March for Free Expression

The next phase

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Policy Meeting, 22nd April

We have been offered use of the members' library at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, London WC1 for Saturday 22nd April 2006.

The purpose of the meeting will be to move this campaign onto a proper long term footing, draft a policy agenda and formulate a firm strategy for advancing our agenda. Officers will be elected.

The meeting will be open to everyone who would like to be involved, but we ask everyone who wishes to attend to let us know their names so that we can be sure we have sufficient seating and other facilities. Some people have already emailed us to express an interest in attending and I will be replying by the weekend. If you haven't had confirmation by Monday, or want to register your interest in attending, please mail us.


Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Excellent news, it's in my diary.

12:06 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

I have been pondering this question and I would like to throw some ideas out there.

I think that "free speech" is primarily composed of the right to peaceful protest and freedom of information.

We often forget that we are currently living through the biggest revolution that the human race has ever seen; it is happening faster, quicker and with less blood shed than any other revolution that we have lived through.

Freedom of information has never been stronger, ideas once they are out propagate, replicate and mutate at faster and faster speeds. We have

* blogs \ web, everyone can be a publisher. Anyone can make propaganda.
* Secure communications, a third party cannot snoop our conversations
* True anonymity, who the hell is this / that troll?
* ability to form large groups quickly, mobile phones, flash mobs etc

Just five years ago it would have been impossible for the cartoon incident to have happened. Once started it used the email, newspapers, the web, and mobile phones to spread the propaganda and organize the demonstrations.

Our government are terrified of the future, how do you manage such a society? They seem to be locking down all our rights very quickly and we are headed to a surveillance state.

I believe that our policy statement must frame free speech in this new world order. We must seek to reapply the concepts of free speech to this new society in way that protects us form the government and the government form us.

I’ve plenty more on this set of ideas as been pondering them for a while. I’m very interested in what others have to say.



12:01 pm  
Blogger Henrik said...

TFI said:

Just five years ago it would have been impossible for the cartoon incident to have happened. Once started it used the email, newspapers, the web, and mobile phones to spread the propaganda and organize the demonstrations.

Actually, something quite similar did happen, 17 years ago. An author, Salman Rushdie, had written an extensive parody of Muhammad, called "The Satanic Verses", where he used an entire book to mock the poor fellow :) That upset the Islamic world a bit, and when Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran issued a fatwa to kill him, violent demonstrations flared in many places.

That triggered a pretty solid western solidarity behind Salman Rushdie, who recently paid back by supporting Jyllands-Posten unconditionally:


The solidarity behind Jyllands-Posten was suprisingly timid, and it takes work & courage to build it back.

Best wishes for your further activity!

12:34 pm  
Blogger feste clown said...

The dangers of wireless speech.

With the advance of mobile technology and the accessibility of the web, it is becoming easier to organize, orchestrate, and propagate public movements. Within hours pictures from rallies and demonstrations are beamed across the globe to countries with no or little concept of a public movement. "What are these people doing? Why are they not happy when they live in Britain, America the 'free' world?"

Are we giving them ideas? Should censorship extend to the protection of 'free thinking'?

I could text the words Tianamen Square to my friends pda in China, if he gets caught reading it he could face prison. My fault? His fault? China's fault?

I have always believed when you are invited to someone else's house (country) whether you like the wallpaper or not you keep a civil tongue and remain polite. But the web/blog/mobile future upon us has removed the physical presence and it is too easy to forget when you are having a go at wallpaper 5000 miles away. And I am not breaking any laws as in my house it's allowed (for now) to voice my opinions on wallpaper.

The Rolling Stones recent visit to China saw them omitting 5 songs from the play list so as not to 'insult the people of China'. Easy for them to do it (too easy!!) as they were there, playing a gig. But can they delete the same five songs from all the albums, downloads, bootlegs available throughout China? When they are back in blighty - do they care?

It seems distance makes the heart grow braver...

I don't really know the answers, it seems, sometimes, 'how to manage such a society' too big to comprehend....

Answers on a postcard or presumably by text?!

6:05 pm  
Blogger Will B said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:57 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Thanks for the reply people, to busy to comment right now, but this is what I was thinking about on the tube this morning for policy ideas:

* Revoke the existing Blasphemy laws
* Revoke Libel laws (American system is better)
* Removal of Religious schools
* Redefine and Protect peaceful protest
* Submission of wiretap evidence in court (???)

I’ve read articles bemoaning that attendance at speakers corner is being reduced, I think that this is a mister-noma (I cannot spell) why sit in the park listening to hot political discussion when you can flick on the net and be assured that you are going to have your say, even if no one reads it.

I think that in many instances free speech is on the up, not down.



10:48 am  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:15 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:46 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

I think that Free Speech has developed a bug, it is slightly broken.

When the concept of free speech was introduced covered me shouting out in a crowd my message, when they say "who said that", the people around me can point and say "he did". Even after the printing press was first introduced they were (mostly) able to track who printed the libels and make them accountable for what they said.

One of the problems with free speech + the internet is that I can say what ever I like and at no point can I be traced and made to be accountable for my words.

This accountability should not include having violence set upon me, nor being persecuted for those words, but I ought be responsible for them, I ought be able to stand by them and answer further question.

When the internet was born, so was the “troll”. Trolls often speak ONLY to cause offence and stir trouble “Hey if I say this, there, I’ll cause a bun fight!” and off they go. People are brave if they don’t have this link to being accountable for what they are saying and have little interest in reconciling them with others.

I'm not sure what benefit completely anonymous speech brings the human race. Protect the speaker, but throw daylight on the trolls.



3:49 pm  
Blogger feste clown said...

sorry tfi tried over 10 times to post a reply last night to no avail. Not sure if it's my home pc (at work now - naughty naughty!) I'll try to re-post later.

Cheers Feste

8:52 am  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Looking forward to your post feste clown, I suspect your failures where more to do with blogger than your home PC. I find it often to be flakey especially in the evenings.

12:19 am  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Henrik, point taken.

How this happened this time was very different.

Some thing simular is happening in America. In very little time huge numbers were organised, check it out:

Also another good example is the story of the "dog poo woman"

I like reading the economist :D



5:06 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Bit naughty, but in case you cannot get to the article here it is:

Free speech and witch hunts

A train, a dog and a backlash against growing “cyber violence”

EARLIER this year, the photograph of a young South Korean woman who failed to clean up after her dog in a railway carriage appeared on the internet. Web-users throughout the country co-operated to reveal her identity, and for weeks the woman, quickly dubbed the “dogshit girl”, became the number one hate figure among the country's cyber community. Vicious and defamatory messages appeared on the internet and her university website was bombarded with hate mail.

Such cases of “cyber violence” are reaching alarming proportions in South Korea, prompting a shift in public attitudes towards the exercise of unbridled free speech on the web. In the early days of the dog incident, bloggers were unconditionally critical of the woman's anti-social behaviour. Now, criticism has been replaced by growing concern about witch-hunts.

South Korea has the highest rate of broadband penetration in the world. This, together with the tightly knit nature of Korean society, has given these cyber-attacks a brutal edge. The victims of digital persecution range from the female Korean singer who was forced to deny wild and unsubstantiated rumours that she was a man to the schoolgirls whose photos and personal details were splashed on the net after allegedly driving a classmate to suicide.

The speed of technological change, as well as the cases of attacks meted out over the internet, has left the authorities struggling to respond. The government has said that freedom of expression must be balanced with responsibility as it considers measures to crack down on harassment over the web. One proposal would require Korean web users to register their personal information before leaving messages on bulletin boards—a measure supported by the vast majority of citizens, according to a recent government-backed online survey.

However, critics of the “real-names system” oppose the plan, saying it undermines the freewheeling nature of the internet and would suppress legitimate criticism and minority opinions. They also question its feasibility. The canine incident has sparked public debate, but that will be of cold comfort to the woman involved, whose reputation has been annihilated. She has reportedly been forced to drop out of university.

5:14 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

One of the problems with free speech + the internet is that I can say what ever I like and at no point can I be traced and made to be accountable for my words.

Not quite true.

Someone calling himself "The Doc" was sacked from his job in the Scottish Parliament last year for posting several offensive and libellous statements on a political blog. He obviously thought the same as you.

More recently, from the Times:,,2-2097470,00.html

Chat room insults lead to internet libel victory
By Adam Sherwin, Media Correspondent

A WOMAN who posted false sexual allegations against a UKIP parliamentary candidate on the internet has become the first person in a British chat room to be successfully sued for libel.

Tracy Williams was ordered yesterday to pay £10,000 damages to Michael Keith Smith and issued with a High Court restraining order banning her from abusing him further on any website.

Mr Keith Smith, 53, who fought the Portsmouth North seat last year, was falsely accused of being a sex offender and “racist bigot” in an internet chatroom. He sued Williams, claiming that she had used an alias to make serious and false accusations against him on a group discussion website in April 2004.

9:04 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Hi Sir Percy,

Glad to see you on this thread.

Interesting link, although I don't believe that it detracts much from what I've said.

I'd like to know how they traced her, from IP address? from her email account? from her post details of her identity? The fact is that I can make a completely untraceable identity, I have that technical skill, she didn't.

The other point, somewhat unrelated, is that I believe that the onus on UK libel laws are wrong, it is not up to her to prove that he is a sexist bigot, it should be up to him to prove that he is not.



11:19 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

I know that "The Doc" had his IP address traced back to a certain office in the Scottish Parliament.

I came across the following transcript of a Radio 2 interview of Mike Smith by Jeremy Vine which sheds a bit more light on the other case:

MS: The IP number (of the person posting offensive entries to the chat room) uniquely identifies the internet service provider. Once the Internet Service Provider (the company providing access to the internet to Williams) realised that I had a Prime Face case of defamation they co-operated and gave the details (of the real name and location of Williams – who had been using a pseudonym to post offensive remarks about MS.) But as soon as she heard from solicitors she started abusing me even more.

Tim Kavan, a solicitor, told JV “This case is ground-breaking. It is amazing that there have not been more cases of this kind. Usually the message board/chat room moderator deals with disputes of this kind and offensive messages are simply taken down.”

JV responded “The (internet) chatroom is the equivalent of writing in ink on paper. Mr. Smith had to get a court order to get the details of the poster (Williams). There is a significant risk of getting tracked.”

Mark Stevens (S), another solicitor (who was against the libel action taken by MS), said to JV “This is a dark day for free speech. I understand the hurt that Mr. (Mike) Smith has experienced. In newsgroups (message boards/ chatrooms) you see free speech in its purest form. On one side there was a woman who was mildly deranged… (laughter from JV who pointed out that he paused before making the remark. Mark Stevens said Williams would probably now criticise him) … and Mr. Smith (MS) who was making reasonably postings. Most people will see the truth in this.”

JV: “Without libel laws, what defence to sex offender allegations does he (MS) have?”

S: “He (MS) denies it and the readers (of the offensive messages posted on the internet by Tracy Williams) make up their own minds.”

MS: I was astounded to hear the views of S. I read his article in the Times two days ago. The purpose of libel laws should be to protect the innocent from allegations that are not true. How would you feel, S, if these allegations (from Williams) had been made about you?

S: In a newsgroup I am going to find that I am able to defend myself with more free speech. I have a right to respond to ludicrous allegations by using more speech. People will come to the right conclusions. I don’t believe libel laws are the right way to do this. Speech meets speech without resorting to libel action.”

End of Jeremy Vine (JV) interview of Mike Smith (MS) on BBC Radio Two.

I can also state, without any threat of libel action, that Ms. Williams is, or was, an enthusiastic supporter of the BNP.

9:12 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

As for your other point, I'm not sure if I've understood you correctly:

I believe that the onus on UK libel laws are wrong, it is not up to her to prove that he is a sexist bigot, it should be up to him to prove that he is not.

So if I called you a “racist bigot” you're saying that you would have to prove that you were not one in order to win the case against me.

Is that right?

9:26 pm  
Blogger Silky said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:58 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Hi Sir Percy,

Now that is an interneting piece of additional information. In technical terms it would be easier to trace someone with a static IP address than a dynamic one. I would hazarded this might be the case.

It certainly more difficult to trace joe blogs out of AOL simply because there is a larger group of people to hunt through.

However I will concede that it is not impossible and if someone really is prepared to a go way they are able to trace you. Check out how they caught Kevin Mitnick.

It remains an awful lot of effort to trace someone, you have to sift through logs, contact lots of ISP's and demand their engineers help you out. The most effective way to have anonymity would be to own a bot net and have that act on your behalf.


Yeah, that is exactly right.



2:01 pm  
Blogger Pub Philosopher said...

Is the meeting still on?

11:54 am  
Blogger feste clown said...

Is the meeting still on?

2:38 pm  
Blogger feste clown said...

Sorry Pub just noticed you'd already asked!

2:39 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

On the subject of freedom of speech, a member of my political forum has just drawn my attention to this old post from 1 October 2004 on Robert Spencer's "Dhimmi Watch" concerning Tony Bennett's, comments about Muhammad, when a little over 50, marrying Aisha, who was nine.

The original story appeared in the Star but in spite of that it's an interesting read and quite relevant to the debate that appears on this blog.

Interestingly, someone calling themselves "Voltaire" makes several comments.


10:45 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

I'll just try that link again...

...that's better!

10:51 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Sir Percy, very naughty, but compliments to your poster that found this.

Assuming that it was him, I don't see anything that bad in there. Darwin and the many generations of our royal family has proven the mertits of a wide gene pool.

Is stating fact forbidden?



10:24 am  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

I think that it's worth saving the link for the future!

Who knows when the facts about Muhammad's marriage might come in handy again?

Talk about setting a good example...

1:57 pm  
Blogger Pub Philosopher said... this meeting still on or what?

5:56 pm  
Blogger Anonymous said...

What time's the meeting?
I'd like to attend - anonymously of course!

5:58 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

Good to hear from you again Anonymous I was concerned that you had left us! Be great to shake you by the hand tomorrow :)

11:37 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

TFI - did you go to the meeting?

9:53 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

TFI - did you go to the meeting?

Yes I did, but I did miss the second session as I'd arranged to do house hunting stuff in the assumption that it was all off.

It was fairly interesting, but little got done or achieved while I was there (yeah, yeah I'm always disruptive to productivity). I'd like another meeting with more warning and a agenda.

Sir Percy, I guess that you weren't there?



3:44 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

No, as I mentioned elsewhere, I was in France over that weekend.

The whole movement seems to have gone a bit flat at the moment doesn't it?

I suppose that this may be because the "threat" has gone a bit quiet too.

Thursday's election results should be interesting.

10:23 pm  
Blogger Gos said...

In the Internet Libel case, commented on, on this board, you were wondering how Smith traced the defendent. Smith threatened Yahoo with legal action if they did not supply him with the IP address, (as I the defendent used the option to hide IP ), they gave him the IP, a simple whois lookup gave him the information that it was an NTL IP, so he paid NTL £5,000 to obtain the name and address of the IP. How do I know this? Because I am the defendent.
The outcome is he wasteed a lot of money and has not been able to recover a single penny. He did admit he already knew he wouldn't be able to recover the award or costs, because he got a private investrigator to check me out and discovered I didn't have any assets. He claims he did it to humiliate me in the eyes of the world's press.
It should also be noted that Smith was the moderator of the forum where the alleged libel comments were made. It was a setup from start to finish.

And apparently quite legal:

11:58 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home