Machetera’s had problems today and yesterday with graphics on the site; a banner which appears and disappears, vanishing pictures, graphics that magically resize themselves after having been saved about forty times, etc. Maybe she’s being censored?! ALERT THE MEDIA! Anthony Boadle, drop the mojitos and get over here! If the pictures are gone or gigantic when you read this, check back later.
In Part 1, Machetera explained “peering” and how it can be used to block internet end-users’ access to certain sites. In Sweden, many internet users cannot reach Rebelión.org and other Spanish language sites, and there are reports that Telia, the Swedish telephone company through whom they connect, blames its backbone provider, an American company, for actively censoring sites. The logical flaw in Telia’s argument is that gaming sites are also being blocked. A peering agreement requires that both parties involved keep their routers updated. So it could be a technical issue. Or it might be a case of active censorship, and then again it might not be. There’s simply not enough information to know for sure.
Other cases are not so murky though, and Machetera stumbled across one quite accidentally, when she was looking for the original post of an interesting map.
The map appeared at Rebelión.org, where Manuel Talens had translated an article by Gilad Atzmon which originally appeared at Mary Rizzo’s peacepalestine blog. It details the practical results of Israel’s land grabs over the years and how Palestinian and Jewish/Israeli land ownership has literally reversed since 1946, with the exception that had the swap been exact, the Palestinians would at least have ended up with some scattered beachfront property outside Gaza. Instead they are corralled well away from the sea, with the lone exception of the narrow Gaza strip which is now a fraction of its original size. (This is where Machetera will show you the map itself if the evil censors will allow it, although it may or may not be the size Machetera intended. Please be patient.)
Gilad Atzmon is a very interesting fellow. Manuel Talens describes him best in an interview he did with Atzmon in late 2005 titled “Beauty as a Political Weapon.”
Born in Israel, Gilad Atzmon was raised as a secular Jew. He served his compulsory military service at the time of the Lebanon war (1982), an event that made him very sceptical about Zionism and Israeli politics. Ten years later he fled his native country with a no-return ticket. In the UK he studied Philosophy but after graduation chose a musical rather than an academic career. He lives in London and considers himself an exile….He has always impressed me by the intellectually structured way he criticises what he considers the racist policies of the Zionists and has put his art to the service of a cause: the liberation of the Palestinian people.
All right then. What does this have to do with internet censorship? Machetera’s getting to that. Some people find Atzmon’s views annoying, and one person in particular finds them annoying enough to have launched a one-man crusade to destroy Atzmon’s (and Rizzo’s) freedom of speech, going so far as trying to pull down the peacepalestine blog and harass the hell out of those who would presume to give Atzmon a speaking platform. Machetera finds Tony Greenstein’s behavior quite deranged and therefore will not give it much attention here except to illustrate another angle for internet censorship.
In a letter to Google, Greenstein claimed that peacepalestine “purports to be supportive of the Palestinians but is in fact deeply anti-Semitic” and notified the online company that he was pursuing “proceedings for libel and defamation against a Mr Gilad Atzmon.” He threatened to add Google to the lawsuit if it did not take peacepalestine down within 14 days.
Blogger was actually the publishing platform for peacepalestine and so Machetera imagines that some communication took place between Google and Blogger (which wouldn’t have been hard, considering that Google now owns Blogger), resulting in the blog’s deactivation. Because what happens when a threatening letter crosses an online company executive’s desk is, little alarm bells go off, and a variety of ass-covering behavior begins.
Google quickly supplied Mary Rizzo with Greenstein’s threatening documents, at her request, and Machetera supposes that if Rizzo hadn’t been so annoyed about having peacepalestine go dark for no reason at all, they might have been a good source of amusement. She wrote two quick letters to Google, pointing out that she was not listed in Greenstein’s frivolous suit, and asking that if Google had judged that peacepalestine was indeed anti-Semitic, how it arrived at that judgement?
Blogger wrote back and essentially agreed, reinstating peacepalestine, saying “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this suspension has caused you and your readers.”
The moral of the story? Internet censorship can happen in a variety of ways. Google undoubtedly has a team of people whose full-time job day in and out is to deal with crank threats and their default policy appears to be “better to ask forgiveness than permission,” or “guilty until proven innocent.” Considering that they are also saving each of your search queries for a year and a half, for unknown purposes, the policy is not all that surprising.