Category Archives: Liberties

Quote of the day: Unwarranted

Of course the security services should be able to get a warrant to monitor genuine suspects. But blanket collection, without suspicion, or powers to compel companies to hand over data on the say-so of a police officer would be very wrong.

- Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group on the the government’s plans to revive legislation to enable them to eavesdrop on the communications of everyone in the UK, and monitor all phone calls, text messages, website visits and emails in real time. As quoted by Wired.

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I saw this headline on the New Humanist Blog: Tory MP Peter Bone: gay marriage reform could lead to two monarchs on the throne. And I thought: No it couldn’t. If a monarch was married to someone of the same sex, the UK would have a monarch and a monarch’s consort – just as Prince Philip’s official title is Queen’s Consort.

It sounded a lot like someone trying to invent a mountain out of a non-existent molehill. But I clicked through anyway and was confronted by this:

Bone has sent a letter to the Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone outlining his concerns. The legislation, to use the Sun’s words, “would mean a lesbian Queen having a Queen consort or a gay King having a King consort”

So my assumption turned out to be right. I have to admit, though, that Tory MP Peter Bone does invite a really obvious post title.

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Quote of the Day: Pass the pork scratchings

I think the defense, for all the incoherence of its arguments, will ultimately prevail — not because they are right, but because it’s just too damned inconvenient to be wrong. If you think too hard about this sort of thing, you’ll recognize the injustice; recognizing the injustice, you might feel obligated to do something about it. But that means making changes in the way you live; that means giving up things you’ve grown accustomed to. It means getting off the couch. Better not to think about it. Better to just look the other way.

- Peter Watts on PETA’s ill-fated legal attempt, on behalf of five killer whales, to declare their incarceration to be in violation of anti-slavery laws. Go read the rest.

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Quote of the Day: Incompatible with irony

Rather fittingly – and as if to prove my point – my human rights were quashed by a person demonstrating one of the effects of sharia law; the threat of violence for criticising religion.

- Ann Marie Waters who was due to speak discussion of Islamic law at a London university on Monday. This discussion was abandoned after a mindless thug threatened the attendees and some students who happened to be in the foyer.

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Just a kind request… Or we’ll make your life hell

Rhys Morgan is an intelligent and articulate teenager and someone who impressed many with his work in publicising Stanislaw Burzynski‘s fradulent alternative medicine practices. Last week the University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society were told that they should remove an image, taken from the cover of a Jesus and Mo book, from their Facebook page for their weekly pub meet.

Rhys, along with many others, used the same image on his Facebook page in a show of solidarity for their cause. He left the picture up for about a week, then changed it back and went on with his life.

Until today. Someone who is a Muslim discovered the picture and found it offensive. He politely requested I remove the image -

“… just a kind request to either hide it or completely delete the picture…”

- a request I declined because I do not follow Islamic scripture or rules.

At this point, all hell broke loose and he found himself on the receiving end of a stream of threats and abuse. Then his school stepped in… and threatened to expel him.

So here’s the picture in question:

And I think the head at Rhys’s sixth form college should sit down and think long and hard about why he is so keen to side with a bunch of bullies.

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Tim O’Reilly on why SOPA and PIPA are bad for business

The supporters of SOPA, and it’s Senate sister, PIPA claim that it will protect content industries. Tim O’Reilly very effectively takes this argument apart.

At O’Reilly, we have published ebooks DRM-free for the better part of two decades. We’ve watched the growth of this market from its halting early stages to its robust growth today. More than half of our ebook sales now come from overseas, in markets we were completely unable to serve in print. While our books appear widely on unauthorized download sites, our legitimate sales are exploding. The greatest force in reporting unauthorized copies to us is our customers, who value what we do and want us to succeed. Yes, there is piracy, but our embrace of the internet’s unparalleled ability to reach new customers “though it may not be perfect still secures to authors more money than any other system that can be devised.”

These bills are designed to protect companies that are unable – or unwilling – to respond to current market demands. Any law that tries to protect unrealistic business models is, inherently, a bad law.

I am aware that SOPA has been shelved. But being shelved is not the same as being killed. And PIPA is still working its way through the Senate legislative process.

I said yesterday that this site is going dark on Wednesday, as is Pulpmovies, in support of the Stop SOPA campaign. This is still going to happen.


It turns out that SOPA has just been unshelved.

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I’m joining the internet blackout to protest SOPA/PIPA on January 18th

On January 18th, between 08:00 and 20:00 UTC, this little corner of the internet will be joining, Boing Boing, Rasberry Pi, and many others in an internet blackout in protest of the Stop Online Privacy Act proposed in the US Congress and its corresponding Senate bill, Protect IP.

This is a badly drafted bill, promoted by people who don’t understand its impact for the benefit of people who don’t care about your freedoms. It is so widely cast and so badly worded that it will limit what you can say online, regardless of whether you are in the US or not.

You can find more information on the SOPA/PIPA bills, and how they affect you whether or not you live in the USA, at And I hope that if you run any sort of Web service or publishing platform, you will join this blackout.

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Help stop SOPA/PIPA

If you read any of the tech press, or spend any time around the nerdier corners of the internet, you will be aware something very bad is currently going through the US legislative process.

If you are not worried about SOPA, which is currently going through Congress, or its Senate sister, PIPA, I urge you to watch the video (from Fight for the Future by way of the WordPress Development blog) below.

I touched on this yesterday but it is worth reiterating. SOPA is a badly drafted law, promoted by people who don’t understand its impact for the benefit of people who don’t care about your freedoms. It is so widely cast and so badly worded that it will limit what you can say online, regardless of whether you are in the US or not – the videos example of Facebook having to censor its users posts is a good one.

If you are a US citizen, make your voice heard. If you are not a US citizen, encourage your American friends to make their voices heard.

If passed, this law will affect all of us.

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Cory Doctorow on copyright and the coming war on general-purpose computing

Last month, Cory Doctorow gave a keynote speech to the Chaos Computer Congress. It turned up online but I have to admit to not having watched it as yet. Handily, though, the text of the speech has been posted on Boing Boing and he makes a strong case.

The TL;DR version is that legislators keep on reaching for regulation that won’t work to solve problems they don’t understand. This is happening now with copyright (the US SOPA legislation being the currently most obvious example), but will continue to happen – and probably increasingly so – as technology progresses.

If we want to be able to own and trust our devices – from the MP3 players we listen to to the cars we drive – the instinct to regulate needs to be stopped. Now.

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