Whither the Wild, Wild Web?

Steven J. Searle

Web Master, TRON Web

TRON Web, as some TRON Web readers know, is a part-time endeavor by a semi-retired guy living in Tokyo and working out of home. That might leave some people wondering what I do in my spare time. The answer is that I spend most of it scouring the World Wide Web looking for information on things that interest me, and, believe me, there are a lot of things that interest me. Moreover, since the Web has almost no censorship where I live, I have access to multiple viewpoints on almost any topic I can think up, and that's what really fascinates me about the Web. People argue a topic from every conceivable viewpoint, various types of evidence are presented, tempers flare, insults are hurled, and then onlookers unleash waves of comments for or against a viewpoint that ultimately allow Web watchers like myself to form opinions. In a way, the World Wide Web is like the Wild, Wild West of yesteryear. There're very few rules, and if the ones that exist seem stifling, you're free to go somewhere else and do whatever you want.

In addition to being an information junkie, another reason I spend so much time looking at the Web is that I want to absorb as much information as I can from it before widespread censorship comes into practice. People who choose to limit their knowledge to that provided by standard educational curricula and mainstream news sources would probably be shocked to learn that the Web is filled with information that their teachers and mainstream news media organizations have suppressed. I'm personally of the opinion that the reason there is so much pornography on the Web is that it has been deliberately put there to be used as an excuse in the future to "clean up" the Web, and when the pornography is cleaned up, politically embarrassing "unsubstantiated and hurtful content loaded with conspiracy theories" will simultaneously be cleaned up. The reason I say this is because the pornographers are giving away way too much product for free, which has the added benefit of keeping idle minds away from suppressed politically embarrassing information in the present.

Incredibly, there is already creeping censorship of the Web taking place at this very moment, and I do not mean legally based censorship in Saudi Arabia or China to filter out adult content or political criticism of the party in power. The western news media would like you to believe that's the only type of Web censorship that exists in the world today, but it isn't. There is also censorship of a more subtle nature going on in the U.S. and European countries. What I am referring to are moves currently under way in the West to censor Web content that "entities with political agendas" consider objectionable. These moves are based on extralegal methods at present--legal censorship measures in the West might might be enacted in the future as part of "anti-terrorism" measures--and they are aimed at a wide variety of content: adult, business, current affairs, financial, historical, political, religious, etc. Having watched this creeping censorship for a long time, let me give you a list of the methods that I have observed to date. They are as follows:

Extralegal Web Content Censorship Methods 
Client Web content filter This is a piece of software intended to block the viewing of certain Web content based on URL lists and key word lists. Client Web content filters were originally created to prevent children from viewing Web sites with adult content, but entities with political agendas forced the developers to expand those lists to included content they find objectionable. Client Web content filters are said to be in use also in public libraries.
Server Web content filter This software performs the same functions as the above software in the same manner but at the server level, thus allowing Web content blocking on LANs and WANs at cheaper cost. Server Web content filters are used by corporations, government organizations, and even large ISPs who have succumb to lobbying by entities with political agendas.
Server hacker attacks Servers that contain content that entities with political agendas view as objectionable are liable to suffer hacker attacks by their agents. A hacker attack could be as simple as an e-mail to the Web master with malicious software attached to it. The most sophisticated hacker attacks on servers are done by highly skilled professionals and usually take the Web site off line temporarily, and they could even include taking down many other Web sites along the route to cover the tracks of the hacker.
Search engine censorship In order to prevent people from finding Web sites with content that entities with political agendas view as objectionable, entities with political agendas put political pressure on search engine owners to filter out Web sites that they find objectionable, or to arrange it so that Web sites with the objectionable content are difficult to locate, i.e., you have to dig deep to find them.
Threatening content creators When filtering and hacker attacks are unsuccessful in having objectionable content removed, entities with political agendas may resort to threatening the creator of the content that they find objectionable. They might also threaten harm to family and relatives and/or lodge forceful complaints with the person's employer and/or ISP. If the content creator owns his/her own server and Internet connection, complaints and/or threats might be made against the content creator's advertisers.


Blocking e-contributions

When a Web site with content that entities with political agendas view as objectionable becomes popular, its existence may become threatened by high bandwidth costs. Accordingly, agents of entities with political agendas may try to drive it out of existence by putting pressure on e-payment firms to block e-contributions to the Web site from its readers.
Harassing content creators When all else fails, entities with political agendas may post libelous remarks and/or false information about Web sites they find objectionable. They may also libel and/or insult the content creator in public Internet forums, such as a BBS. In extreme cases, they may use the Web master's e-mail as a return address on false e-mail messages (which might include a malicious software attachment) that they circulate around the Internet to create problems for the creator of the content that they find objectionable.

Want an example of censorship? Everyone knows that the Web grew up around the Yahoo! Web portal and search engine, and that Yahoo! followed the original Internet philosophy of non-censorship Not surprisingly, the first on-line clubs formed at Yahoo!, including the first adult ones. Somewhere along the lime, some sexually exuberant black males decided to set up a series of clubs to recruit white females as sexual chattel. This disturbed some white males, who considered it highly racist, and apparently as an act of revenge they set up clubs to recruit blacks as chattel, sexual or otherwise. Some blacks who were not so sexually exuberant saw those clubs for black chattel and complained very loudly that Yahoo! was racist. All hell subsequently broke loose, and, as, as a result, Yahoo! decided to change all its "clubs" into "groups." As Yahoo! did that, the central listing of the adult clubs/groups disappeared from its portal, although directories for Yahoo! adult groups are available elsewhere on the Web, and, yes, the sexual chattel recruiters are still at Yahoo!

See why I call the Web the Wild, Wild Web? Here in Japan, although there have even been a few hacking attacks on Japanese government Web sites by anti-Japanese Chinese and Korean hackers, there is little censorship based on the above methods. In fact, the North Korean government, which does not have very good relations with Japan at present due to the fact that it admitted kidnapping Japanese citizens to serve as language teachers, is allowed to maintain its Web portal to the world in Japan. But since Japan is the home of the TRON Project, which proposes the linking of all computers together for the convenience and benefit of humans, it is necessary to keep track of what is going on elsewhere. That is why I relay to my colleagues objections by westerners about the proposed use of RFIDs that appear in western media, and that is why I have compiled the above list of extralegal Web content censorship methods. It is my sincere hope that laws to prevent RFID abuses and the extralegal censorship of Web content will be enacted everywhere.