Crowfunding the Public Interest

I originally penned this post for a newsletter of The New Zealand Initiative Think Tank.  In his book, The Great Degeneration, Niall Ferguson describes how the West’s six ‘killer applications’ (competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumerism, and work ethic) are on the decline.

"Our democracies have broken the contract between the generations by heaping IOUs on our children and grandchildren. Our markets are increasingly distorted by over-complex regulations that are in fact the disease of which they purport to be the cure. The rule of law has metamorphosed into the rule of lawyers. And civil society has degenerated into uncivil society, where we lazily expect all our problems to be solved by the state."

The result is slow growth, strained social systems, complacency, and disinterest.

At the same time, the creative industries were shaken by the principle of crowd funding. Privately owned for-profit websites like Kickstarter allow individuals to pool their money to support projects initiated by other people.

Creators set deadlines and a minimum funding goal, and describe risks and challenges associated with the project. Once the project receives funding, the creators are expected to supply regular progress updates.

According to Wikipedia, since Kickstarter's launch nearly five million people have funded more than 50,000 projects. Examples include video games, films and a 3D printer. In fact, in 2012, Kickstarter channelled more money into the US arts scene (US$323.6 million) than the Federal Government (US$146 million).

These numbers raise the question of whether the answer to Western society’s ills could lie in adopting this model.

A small percentage of taxes would go into essential services, and what happens with the rest is for the electorate to decide.

Any tax-funded project must justify itself, and it would need to persuade people, give detailed timelines, manage risks, and show that it has the appropriate staff. Any delays and extra costs would have to be communicated and explained immediately. Lobbyism would become more public as it needs to inform a broader audience.

For example, single mothers could choose not to pay for upper class students to attend university. Tax-funded nanny state tendencies based on vocal special interest groups, solely focused on helping themselves to our wallets and freedoms, can be curbed and a sense of personal responsibility re-instilled.

Theoretically, this would lead to less waste, and lower taxes.

Of course, this approach is not without its problems, the biggest being how to make sure that all projects are equally represented and considered by the electorate.

Still, the idea would make for a much more explicit contract between the state and its people that would make for more engagement by appealing to responsibility, and being able to directly influence outcomes. Maybe the West can crowd fund itself back to glory.

Game Based on Germany's Death Strip Stirs Controversy

"1,378 (kilometers)" is a game designed by German media-art student Jens Strobe for the University of Design, Media and Arts in the city of Karlsruhe. Name after the length of the wall that used to divide East and West Germany during the Cold War, the game lets you play either as a refugee fleeing the East German state or a border guard charged with stopping them. Being historically accurate, one of the means by which you have to stop people from leaving the country is shooting them, despite them being unarmed civilians. (The other choices are to arrest them or to join them.) This way more than 1,000 people were killed on the German-German border.

If the player decides to shoot an East German refugee, the regime will award him with a medal; however, the game will then fast forward to the year 2000 where the player has to face a trial for killing a civilian. The player is taken out of the game for about a minute which gives him the chance to reflect on what he did and the inhumane practices of the East German government. Moreover, killing too many refugees will result in a loss of points.

When I first read about the game a couple of weeks ago, I thought it was a great idea. (At a talk I once suggested the development of a game which aims to replicate the terror and paranoia caused by the East German secret police.)

Due to the simulational nature of digital games, players are able to experience the horrors of the inner German border first hand. It's like a documentary, except that it is playable. The difficulty and cruelty of the escape translate directly into the rules of the game, the player gets the chance to ask himself how he would have reacted and can vary his actions accordingly.

Games like "1,378 (kilometers)" are a great way to teach history to younger generations by means of their preferred medium. They are also a good example for how games can incorporate and convey national images and stories in order to keep their memory alive. With some enhancements it might work even better (e.g. the player is confronted with the biography of the person he just killed, or he has to face an East German military court if he fails to stop the refugee).

As such you'd expect a game like this of being able to contribute to the social acceptance of the medium. However, it mostly met harsh criticism.

Despite not being available yet, people like the director of the Berlin Wall Memorial, Axel Klausmeier, called the game “tasteless,” and an insult to the families of those killed along the border while trying to escape. He also said the game was “unsuitable” for teaching historical facts. “The seriousness of what once went on at the border can’t be portrayed in this way,” he said.

Another critic is Rainer Wagner, a man who spent two years in an East German prison following a botched escape attempt and who is now head of an organisation for victims of communist violence. He says the game “appealed to the basest human instincts”, and that “this game…is even worse than other shoot ‘em ups because normally in such games, one shoots at armed enemies – here, it is unarmed civilians.”

Others labelled the game "tasteless", "stupid" or explained how a university was not a suitable place for producing "killer games". Hubertus Knabe, chairman of a memorial place documenting the crimes of the East German secret police, even pressed charges against the maker of the game on the grounds of it glorifying violence.

If find these discussions remarkable for two reasons.

On one hand, it shows that digital games still haven't reached German society. Parts of the populace still don't regard them as a means for the communication of serious ideas – despite believing in their potential to incite violent acts, if the medium is supposedly that powerful why not use it for educational purposes?

There's a general unwillingness to engage with games, this "vulgar" medium; like cinema and television before it it has "the traits of a young street arab; [it is] an uneducated creature running wild among the lower strata of society" (Kracauer).

This cultural conflict – which is very distinct in Germany – is aided by a generational conflict. Despite being several decades old, to some people games are still a new form of technology which did not yet enter their cultural meaning horizon They are therefore destructively criticised as an unwholesome leisure pursuit and idle waste of time. Like every newly introduced technology, digital games cause suspicion and fear and are identified and stigmatised as deviants from the promoted social order by parts of the society lacking the knowledge and strategies to make sense of them.

On the other hand, if critics of the game explain that it should be banned because people can be shoot like rabbits, this is not so much a criticism of the game but of the system it aims to simulate.

The game's creator aims to replicate the horrors of the inner German border; the fact that people can be shoot is not his fault but is a direct result of the policies of the socialist East German regime. They are just reflected by the game's mechanics. In this respect the criticism is rather about getting even with the past, charges are pressed against the system of rules of Germany's second dictatorship.

Still, as a result of the public uproar the game did not get released. It was supposed to come out on 3 October, the 20th anniversary of Germany's reunification, however the release was postponed.

I'm really looking forward to this game, not only because it demonstrates games' potential but also because it has the courage to say something meaningful (in contrast to something like Medal of Honor).


CBC G20: Street Level Blog

I have been given an amazing opportunity to guest blog with the CBC's G20: Street Level blogging team. The blog launched yesterday and covers street level events and issues in and around the G20.
My main goal is to reach out to as many Torontonians as possible and listen to their experiences and insights surrounding this event. If you have a story to tell or want your voice heard let me know! Im hoping to hear from all sides and perspectives. Are you happy to host the G20? Has the G20 disrupted your day to day life? If so, how? What do you want to say or share?

Peter and Valentine Were The Original Bloggers

Note: this post has some spoilers about Ender's Game, so if you haven't read it yet, don't read this post. Just go out and buy it and read it, because it's amazing. But don't take my word for it;  I mean, the 1986 Hugo Award and 1984 Nebula Award are hard to argue with. It's not even that long of a book. You can probably finish it in a lazy summer afternoon at the cottage, if you put down your iPhone for long enough. You can buy it on Amazon right now for, like, seven bucks.

This weekend, I finished re-reading Ender's Game for the first time since I originally read it ten years ago and was blown away by how well the author, Orson Scott Card, predicted the future from the early 80s.

I say the early 80s, but it could have been earlier. Card's first version was published as a story in a science fiction magazine in 1977. He later fleshed this out to a full-fledged novel in 1985 (according to the copyright information in my copy of the book), and made some more minor changes in 1991.

And when I'm talking about how Card predicted the future, I'm not talking about Ender's Desk (which is described exactly like an iPad) or even the Ansible, a device capable of near-instantaneous communication over vast distances (not that far off, really). I'm talking about how he predicted the rise of blogging and the influence social media can have over culture and politics.

While most of the plot of the book follows young Ender Wiggin, youngest of three children, as he goes to Battle School at the age of six to learn how to be the commander of a fleet to fight invading aliens, a sub-plot involves how his sociopathic, but brilliant, brother Peter, and more empathetic, but equally brilliant, sister Valentine, are left home on earth.

Under the leadership of Peter, the two of them start contributing to "forums" on the "nets" using pseudonyms, or characters:

"They began composing debates for their characters. Valentine would prepare an opening statement, and Peter would invent a throwaway name to answer her. His answer would be intelligent, and the debate would be lively, lots of clever invective and good political rhetoric. Valentine had a knack for alliteration that made her phrases memorable. Then they would enter the debate into the network, separated by a reasonable amount of time, as if they were actually making them up on the spot. Sometimes a few other netters would interpose comments, but Peter and Val would usually ignore them or change their own comments only slightly to accommodate what had been said."

The next paragraph describes how Peter tracked how their work was being read and shared, and reads almost like a description of media monitoring in 2010.

As the two keep writing, their influence grows, their articles get syndicated, and they begin to get involved in serious policy discussions. Since its all online, no one knows that it is actually just two genius children.

Implausible? Yes. Impossible? No.

While I doubt that our global politics are being played like a game of chess by a couple of kids, I think Orson Scott Card's prediction of the way an ordinary citizen can get involved via the internet and become a serious, real-world influence is a great bit of future-casting.

Reasons like that are why I love reading science-fiction, be it old-school Heinlein and Asimov, 80s cyberpunk, or the post-human stuff that's all the rage these days. Science fiction is a framework for thinking about what could happen; it's a way of looking forward to finding out who is going to be right.

Have you read Ender's Game? Were Peter and Valentine the original bloggers?

Australia's contrary Internet tendencies

Australia is a weird country. Given that the country's broadband is amongst the worst in the developed world, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a plan to build a national broadband network. The ambitious project will take up to eight years, cost $43 billion, create tens of thousands of jobs and will see fibre-optic cable laid out to individual houses.

The fibre-optic network, providing speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, will cover 90 percent of Australians, while the rest will have access to a mix of wireless and satellite connections.

And yet Rudd lost thousands of Twitter followers in the last weeks. What happened?

In a move that somehow contradicts everything the national broadband plan stands for, the federal government decided to push ahead with its internet censorship plan.

Under this scheme a mandatory filter will block sites found on the secret Australian Communications and Media Authority blacklist and blacklists held by other countries. Moreover, a wide scope of content could be prohibited under the proposed filtering regime. As the Australian Google blog explains:

Refused Classification (or RC) is a broad category of content that includes not just child sexual abuse material but also socially and politically controversial material—for example, educational content on safer drug use—as well as the grey realms of material instructing in any crime, including politically controversial crimes such as euthanasia.

As I've pointed out before, the scheme is expensive, ineffective and easy-to-circumvent. It potentially slows down an already slow internet and cripples Australia's competitiveness in the global marketplace. The scope of the planned scheme also sets a precedent for a Western democracy by uniquely combining a mandatory framework and a much wider scope of content.

Similar to the controversy surrounding the introduction of an R-18 rating for digital games, this move seems to be a case of a vocal minority of social conservatives trying to impose their worldview on the rest of society.

One of the first groups to be backgrounded on the results of the filter trial was the Australian Christian Lobby, and not the entire Australian public. It seems the government is concerned about defying those who act as (self-appointed) guardians of community standards.

On the other hand, the censorship scheme does not enjoy the overwhelming support of the Australian public. A poll that was commissioned by GetUP! found only four percent of Australians want the government to be responsible for protecting children online. 

The move alienates potential Labor voters, while the people who care about these issues are unlikely to vote for the party in the first place. It would also be interesting to see what would happen if the Liberals, now under leadership of conservative Tony Abbott, were to win the next election.

It seems that if fast broadband is introduced into Australia, its citizens will only be allowed to use it on the government's terms. If something violates the moral standards of the country's leaders it must be hidden or ruled out. Rudd already demonstrated this tendency towards social engineering in the discussions about the controversial pictures of Bill Henson.

Australia, it seems, still suffers from a conservative hangover that already led to unparalleled censorship campaigns in the Western World—90 years ago. 

However, times and media have changed. These days the concern is not what will and will not be blocked, but who will and will not be able to get around it.

As tech writer Kathryn Small puts it:

"Conroy will not be censoring the internet. He'll be censoring people who do not know much about the internet." [A]nyone with a vested interest who knows enough about software design will be able to circumvent the system. "The real problem is Conroy will create a two-tiered system [with] a massive disparity between the 'haves' and 'have nots' of computer literacy."


The Twitter Journalist

A few weeks ago, I told Jens and Heather that I didn't want them to write any more posts about Twitter ("its been done to death") so I'm breaking my own rule here.

Over the weekend, I started thinking about how Twitter is becoming a primary way for people to get their information. Then I started wondering why we aren't seeing any journalists covering stories exclusively on Twitter. I imagine it would work much the same way that we sometimes see television or radio journalists covering breaking stories: they stay on the scene, and provide constant updates whenever they get additional information. Much of their reporting is observational, but other information comes in by way of eyewitnesses and official reports.

It looks like  Mark MacKinnon had the same idea - he's been Tweeting live from Bangkok as the city "disintegrates."

Since he works for Canada's Globe & Mail newspaper, I doubt that Twitter will be the sole way that he'll report his story. However, I'm sure that people who have been following his updates on Twitter will most certainly read any in-depth story he writes about the situation for the Globe & Mail. The text of some of his tweets will also probably make it into any final copy he writes, and I'm sure that he'll be aided by other Twitter users on the ground providing him with additional information.

In all, it sounds like a win-win situation.

Are there any other examples of journalists using Twitter as their primary way to report on one story?


Driving Under The Influence (of Video Games)

From the Honolulu Advertiser today comes the news that it is still legal to play video games while driving on the island of O'ahu. I don't know what happened that prompted the vote, but last month the island's city council voted 7-1 in favor of a bill that would make it illegal to play video games; or write, send and read text messages.

The fact that the mayor vetoed this vote shows that at least he has some sense - for every specific, dangerous activity like this that is banned, someone will come up with something even more ridiculous to do while driving. Ban video games? Someone will figure out a way to get in a car crash while playing board games.


The whole thing reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Homer has a multitude of accessories plugged into his car's cigarette lighter. Since none of the appliances, from a snowcone maker to a fog machine, were video games he'd probably get around the law that the O'ahu council attempted to pass.

It also reminds me of the time that I was living in Japan and once saw a kid playing Gameboy while riding his bike, slowly wobbling back and forth across the road but making forward progress nonetheless.


How German Intellectuals Don't Understand the Nature of the Internet. Or rather: Germany = Internet Development Country

I recently came across the so-called 'Heidelberg Appeal' initiated by some professor for German language and literature studies. In it, more than 1600 German authors, intellectuals and publishers lament that:

[A]t the international level, intellectual property is being stolen from its producers to an unimagined degree and without criminalisation through the illegal publication of works protected by German copyright law on platforms such as GoogleBooks and YouTube.

They mix this criticism with a condemnation of the open access initiative, a portal which offers the free use of scientific articles. One of the arguments for public access to scholarly literature is that most of it is paid for by taxpayers, who therefore have a right to access the results of what they have funded. This, in turn, would cut publishers out of the equation.

The undertone of this appeal is quite characteristic for the current mood in the Vaterland: The Minister of Family Affairs wants to introduce mandatory blockage of child pornography via a black list, a system potentially open to political abuse and economic pressure. In fact, the music industry would like to extend this list to 'P2P link sites' (whatever that means) in order to protect its intellectual property. Meanwhile a branch of the youth organization of the two conservative German political parties CDU and CSU seriously suggested that users must register themselves on youtube with their personal id-number. The reasoning for this measure: It is supposed to curb youth violence. I kid you not.

In short, as this excellent article on the German blog netzwertig (which I'm very much in debt to for the following points) explains: The basic quality of the internet as a space for open communication is threatened.

This threat basically emanates from groups and individuals who are incapable of grasping the digital nature of the medium. All over the world you'll find industries which are incapable of adapting their 'analogue' business models to changing circumstances. Businesses which are threatened try to get rid of the threat by calling for protective legislation. Eventually it comes down to a fight between the supporters of free information, communication, and knowledge and those who are afraid of these new freedoms and would like to curtail them.

The problem with Germany is… well, exactly that: It's Germany. Take the US for example, a country with a strong belief in a free market, freedom of speech and personal freedom. Here you find the same calls for a protection of the culture industry – however, the regulation of the internet is way less strict than in Deutschland.

Viewed under a long term perspective this should not be surprising at all: Germany is a country with very little liberal traditions. Germany did not see a single successful bourgeois revolt in which the concepts of freedom and unity helped to overcome suppressive structures. Instead, the bourgeoisie focused all its hope on the state as the preserver of the social order, though with a growing claim for absoluteness the myth of the nation corrupted a group whose initial core of existence revolved around cosmopolitan and tolerant concepts.

These tendencies were perpetuated by the darker side of German romanticism which the educated bourgeoisie gave itself over to. In contrast to an unscrupulous belief in progress and reckless pragmatism, people enjoyed the 'romantic' because it offered an escape from the rationalism of industrialisation: A romantic anticapitalism arose out of the conflict between humanist culture and capitalist exchange relations.

These specifically German foundational dynamics had a distinct impact of the perception of mass based cultural forms; these were mainly shaped by rejection, a strong control on behalf of the state or an over-enthusiasm which eventually betrayed a deep insecurity.

From its onset in 1923, radio was basically state controlled. After WWII the Allies dictated the Germans an organizational model for public broadcasting – as soon as they left it was thrown overboard in favor of a scheme that allowed more political influence. To this very day, the pressure political parties apply on public broadcaster is immense.

Given the country's spiritual heritage, German intellectuals were notoriously anti-modern, anti-capitalistic and anti-American. A very good example of this is the Frankfurt School whose elitist criticism of mass culture eventually amounted to allegations that weren't too different to conservative criticism.

Given this track record, some of the current developments aren't really surprising: The state trying to gain control over a free space, economic interests calling for the state's aid because they fear a loss of control (something which also betrays their lack of trust in the market), the inflexibility to adapt to technological changes and take them as a chance, the comparatively large technophobia of German society.

The problem of course is that if the internet in Germany is curtailed as heavily as suggested – its advantages getting completely lost in the process – the Vaterland falls even more behind countries where the internet and its inherent qualities change society and economy for the better (and where the legislation reflects this fact).

Germany is hardly prepared for the cataclysmic changes brought about by the internet. The net becomes more and more important – and the more important it becomes, the more Germany closes itself to it. With the according consequences.


Israel's use of Social Media

Photo of Israeli soldiers taken by Heather's friend Brian Mosoff, http://brianmosoff.com The following post was written by Heather Morrison

I recently returned from my first trip to Israel. During the last leg of my trip, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came to an end. The news coming through from Gaza was anything but comforting. My fellow travelers and I spent time each day checking various websites and news stations for updates and information. Upon returning to Canadian soil, I continued to check for Israel-related news and was interested to find that Israel has looked to Social Media to further its voice.

The Citizens Press Conference hosted on Twitter December 30, by the Israel Consulate in New York, was first to grab my attention. Questions from the Twitter community were directed to 6 members of the Consulate staff who answered them live, later posting the transcript to their website. The conference was seen as a great success by the Consulate in getting the official message to their audience in real time. The event received positive attention from various blogs such as Global Voices Online, as well as the mainstream media including CNN and the Washington Post.

In a follow up interview, David Saranga, Media and Public Affairs Consul, said Twitter was the best platform for this type of conference because it delivered full, to the point answers to a younger generation; and allowed Twitterers already discussing Gaza to engage in conversations with an official voice – helping to dispel confusion and myths.

YouTube has also been put to use. The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) created a YouTube channel December 29th to house video blogs and footage of the ongoing crisis, while the Consul houses less conflict-related material on their channel.

Israel is also making use of the blogosphere to convey messages to the public. Both the IDF and Consulate have blogs which can be found at www.idfspokesperson.com and www.israelpolitik.org, respectively. Israelpolitik.org also includes a question/answer section, for ongoing dialogue and discussion, and links to Israel’s official Facebook and Myspace sites.

All in all it looks like Israel has seen the benefits of social media and continues to use different applications for various events/situations. Given the success political campaigns have realized by incorporating Social Media, will other nations follow suit?

Heather Morrison is an Account Executive at CNW Group. Her previous post for BlogCampaigning is entitled "Building Your Twitter Empire" and she is @HMorrison on Twitter.  For more on the use of the web in the recent conflict, check out this article by Jart Armin about how the battle is being fought online.

A Liberal Democracy on Par With China and Saudi Arabia: Australia's 'Net Filter Plan

The internet: decentralised, largely unregulated, not belonging to anyone, knowledge flowing freely. Australia: Traditionally having one of the strictest censorships of a liberal democracy, banning R18+ video games and behind pretty much everyone else in terms of broadband speeds. How do these two mix? Exactly… The Australian Government under Kevin Rudd plans to impose a mandatory filter for all internet users that will block sites found on the secret Australian Communications and Media Authority blacklist and blacklists held by other countries. The cost: AUS$189 million. The result:

Laboratory test results released in June by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found available filters frequently let through content that should be blocked, incorrectly block harmless content and slow network speeds by up to 87 per cent.

Where to begin… First of all there's the technical aspect: All the experts might want to read this piece on Arstechnica, which in very technical terms explains why this scheme is doomed to fail; for the rest of us there's this Register article pointing out some of the issues encountered with censorship software in other parts of the world:

Problems with "socialism" were highlighted in a piece this week in the Australian Daily Telegraph, which gleefully pointed up the link between Labour and male impotence. Apparently, filters in other countries have hit problems with their ideology for the simple reason that it also contains the word "cialis" – an anti-impotence drug frequently promoted via spam email.

They also cite a story told by former Communications Minister Helen Coonan about the time when she attempted to order some strawberry muffins online. Her department’s filter system took exception to her use of "muff" – and the order did not go through.

Similar issues have occurred over the years in the UK with home-grown filter software that is not fully thought through. In one case, an Insurance company was rather surprised to find that after implementation of its in-house filtering system, direct mail campaigns to Essex, Sussex and Middlesex ceased entirely – as did communication with the inhabitants of Scunthorpe.

A couple of years back, respondents to a Home Office Consultation in the UK were surprised to find some submissions automatically rejected by a filtering system set up in one part of that Department. The consultation was on the subject of extreme pornography – and the filter took exception to receiving emails with the word "pornography" in the title.

Secondly there's the issue of free speech. As explained here the Government has been pursuing a two-tiered scheme. The first tier would be a "clean feed" that filters porn and "illegal content," and it would be optional. The second tier would filter only "illegal content" and would be mandatory for all Australians. In short: Australians won't be able to opt out of the government's Internet filtering initiative.


This of course raises the question: What defines "illegal"? Apparently only half of the - secret and unaccountable - ACMA blacklist consists of child porn while the rest is mainly X-rated porn and sexual fetish material. And of course the calls for more are coming in: A statement by Family First member Steve Fielding indicates that any material rated above R 18+ (including X 18+ and "refused classification") should fall under the mandatory blacklist and could not be accessed through any Australian ISP. Such material is currently legal for Australian adults.

And it doesn't stop at porn:

"Any group with an axe to grind and political clout will be lobbying the Government to blacklist websites which they object to," EFA spokesman Dale Clapperton said.


Greens Senator Scott Ludlam expressed similar concerns when grilling Senator Conroy in Senate Estimates last week.

He said all sorts of politically sensitive material could be added to the blacklist and otherwise legitimate sites - for example, YouTube - could be rendered inaccessible based on content published by users.

"The blacklist ... can become very grey depending on how expansive the list becomes - euthanasia material, politically related material, material about anorexia. There is a lot of distasteful stuff on the internet," Senator Ludlam said.

Will disagreeable Wikipedia articles be banned? Reports by the opposition which highlight the failures of the Government in charge? Articles denying climate change? Where do extremist views start and stop?

Then there's potential of Big Content throwing another hissy fit about piracy: Will it be ringing up the Aussie government soon to have tracker sites added to the blacklist?

As Michael Malone, managing director iiNet, puts it:

"[This] is happening in two other countries - China and Saudi Arabia, that's who he's [Communications Minister Stephen Conroy] lined himself up with."

Colin Jacobs, chair of the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia has another evil example at hand:

"I'm not exaggerating when I say that this model involves more technical interference in the internet infrastructure than what is attempted in Iran, one of the most repressive and regressive censorship regimes in the world."

In short: The scheme is expensive, won't work technically, abuses of civil liberties, impairs free speech and makes an abysmally slow internet even more slower.

No wonder that, except for some fringe groups who would like to push their moral agenda onto the rest of the Australian people, no one likes the idea.

The head of one of Australia's largest ISPs has labelled the Communications Minister the worst we've had in the past 15 years while political activists GetUp have raised over $30,000 in less than a day to support their fight against the filter.

Ed Coper, campaigns director at GetUp, said the response to the anti-censorship campaign had been "astronomical" and "quite unprecedented".

Almost 80,000 people have signed GetUp's petition and the organisation has created a widget that website owners can embed on their sites, which allows their visitors to sign the petition and obtain more information about the filtering plans.

Even children's welfare groups and NSW Young Labor has criticised the Government's filtering plans. Young Labor passed a motion rejecting the mandatory scheme and calling on Senator Conroy to adopt a voluntary opt-in system whereas Holly Doel-Mackaway, adviser with Save the Children, the largest independent children's rights agency in the world, said educating kids and parents was the way to empower young people to be safe internet users.

She said the filter scheme was "fundamentally flawed" because it failed to tackle the problem at the source and would inadvertently block legitimate resources.

So what does the Government do? Right, it tries to bully critics into silence, accuses them of supporting child pornography, and its pressing ahead with trials but doesn't give any information about the conditions surrounding them…


Photographic Expectations

First I read that the AP has suspended the use of photos from the Department of Defense, and then later in the weekend my roommate sends me an article saying that Victoria's Secret model Karolina Kurkova doesn't have a belly button, and that they insert it digitally in any midriff-baring pictues of her.

Why is one use of a doctored photo acceptable, while the other results in outrage from a news agency?

Unlike the Iranian missile situation from this summer, neither photo was edited in an attempt to change the news or what it was reporting.

The line at which is acceptable to edit photos has been blurring for a long time. At what point will we stop caring?


Sarah Palin: Wolf-gunning Bikini Babe?

Between this story on Slate about what "Aerial Wolf-Gunning" is and why Sarah Palin supports it and the picture (left) of her that I got from this post on I09, I think we're going to have a pretty interesting few months (or years, depending on the election outcome). I never know if stuff like this fills me with Canadian pride or makes me wish I was American.