to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. So they must be gay haters. The text of the Federal Marriage Amendment is, to some politicians, just as bad as saying “Boy, you get to the back of the bus.”

I wouldn’t want my children visiting racist web sites. I would have no problem with them going to the Alliance for Marriage site.

What if the government were doing the filtering instead of private entities?

In the post 9/11 era, where government snooping is becoming more prevalent, you have good reason to be nervous. In addition, some legislators would like the Internet to be restricted, censored, or monitored for the better protection of the citizenry. Over the years since the World Wide Web came into being (circa 1994), First Amendment rights have been challenged. There hasn’t been much (if any) success to date, but that could change in the future if we aren’t careful.

The problem is this:

The same politician who wants to restrict “hard core” pornography may find images of aborted babies equally dangerous. The same politician who wants to filter Neo Nazi propaganda might find pro traditional marriage propaganda equally offensive. The same politician who wants to prohibit pro militant Islamist groups from accepting donations might want to prevent such groups as Operation Rescue (or even American Life League) from accepting them.

Keep your eye on this issue! We need to fight private companies providing filtering services that would erroneously block access to pro-faith, pro-life, pro-family material – and we need to fight politicians who promote censorship on the Internet.

Child pornography may be first, but we may be next.

Peter Mirus is a business, marketing and technology consultant who serves as a guiding member of the Trinity Communications Board of Directors. He has served as director of design and/or application development for many key Catholic projects since 1993, assisting such organizations as EWTN, the Knights of Columbus, and the March for Life. A specialist in non-profit organizations, he continues to work regularly on the design mission of CatholicCulture.org.
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  • Posted by: - Aug. 31, 2006 7:27 PM ET USA

    Esalkin, you are 100% correct. The issue here is not whether or not we'll be lax with pornographers, but whether or not we'll shoulder our own responsibilities and not foist them on the government. Bear in mind that when we ascribe to any entity a responsibility, we also cede to them the attendant authority. It is that abdication of authority that is more perilous to us as a whole.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 31, 2006 3:22 PM ET USA

    Google VAAPCON Treat the Internet like a big city. Don't let your kids run around unattended. Teach them right from wrong and to be 'streetwize.' Don't pass your parental responsibilites to the government. You are the ONLY ones who can protect your kids.

  • Posted by: Brad - Aug. 29, 2006 9:31 PM ET USA

    I am NOT and will NEVER stand side-by-side with the anti-"censor" pornographers. You guys fight Google. I'll fight child predators. We have really sunk on this one.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 29, 2006 6:40 PM ET USA

    RPP, it’s one thing for us to try to stop pornography. That’s not what we oppose. We oppose acquiescing to the government that responsibility and authority. The First Amendment does exist for a reason. We see two “cases in point” in the other postings (Catholic Exchange, etc). Who decides what is pornography – the people or the Feds? To paraphrase Ben Franklin, “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security ultimately deserve and obtain neither.”

  • Posted by: - Aug. 29, 2006 5:56 PM ET USA

    RPP, I didn’t get the same vibes you attribute to Mirus’ editorial:”Keep your eye on this issue! We need to fight private companies providing filtering services that would ERRONEOUSLY block access to pro-faith, pro-life, pro-family material – and we need to fight politicians who PROMOTE censorship on the Internet.” That just tells me we have to be smart about BOTH forces. Please elucidate your strong position & state the ASSUMPTION(S) you’re making about Mirus.

  • Posted by: rpp - Aug. 29, 2006 3:21 PM ET USA

    I posted earlier, but my feelings about this editorial are getting stronger. I cannot believe that I am actually seeing soneone imply that we should not try to stop intrinsicially evil material because it may induce those who hate Christians to supress us. If that is the price, so be it! I am outraged that this would appear here. Mr. Mirus' position is utterly undefensable; morally and ethically. This is an editorial that better suited in the New York Times or the ACLU web site. Not here!

  • Posted by: - Aug. 29, 2006 10:09 AM ET USA

    http://www.asianews.it is a Catholic news site that has been black listed as a pornography site. The admin at where I used to work tried to get it while listed, but everytime the blocker software updated it would black list the site. In this case I think it is China that keeps forcing this black listing since it is a site that attempts to bring news of interest to Catholics in China.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 28, 2006 11:27 PM ET USA

    Catholic Exchange is pornography. As a computer consultant, I always recommend an "Internet security suite" that includes web filtering. I was suprised to find that some web filtering software denies access to Catholic Exchange (www.CatholicExchange.com) because someone reported it as pornography. Attempts to correct this were fruitless. As soon as I got it "white listed", somebody "black listed" shortly thereafter. Is there an anti-Catholic software registry?

  • Posted by: - Aug. 28, 2006 8:53 PM ET USA

    Concrete evidence of what Peter Mirus warns about: if you did not happen to retain the below two URls you can no longer readily find by normal search these serious but NON-hate articles on Islam & Hamas – thanks to Google censors of Michnews. You may chance to get the 1st one only because it was also picked up by islamdaily.net http://www.michnews.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/182/8829 http://www.michnews.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/290/13284 Add Google to “need to fight” list!

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Aug. 28, 2006 5:33 PM ET USA

    There would be no need for any of this if our America's judges didn't insist on taking God out of everything!!! This is were America started its downhill slump that leads to hell. IT'S IN THE BIBLE when you take God out of the Country-God forgets about that Country. LOOK AT HOW MANY TIMES it is in the Bible that when the people forgot about the ten Commandments they got chatised? DO YOU THINK GOD WILL CONSIDER THIS EVIL THING CALLED SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE??

  • Posted by: Brad - Aug. 27, 2006 8:44 AM ET USA

    This argument is not well put-together. Mirus (not Diogenes) seems to be arguing against a government mandated filtering software. I am against that also but that is the not the same thing as saying that posting child pornography web-sites should be legal. Would we say the because we don't want the government dictating what kind of car we drive that we all should have the freedom to drive military tanks in neighborhoods? We have to be smarter if we are to maintain freedom.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 26, 2006 7:00 PM ET USA

    Big Brother is here! Implanted computer chips at birth just around the corner. Having the the mark of the beast in order to survive may not be far behind. Sound ominous? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions my grandmother told me years ago. Even the devil can quote scripture for his own purposes. The Constitution must not be gutted for ant reason. One world government(dictatorship) will be the next step. Freedom of religion will be a casualty,too.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 26, 2006 2:07 PM ET USA

    Diogenes is right. If we place censorship infrastructures in place, thinking that those holding such authority will always be benevolent, we are just creating an ideal scenario for any successor of theirs who is not so benevolent. A thread I’m seeing in some of these postings is that “a good society can distinguish between good and evil..” Arguably, though, our society is NOT good. Our government is not capable of being so tasked.

  • Posted by: Brad - Aug. 26, 2006 11:23 AM ET USA

    Child pornography is evil. Any good society should outlaw it. Any good society can distinguish between good or neutral acts and evil ones. A baseline 10 commandments has served this purpose well for several thousand years. You don't allow everything in order to prevent something. This is a very poor argument and disappointing on this site. Use the right filtering software. You are playing right into the liberal "hate-crime" and obscentity-promoting hands.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 26, 2006 10:20 AM ET USA

    I see the issue which the others have addressed, but put what is said into context - the censorship to be feared and defended against is that which is unjust. While we don't want pornography and other anti-Christian web sites out there, we certainly don't want those web sites allowed while conservative and Christian web sites are blocked - being erroneously classed as "hate".

  • Posted by: Venerable Aussie - Aug. 26, 2006 4:23 AM ET USA

    "we need to fight politicians who promote censorship on the Internet" WHAT? How many kids each day fall prey to internet pornographers? If the policy of CWN now mirrors the ACLU belief that the "rights" of pornographers take precedence over and above those of parents and their children then I suggest you take notice of how authentically Catholic politicans in some other jurisdictions have handled this issue: eg: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=2235

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2006 9:02 PM ET USA

    I don't see the analogy between government monitoring of e-mail traffic for possible terrorist communications, and the filtering done by search engines at the mistaken behest of some private pressure group. No one in the US has suggested seriously that free speech may be inhibited on the grounds that someone or some group may feel "offended" by the content of the speech.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2006 6:22 PM ET USA

    One of the underlying tenets of democracy is that it requires some minimal degree of homogeneity in the electorate for it to work efficiently and well. The reason for this is that the electorate must be able to come to consensus on what is the truth of a matter after some reasonable amount of debate. I believe we have diverged from that minimal degree of homogeneity concerning morals and values some time ago. As a result we cannot expect debate on values issues to be reasonable or just.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2006 3:36 PM ET USA

    There is a big difference between laws relating to obscenity (specifically that which appeals to the prurient interest of the public or depictions of depravity--such as particular fetishist media) and laws relating to truth/opinion (e.g., religious beliefs). I think that a just society can differentiate between the two. The challenge is forming a just society. Your argument is akin to saying that in order to ensure heterosexual marriage, we must ensure homosexual marriage.