Four Pillars: On the borderless blogosphere

  • Many financial institutions banned staff access to internet mail. So the staff used proxy sites.
  • Then they banned (or at least tried to ban) proxy sites. So the staff used Google to get to the site.
  • Then they banned that (or at least tried to). So the staff used Babelfish or its equivalent.

I could go on, but won’t. Point made. Where I work, people came in one sunny day to find access to Google Groups had been banned. Compliance had made an apparently valid request to ban access to some elements of Google Groups, and the only response that Information Security could legitimately provide was to ban access to all of Google Groups. Something to do with the lists we bought. There was uproar. And we couldn’t really find anyone who would stand up and say “I decided to do this”. No matter, the key thing was that Google Groups access was banned. And so IT staff regularly went home to work, because they needed access to Google Groups to do their work. And over time we worked out an elegant-ish solution, parts of Google Groups became unbanned by request, all you had to do was explicitly state the group you wanted to belong to and why, and access was granted. And we lived happily e. a.
We live in an intensely regulated highly litigious society, and this sort of thing is part of the price we pay as a result.

Which would be hard, except for the sheer joy of the unintended consequences of sledgehammer actions.

Internet access is not that easy to regulate or control, and it is easy therefore to look for sledgehammer approaches.

Now let’s take a look at what’s been happening in India. [Here I am summarising aggressively, so please do allow me some poetic licence in the process]

  • The Indian Government feels that a small number of inflammatory and abusive and religious-intolerant sites should be blocked. It tries to be responsible and proactive. Try being the operative word.
  • Some of these sites are nothing more than blogs, and are therefore hosted on blogging infrastructures.
  • Government says to relevant agency, block these sites.
  • Agency passes instruction to Indian ISPs. Instructions are appropriately amorphous.
  • ISPs can’t do this easily, so they go sledgehammer. Bans galore in Bangalore.
  • Many blog sites become inaccessible. But not consistently.
  • This inaccessibility is neither uniform nor ubiquitous, and in no way comprehensive. Or for that matter comprehensible.
  • So the bloggers go to intermediate sites where there are no such barriers.
  • One such site is pkblogs.
  • Which, I believe, was created to give Pakistanis access to the blogosphere in unconstrained form, reacting to the cartoon backlash.

So we have Indians, denied access in their own country, (denied access as a result of a sledgehammer response to an apparently reasonable Government request), going to a “Pakistani” site (itself formed in response to another sledgehammer) in order to read their own blogs.

Or something like that. Hands across borders.
Snowballs, like nature, abhor vacuums. The blogosphere is borderless. The genie is so out of the bottle it needs a passport to get back. And genies don’t do passports.

Let me know what you think

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