Earlier I wrote an article on a video that has been removed from Youtube on request of the Belgian national rail road operator (NMBS). This video showed someone protesting the strikes by making a fake announcement on a train. On the 25th of March the owner of the blocked account notified me with good news. After a review Youtube decided that the video in question was not in violation of the “Youtube’s community guidelines”.
That Youtube restored the situation is obviously a good thing. However there is still is something fundamentally wrong with the attitude Youtube takes in cases like this. There is an important principle in modern democracies that was not respected by Youtube, “The Presumption of Innocence”. A better procedure for Youtube to follow would be to properly examine any claim before taking video’s off-line. This approach would be more just.
Youtube might have serious faults in it’s policies. The real vital question is why would the NMBS do this? It suffers no commercial damage from this video. It can’t suffer any commercial damage at all considering it has a monopoly on passenger transport in Belgium. It might have suffered some image damage from this action. But it obviously suffers considerably more image damage from the strikes itself. To my knowledge there has never been any attempt to silence the strikers.
I think our government should investigate from who within the NMBS the action to take down this video originated. It’s obvious that this person has no respect for the right to freedom of speech. A reprimand for this person seems in order.
Youtube community guidelines
On January 26th Twitter posted a message on it’s blog explaining it’s new ability to censor tweets on a per country basis. The post by Twitter can be found here. Up until know Twitter could only pull tweets on the global level.
In the old system when Twitter was ordered to remove a message or an account by a certain country the information would be removed from Twitter entirely. In the case that the origin of the message is not the country that want it removed this could lead to a situation where a oppressive government is enforcing its censorship outside it’s borders. I don’t know if this situation actually occurred. In the new system the message would only be removed in the country where the message has been found to be in violation.
This definitely seems to be a lesser evil. However I fear that this will increase the amount of times this type of action is taken. In the post they give a perfectly reasonable example of laws that prohibit spreading of pro-Nazi propaganda in France and Germany. I doubt this is the main reason for this new policy. More likely Twitter wants to keep the Chinese government happy. Thus allowing it to operate without problem on this important market.
Extensive use of this feature that Twitter now offers to oppressive governments will make it for more difficult for opposition in those countries to get their message across. It has the potential to cripple movements like the “Arab Spring”.
At first sight there is nothing we can do about this practice as they are following the law in all involved countries. I however want to propose new legislation that I would hope to have Twitter reconsider. In the case a foreign government has messages from one of its inhabitants pulled I don’t see how we can intervene. However in the case of twitter removing posts of residents of Western countries criticizing China for example we must react. It cannot be allowed that a Western company takes away our right of free speech on the global Internet, even on just a part of it. When this case occurs, Twitter should be fined by our courts.
I this article I responded solely to the Twitter post. I however believe that other on-line services have or will use a similar system if nothing is done. Maybe the others don’t communicate as openly about these policies then Twitter.
A follow up is availalble!
A video portraying a humorous action against union protest has been taken down from on-line video sharing site Youtube. This video was made on December 23th of last year, the day after a national strike of rail road personnel.
It shows students from Bruges making an announcement on the intercom system of a train broadcasting the following message: “Today all train travel is free. People who have already bought a ticket can get reimbursed from the train conductor. NMBS/SNCB hopes to compensate yesterdays discomfort in this way.” (Translated from Dutch)
To be able to make this announcement no security features had to be circumvented at all. As the video clearly shows there is no lock-picking necessary to access the intercom system on-board Belgian trains. All that is needed is a generic key that can be bought in any hardware store. This same key for example is also commonly used to open fuse boxes.
The link to original video is redirected to a short note on Youtube. The author of this video made a little presentation on the how and why at the 28C3 conference on technology, society and utopia in Berlin. The video of this presentation is still available on-line. It has the complete original video embedded.
For me this is a clear example of unlawful censorship. At this time it is not know to me who took the initiative to take down this video. But I would like to invite you all to find reason for the take down in Youtube’s community guidelines. I think it is clear that we are currently living in a society in with it is to easy for company’s and governments to censor individual actions to critique them.
Original video (blocked)
Youtube community guidelines
28C3 presentation containing the video
Media coverage of the original incident in De Standaard (Dutch) and on Focus-TV (Dutch)
Site of another action responding to the strike (Dutch)
Yesterday evening in the buildings of Flanders DC in Leuven a group of intrepid ideologist founded the Belgian chapter of the Open Knowledge foundation (OKFN). I was honoured to be one of them. The goals of the organization will be to promote the release, use and enrichment of open data, information and knowledge in Belgium.
OKFN Belgium is an NPO according to Belgian law which has it official address in Ghent. The first board is made up out of Pieter Colpaert (@pietercolpaert), Lieven Janssen (@lievenjanssen), Katleen Janssen (@katleenjanssen), Stef Roelandt (@stefroelandt) and Wouter Vanden Hove (@woutvandenhove).
There are already some events planned that OKFN will support for this year:
- 13 Februari 2012 – Mobile Apps for Culture
- March/April 2012 – Apps For Ghent 2
- October 2012 – Apps For Leuven
- June/July 2012 – Apps For West
For more information about OKFN Belgium see the website http://okfn.be or follow the foundation on twitter @okfnbe.
Welcome to this blog. My name is Koen De Voegt. On this blog I will try to write about the stuff that keeps me busy. The things that interest me most are related to the Internet and it’s effects on current society. I’ll talk about things like open source software, open hardware, open data, creative commons music and basically everything that is DIY or community driven. This is also where the title of my blog “Koen opens up” refers to.
Why English? Well simply because It will allow me reach more people as English is the language that is understood by the most people. But as soon as I can afford a secretary to do my translations I’m sure to make everything available in Dutch as well 😉
I also intend to publish about a few older things that I’ve done earlier in life as well. Dates on the articles will be the data things have occurred not necessary when they where posted.