Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Great Firewall of Korea

Yesterday I wanted to play online poker so I fired up my online poker program but it wouldn't connect. I tried a few times and it still wouldn't work. So then I tried to check the website. Which is when I was presented with this.From the picture you can get the general idea of what is going on. I painstakingly typed (why do people put large chunks of important text in images) the Korean into Google translate and got told it meant this
Illegal information (site) for blocking guide
Your party is trying to access illegal content sites are prohibited by law, and it has been blocked access to sites that let you know
This information is information and communication via the ethics committee's deliberation according to the Telecommunication Business Act, it is blocked due to questions regarding the sludge under the charge of the insti

(copied from a chat log from MSM which limits the size of messages, hence the abrupt cut off.)
This really annoys me for a few reasons. First, I haven't been stopped from doing this for the first five months I've been in Korea, so why is it a problem now. Second, nine out of the top ten Google results for "online poker" are not blocked (my site of choice is the only one blocked). Now one of those is Wikipedia, so probably wouldn't get blocked, but the others are sites to play poker and I have indeed since downloaded a different online poker program and used it without incident.

The main reason I'm upset is because I feel this is the action of an overreaching government reaching into an area they have no right to act in. The government is not a nanny meant to look out for each and every one of us. It is not the governments role to decide which web sites and which services I can and can not visit, just as it is not the governments role to decide who I can and can not talk to, nor what I can talk about with those people. I oppose this blocking of access to parts of the internet just as I'm opposed to the great firewall of China and the plans to try and implement such a system in Australia.

When a government creates such restrictions, it is restricting the freedom of it's citizens. It is denying them the freedom to choose what they want to do, who they want to associate with, how they want to associate with others. It is denying them their responsibility for their actions.

Also, when a government creates the means to enforce such restrictions, it is giving itself a great weapon that can be used against the people. Who gets to decide what is not appropriate for the people. The government. I think all would agree that China's massive restrictions on internet access are reprehensible. Why would any democracy want to take it's lead from China of all countries. To those who say that there are things that should be blocked, I tell you that they fall into one of three categories.

One, things that some people who like to enforce their world view on others find offensive, for example, Christians opposing online gambling or internet pornography. This is easily refuted by the fact that this is a free country, where people are free to do what they like. Or more childishly, you're not the boss of me (Senator Fielding please take note).

Two, things people claim are dangerous to some people, such as online gambling (again) or advice on how to commit suicide. This is ultimately a ridiculous argument that generally gets given an easy ride because of the emotions of the people making the claim. However its weakness is shown by changing its focus a little. Everyone would agree that hamburgers are unhealthy, contribute to high cholesterol and thus to increased chances of heart disease, heart attack, and other health risks. So for the benefit of us all, we should ban hamburgers. And while I would be glad to be rid of the red headed clown, I think we can all agree on the ridiculousness of such a claim. It is the responsibility of the individual to control themselves and not make excessively unwise choices, and only if they do, should we as a society then consider temporarily restricting the individual in question. And who knows, maybe someone contemplating suicide would be disturbed by the visceral description of how to slit your wrists and decide that life is worth enduring.

The third category of things that people want blocked on the internet are the truly terrible. Things like child pornography, snuff films and the like. These are terrible, and should be eradicated. However, never take opposing censorship with endorsing these things. The reason this should not be used as an argument for internet censorship is that we already have laws prohibiting this. These are the laws we should use when dealing with the purveyors and consumers of these atrocities. This is true of many situations where we already have laws covering things, and governments use emotional issues to convince people that giving them more power is a good and necessary thing where it is really unneeded and unwise.

On top of all these reasons based on principle, there is also the practical aspect that such restriction never cover everything. Note that I was easily able to visit other sites offering exactly the same services and was playing online poker again in under half an hour, although admittedly the new program is not as sleek as the one I used to use. Blocking only one site of its type is not only pointless, it's stupid. I mean really, when you block only one out of the top ten sites in Google, what's the point. You're really not trying. I'm tempted to try out Tor and see if I can get back onto Full Tilt poker that way.

End Rant
Writing time: 56 minutes
Time since last post: seven days
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Sleepy Seven by Bonobo


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