Being offended

There is an old story about the Buddha and an angry old man which goes something like this.

Each day the Buddha would go to the market and each day, an angry old man would come up to him and start hurling insults and abuse at him. Each day, the Buddha continues smiling and minding his own business.
After a week, the old man is so curious about why the Buddha doesn’t react, he has to ask him why he continues to smile despite all the abuse. The Buddha replies:

Buddha, with the same smile still on his face looks at the old man and asks “If I were to bring you a gift tomorrow morning all wrapped up in a beautiful box would you accept it?” to which the old man replies “Absolutely not, I would take nothing from the likes of you!”. “Ah ha” the Buddha replies “Well if I were to offer you this gift and you were to refuse then who would this gift belong to?”. “It would still belong to you of course” answers the old man. “And so the same goes with your anger, when I choose not to accept your gift of anger , does it not then remain your own?”
(See the full story on page 2)

Continue reading Being offended

Je suis Charlie

I am Charlie

Earlier today, gunmen entered the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, gunning down 12 people in cold blood. The reason: the magazine published cartoons of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. This is why it is necessary to speak out against fanatical religious beliefs and to defend the right to free speech. That’s what Charlie Hebdo stood for. That’s what 12 people died for today.

How dangerous is the ITU?

The ITU, the International Telecommunications Union is the UN agency for Information and Communication Technologies. The ITU is “committed to connecting all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their means”. Sounds like a very noble commitment, doesn’t it? It’s odd then, that the potentially biggest threat to the free and open Internet as we know it today, comes from this very agency.  The ITU will hold a world conference in Dubai this December 3rd and there could be something sneaky going on behind closed doors. Continue reading How dangerous is the ITU?

CleanIT opens doors

Last month, I blogged about the Clean IT Project. The aim of this project is to examine the question “if we can reduce the impact of the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, without affecting our online freedom”, however a look at a leaked document revealed that the project got somewhat derailed. The leaked document seemed to propose Big Brother-like restrictions and dragnet-style monitoring of all European subjects citizens. Continue reading CleanIT opens doors

Why the “child porn argument” is invalid

I’ve remarked before on the way the “child porn argument” is being abused to push privacy violating measures through parliaments. In short, it often boils down to this: Police or justice department needs access to “x”. Parliament asks (if we’re lucky): “Doesn’t that violate the privacy of “y”? Response: “Yes, but it will help us stop child porn. Please, won’t somebody think of the children?” Parliament: “Oh, okay then…” End of discussion because everybody is against child porn, right? Yes of course, most people are. No member of parliament wants to be seen as someone who would stop measures that could help the fight against child porn. Which is why this argument is wrong, it’s a discussion stopper. I’ve rarely seen it explained more clearly than here.

“We must be free to insult each other”

If you’ve taken the time to read the page describing what this blog is all about, you will have seen that I describe myself there as a free speech radical. I believe that free speech is absolutely necessary if a democracy is to function at all. I therefore believe that any form of censorship is objectionable, apart from self-censorship. Continue reading “We must be free to insult each other”

“Hand over those decryption keys…or else”

Another day, another worrying proposal from the Dutch government. As we await the formation of a new cabinet, Dutch minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten is seeking to change Dutch law to make it mandatory for suspects of certain crimes to hand over their decryption keys so that law enforcement officers can have access to their private data. Failure to comply would constitute a criminal offence. Continue reading “Hand over those decryption keys…or else”