Censorship

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Today after a disconnection from one of my normal IRC servers I found myself connected to a Singapore based one and was treated to the following MOTD

Users who use StarHub’s computing facilites are requested to strictly observe the below Code of Ethics in addition to the exisitng rules and regulations governing the proper usage of such facilities.

Under Singapore Law, a person convicted under the Computer Misuse Act 1993, is liable to a fine of not exceeding S$50,000 or to imprisonment

This got me pondering, what if I broke the “law”? Would the Singapore government pursue it? I mean, I am not in that country and although I would like to go and visit it, I certainly have no plans to do so in the present.
Would I be arrested on arrival at Changi, or would they just not allow me entry into the country? Would I be extradited?

What would be considered a crime under the Computer Misuse Act 1993? I certainly am not planning on hacking any machines, stealing credit card details or setting up an email scam so impressive it would make a Nigerian national sit up and take notice.

First on the list is this – 1. Use of obscene, distasteful, derogatory, vulgar or sexually language in IRC channels or messaging is strictly prohibited.

First cab of the rank is going to be impossible to curtail. A lot of channels on IRC not only turn a blind eye to swearing, they expect it and the ones that do clamp down on it usually don’t do it successfully anyway. Instantly I am a criminal under Singapore law.

2. Users are not to allowed to use StarHub’s computing facility to create, store, display or transmit pornography or other materials banned under Singapore Law.

I would imagine this would include links to pornographic sites too. I don’t know if DCC (direct client to client protocol) would be included in this, assuming that both computers are outside Singapore this is not going to be a problem as file transfer is a direct connection between the two machines, bypassing the IRC server>
OK, I think I am pretty safe on this one, I know where to find porn if i want it so I don’t need to ask some IRC random for any. On the same token I certainly won’t be sending out files. If they want porn they can bloody well find it themselves. HINT : Try google!

3. Users are not allowed to transmit, display, or broadcast false messages under the pretense of any person, department or organisation.

I am safe here too, although I imagine that there are a lot of horny net geeks crossing the line with this one. Guys pretending to be girls because they can’t pick up real girls. You think it doesn’t happen, well it does, and anyone who has spent more than about 5 weeks on IRC becomes well versed in spotting the fakes.
I guess this would also carry across to people lying about their cars, social standing, sexual prowess, etc.

4. Harassing or intentionally denying or degrading another person’s legitimate use of computing facilities such as deliberately irritating messages on someone’s computer screen is an offence.

I would LOVE to see what the Singapore police are going to do with this one. Harassing is part of IRC culture. Say something stupid and you can expect to get flamed for it. Intentionally denying is probably more serious but if our local cops can’t seem to do anything about that one I don’t see what foreign police agencies will be able to achieve.
Quite a while ago I had a run in with a script kiddie who kept packeting my modem until I got disconnected. That problem ceased once I went onto broadband but I had no help from his ISP who were willing to turn a blind eye to it, and no help from the police as there was no loss of property and no physical threat. In fact it was implied that people have to accept a certain degree of risk when going into chat communities!

The trouble with the Internet is the whole “global” thing. It is very hard to police something on a territorial level when the thing you are trying to police doesn’t actually have borders. If an American logs into a Singapore server and then says “Fuck” in a channel he is violating Singapore’s computer law, however at the same time he is protected by his countries constitution that guarantees freedom of speech.

Australians are not so secure in this freedom, we accept that we have freedom of speech but we do not have the powerful all consuming law that protects it. Also Australia is not unlike Singapore in aspects of trying to control the Internet. Former minister for communications, information technology and the arts, Senator Richard Alston was once described as the worlds biggest Luddite for his attitude on Internet censorship…

And it still hasn’t stopped any of us getting porn!


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