Who is blocking and why?
In the aftermath of the Christchurch attack there has been a disturbing trend from the government and large corporations to censor by making threats and actively blocking access to websites. This includes the extensive blacklisting of many websites that have tens of thousands of users from Australia and New Zealand all because there maybe a link to a video or the manifesto. Interestingly the website that first broadcast the video to millions of people Facebook is not blocked, nor is YouTube but it is OK to block smaller sites as they don’t have the resources to take action against government and large corporations.
Mainstream media are also distorting facts in order to create news.
This article is not about the attack and I am not offering an opinion on the contents or links to websites, nor the video itself, nor the manifesto but this is about the increasing issue of Internet Censorship in Australia and New Zealand.
A number of ISPs in Australia and New Zealand are blocking access to websites that they have deemed to promote material or discussion relating to the Christchuch attack and the New Zealand Government are threatening long jail terms for people distributing copies of the video.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (Google) are platforms and aggregators which means they collect content from various sources and display or link to this content. Traditional media on the other hand are publishers and have control over what they write and publish.
There is currently a move to hold news aggregators to a higher standard then news publishers by monitoring and censoring the material on these platforms. The West has long been critical of many countries for suppression and censorship of the media but now this free speech which is part of the Western world is under attack from our own governments and large corporations who are using tragedies such as Christchurch to make a power grab in order to control what we can view and read online.
Websites blocked include
I don’t know what many of these sites are, I’ve heard of some but it’s irrelevant as to the content or my personal views as if they contain legal content they should not be blocked by large corporations or government.
To show how ridiculous these blocks are 4chan.org has no content relating to the attack but is blocked, Archive.fo and Archive.is are websites that archive content, Bitchute.com has never hosted the video, Dissenter.com is a service that allows you to post comments on websites like Disqus.com, KiwiFarms.net criticised the New Zealand Government, Liveleak.com never hosted the video, Mega.nz is a file sharing service used by business and individuals for private sharing of files, Rainews is an Italian news site, Ren.tv is independent federal TV in Russia, Sejmlog.pl is a news outlet in Poland and ZeroHedge.com is a news site that published a few excerpts from the manifesto and used them in articles.
None of these websites has a right to put forward their argument, no right to a trial, to the right to be innocent until proven guilty and all because a few companies wanted to take the law into their own hands and do what they decided was the the right thing to do.
The websites that did share, host and distribute the video and manifesto are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (Google) but they are not on the list, see further down for my thoughts as to why. The Daily Mail in the UK published the full manifesto and defied requests to remove it and they are not on the blocked list. The UK’s Mail Online showed edited video and they had the full manifesto available, they are also not blocked and neither is the Sun and Daily Mirror which both ran edited footage. [source]
- bitchute.com | Alternative to YouTube
- d.tube | Alternative to YouTube
- dissenter.com | Allows comments to be placed on websites
- encyclopediadramatica.rs | Wiki that discusses current events and topics
- kiwifarms.net | Internet forum
- liveleak.com | Alternative to YouTube
- mega.co.nz and mega.nz | File sharing site
- rainews.it | Italian State TV
- ren.tv | Russian independent TV channel
- sejmlog.pl | Polish news site
- uploadfiles.io | Anonymous file sharing
- zerohedge.com | Independent news site
The companies involved in these blocking are
- Optus Australia
- Optus NZ
- Vodafone NZ
Apparently the large corporations now want to act as censor so they can push their opinion on what can and can’t be viewed. Where does this stop once you start down this path? Does Spark block access to someone running in an election because they don’t agree with them? Does Telstra block access to an organisation because they don’t agree with them?
This information was just sent in from LULZ.com who have posted this information on twitter and I have added it to the list above to keep a list of all the sites that have been targeted. The drawback is that other ISPs could use this information to block as well but we need to accept that this is the future and find ways around large corporation and government attempts to censor especially in Australia when we look at the new encryption laws.
Simon Moutter the CEO of Spark has even gone as far as to claim this is to protect the children and vulnerable people from these awful images but what about all the other awful images on the internet including from other attacks? This is a parental responsibility to censor what their children see, not that of a large corporation who want to force their opinion on their customers.
What is hate material? Something you disagree with? Who would define hate material for private organisations to censor or are they left to choose what they censor themselves? Helen Clark (former Prime Minister of NZ) and Simon Moutter seem willing to be the judge that hate material is anything they don’t like.
Open letter from Spark, Vodafone NZ and 2degrees
The brainiacs at Spark, Vodafone NZ and 2degrees sent an open letter on the 20th of March 2019 to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google in a weak attempt to justify their actions and to no doubt try and use the attack in Christchurch for pushing their agenda. I’ve only posted the key points. The full letter will be posted in another article.
You may be aware that on the afternoon of Friday 15 March, three of New Zealand’s largest broadband providers, Vodafone NZ, Spark and 2degrees, took the unprecedented step to jointly identify and suspend access to web sites that were hosting video footage taken by the gunman related to the horrific terrorism incident in Christchurch.
They fail to mention that they are now blocking sites for
- Criticism of the New Zealand Government
- Open discussion about the Christchurch attack
- Quoting parts of the manifesto
- Legitimate news sites
- The entire Russian Federal TV network
- And even news sites in other languages
That didn’t take long to expand what they are blocking, what next? Any sites that are critical of them? Where do they stop and why do they believe that it is their job as an internet provider to block access to information online? Why are they keeping the list of sites they are blocking a secret instead of posting them online? This lack of transparency is in stark contrast to what they are demanding from others.
You pay for internet access, not someone to decide what websites you can and can’t visit. These ISPs are not your parents, nor your guardian and this stand they are taking is a slippery slope that won’t just end at terrorism but whatever they feel like blocking. Would you allow your electricity provider to decide how and when you can use power, or your telephone provider to tell you who you can and can’t call? So why allow your internet provider to decide what you can and can’t view on the internet.
We acknowledge that in some circumstances access to legitimate content may have been prevented, and that this raises questions about censorship. For that we apologise to our customers. This is all the more reason why an urgent and broader discussion is required.
This is utter bollocks! They have blocked entire websites that contain thousands of different discussions, hundreds of thousands of videos and all because they may have found an uncensored discussion or a link to a video on another site or in some cases where the website was critical of the New Zealand government.
We call on Facebook, Twitter and Google, whose platforms carry so much content, to be a part of an urgent discussion at an industry and New Zealand Government level on an enduring solution to this issue.
This is the bit that shows how hypocritical these three are. The three social media providers who were the first ones to carry this video and spread it are the ones you haven’t blocked. You have instead penalised dozens and dozens of websites that have done nothing wrong and have nothing to do with New Zealand. This is the problem when villages let their idiots get together.
The reason they didn’t target Facebook, Twitter and Google is simple. It would not only cost the three ISPs customers who would leave in droves but the social media companies would have these ISPs in a courtroom before the ink had dried on their signatures. They target smaller websites who don’t have the capability to fight back, just like a bully would do when picking their next victim.
Already there are AI techniques that we believe can be used to identify content such as this video, in the same way that copyright infringements can be identified. These must be prioritised as a matter of urgency.
You believe or you know? There is a difference. I wish there was AI out there to stop fools from posting on the internet and I wouldn’t have to read this ridiculous rant from three people that have no idea what they are talking about. YouTube struggles to stop copyrighted material from being posted, so how will some magical system be able to work out that a terrorist attack is taking place from a video upload?
We have laws in place for drug smuggling but it happens all the time. We have customs officers to screen packages coming but most drugs still make it through. So how will you stop people from posting video, unless you force the platform to check every video before it is uploaded and have someone monitor all live video. Who is going to pay for this and is this yet another case of a few isolated examples being used to ruin what is a working system?
For the most serious types of content, such as terrorist content, more onerous requirements should apply, such as proposed in Europe, including take down within a specified period, proactive measures and fines for failure to do so. Consumers have the right to be protected whether using services funded by money or data.
So they claim they want to take content down within a period of time but they were quite willing to block websites immediately without notifying their paying customers or the websites involved. They have blocked news websites, news TV channels and even sites that have said they will not allow the video to be posted. They’re quite happy to be the one deciding what you access on the internet and they do this with impunity and no regard for the rights of that website, service or their customer.
If the New Zealand Government had any balls they would order the ISPs to stop their illegal activities immediately.
Who is supporting the censorship and why?
There have been thousands of instances of all manner of serious crimes and terrorist activities being uploaded and shared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (Google) so why all of a sudden are all these companies and groups demanding that this stop?
New Zealand Investment Funds demand censorship
The New Zealand Superannuation Fund, Accident Compensation Corporation, Government Superannuation Fund Authority, National Provident Fund and Kiwi Wealth have called on Facebook, Google and Twitter to take action or they will pull their investments from these companies.
They are also calling on other New Zealand and global investors to join them in seeking to control what material is posted online and the censorship of that content. No doubt if someone is critical of the New Zealand Investment Funds they will also demand that the social media companies remove it.
Yet another example of why control over censorship and the media must never be allowed to fall to large corporations. The New Zealand Superannuation Fund holds $170 million in Facebook stocks.
Australian Ethical grabs a pitchfork and joins the crowd
Australian Ethical is now considering divesting in it’s $8 million of Facebook stocks.
Full Statement | Australian Ethical mulls Facebook divestment
News Limited Lies and why LULZ.com was banned
News Limited are spreading fake news with their article by Marnie O’Neill titled “Website Kiwi Farms refuses to surrender data linked to accused Christchurch terrorist Brendan Tarrant” and their headline is “A notorious web forum has refused requests to surrender data from posts about the accused NZ terrorist, instead unleashing a profane rant.”
But what is the truth? Here is the actual request from New Zealand Police taken from the LULZ website.
At around the time of the shooting there were a number of posts and links posted on kiwifarms.net relating to the shooting and TARRANT
We would like to preserve any posts and technical data including IP addresses, email addresses etc linked to these posts pending a formal legal request .Part of an email from New Zealand Police to administrator of Kiwi Farms
This is as good as an example as any as to why censorship shouldn’t be allowed to be run by large organisations or the government. The News Limited article is a blatant distortion of the truth and LULZ.com has been banned by various ISPs in Australia and New Zealand because it published the facts.
The police wanting to collect identifiable data from a website where discussions are taken place is the real story however the poorly written and researched News Limited article only seems to only want to attack the people involved instead of looking at the facts.
ABC Australia Censorship
It’s not just News Limited distorting the truth but Australia’s ABC is once again involved in pushing their own agenda. Compare the coverage of recent attacks.
Christchurch attack | 50 killed
ABC refused to use footage of the attack and instead used some still footage from outside the mosques.
But we weren’t his target audience. All the evidence suggests this was a horrific, cold-blooded, terrorist attack aimed not at the audiences of traditional news organisations but at reaching and triggering atomised and often extreme online audiences.
ABC were quick to point that this attacker was supported online but in the following two attacks they made no mention of the support for those attackers.
The ABC showed graphic photos and videos of these attacks along with descriptions. Footage of the trucks hitting pedestrians is shown which includes footage from social media. Phones and video posted on social media are discussed in their articles not condemned.
All of these attacks were terrorism, all involved mass casualties but when you have media outlets like the ABC offering such a biased coverage you can understand why censorship is so dangerous. If the media cannot report on the facts and instead twist and distort the news to suit their own agenda the public have to be able to look at the facts and make up their own mind.
The Australian Government shows why we are so behind the rest of the world!
The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that the problem is easy to fix, maybe we should give him a keyboard, a Facebook logon and get him to slap together this AI system to detect violence in Live Streams! Because clearly an algorithm to detect hate content being uploaded on a live stream is the same as displaying an ad on your smartphone based on your browsing history. Is it any wonder why Australia is one of the most backwards countries in the world when we have leaders saying such stupid things.
If they can write an algorithm to make sure that the ads they want you to see can appear on your mobile phone, then I’m quite confident they can write an algorithm to screen out hate content on social media platformsThe Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison | 19th of March 2019
And to further show how backwards we are “He has penned a letter to the chair of June’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling for the issue of social media governance to be added to the top of the agenda.”
The Greens of course have really excelled this time with their desire to have companies like Facebook become public owned like essential infrastructure but he clearly forgot that Australia’s essential infrastructure has all been sold off!
“Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale said social media had become essential infrastructure and a debate was needed about public ownership of these organisations.”
You just have enough people who can monitor this stuff and make sure it gets taken down quicklyRichard Di Natale | Leaders of the Greens party | 19th of March 2019
Brilliant idea Dick but 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single MINUTE. How do you propose that that have enough people to watch 18,000 minutes uploaded each minute given this goes on 24 hours a day 7 days a week? Just to have enough staff to cover a 24 hour period if going to need over 72,000 people and this doesn’t take into account time off or weekends so lets say 150,000 just to watch videos on YouTube alone and they currently have 3-4000 employees.
“Labor leader Bill Shorten echoed Mr Morrison’s sentiment that the answer lied in programming.”
I do not believe it is beyond the technological capacity for some of the richest, largest, most powerful, cleverest, most sophisticated businesses in the world, not to be able to better monitor the material before they publish itBill Shorten | Leader of the Labor party | 19th of March 2019
There is no better demonstration on why Australia has no future when our three leaders can be so utterly stupid.
Source of the stupidity | Scott Morrison wants crackdown on social media companies after sharing of Christchurch shootings footage
New Zealand Police – 10 years for possession
New Zealand police have warned that just having, viewing or sharing the video from the attack can lead to a maximum jail term of 10 years. This post was removed before I could screenshot it so this image is from Nick Monroe on Twitter.
New Zealand police ask you to upload video of the attack but if you didn’t film the video you face being arrested for distributing objectionable material. So does this also mean that if you report a crime that you are not a party to that you face being charged with that crime?
Police have arrested a man on the 17th of March 2019 in relation to offences relating to distribute or possess an objectionable publication. It is not clear as to details of his crime.
More arrests have been made and most have been refused bail until their next appearance in April.
Woman arrested for posting comments on her Facebook page!
New Zealand Police have even arrested people for their fashion!
Some workplaces have fired employees for viewing or sharing the video which raises the question of where is the line drawn? The live footage of 9/11 with people jumping to their deaths for example was broadcast on the internet and TV and is still available on YouTube.
This video that was broadcast live over the internet to millions of people can now see those same people facing 10 years in prison or 14 years if they shared a copy? Who decides what is objectionable and how is the average person supposed to understand that New Zealand is one of the most censored countries in the world with laws that can apply retrospectively once the chief censor has classified a video!
The pattern has been an established one: the state will always — always — use a crisis, real or invented, to enhance its political muscle. Most of the time, this is done at the cost of individual liberties.Nazarul Islam | Probing censorship, clamped on Christchurch fallout | 22nd of March 2019
Classification of the video
Classification of the video was not performed until the 19th of March but this only applied to the full video, if it has been edited in any way or reduced in length it has to be reclassified.
The Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has called on Facebook to share the names of everyone who shared the video with police.
The Chief Censor David Shanks has said that the official classification is retrospective so police and enforcement agencies can prosecute for sharing or viewing.
Facebook’s VP for global policy Monika Bickert said they would not normally share account details unless there was an imminent threat of violence.
On Saturday the 23rd of March 2019 the 75 page manifesto has been classified as objectionable because the chief censor David Shanks believes that it promotes murder and terrorism.
Possessing, sharing or downloading the document or the contents of it is now a criminal offence under New Zealand law. Shanks has asked anyone who sees it to report it and if you have a copy or a printout delete or destroy it.
If you didn’t know the material was objectionable and you were found in possession of it, a maximum fine of $10,000 could apply, If you knew the content was objectionable and were found in possession of it – the legal test here is ‘knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the publication is objectionable’ – a maximum term of 14 years imprisonment could apply.Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen, 19th of March 2019
In the case of the Christchurch clip, the situation has been complicated by Google-owned YouTube’s decision to allow edited versions of the footage.
We have not classified any edited versions of the video, but we are working to support the DIA’s’ Digital Safety Unit who are providing advice to media organisations to support a lawful and principled approach to reporting on this matter.Chief Censor David Shanks, 19th of March 2019
Censorship in New Zealand
Censorship is rife in New Zealand and this ranges from books being banned and the New Zealand International Film Festival is the only one in the world that has to pay to have all its films classified.
Ways to get around the censorship
Like the Australian Government website blocks these are performed at a DNS level so circumnavigating this is reasonably easy at the moment.
I’m not 100% sure on the legality of VPN’s in Australia as there have been questions around their use since the Australian Government introduced laws to force companies that encrypt data to provide them the key to access your data.
I’ll put together a better guide later on but in the meantime you can do this a few ways.
Change the DNS in your router
In the router configuration change the DNS settings from your ISPs to Google and/or Clouflares
- Google DNS | Primary 22.214.171.124 | secondary 126.96.36.199
- Cloudflare DNS | Primary 188.8.131.52 | secondary 184.108.40.206
Use a VPN | Virtual Private Network
Use a VPN from outside Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes countries, these are countries that collect and share surveillance data and they record your activities online
- Five Eyes includes many agencies inside Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States.
- Nine Eyes includes the countries above but adds Denmark, France, Netherlands and Norway.
- Fourteen Eyes adds Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain.
This list is not exhaustive but these are VPNs located outside of the Fourteen eyes.