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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Chinese Censorship & SONY Hacking Threaten All Of Us


One of the most important things book-lovers and people of good conscience should do is battle anyone that threatens free speech, improving literacy, or making books accessible and affordable. We currently have a dark situation in China that needs to be examined and corrected.

The Internet still is not free and open in the world’s most populated country. One in every four and a half global citizens lives in China and they reside in ignorance and under censorship. It is hard to believe that the free flow of information during the Information Era is impeded, and yet when you read about what is going on there it is deplorable.

Currently, Google’s Gmail is blocked there. Anyone using Gmail to communicate will not get in or out of the Communist country. When information is controlled, no one lives freely.

Many foreign platforms are banned – Google, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. Chinese authorities closely regulate online content. They are strict, subjective, and protective. Yahoo has managed to operate there, in part because it partially owns Alibaba, China’s own tech giant, and partly because Yahoo agrees to whatever Chinese editors/censors choose to do to the flow of content there.

The weakness or danger of having so much communication come through one medium – digital – are plenty. For instance:

·         Hackers can manipulate information and data.
·         Terrorists can damage commerce via the Internet.
·         Foreign countries can attack us without physically crossing the border.
·         Our own country can spy on us or blackmail us.
·         There are a handful of huge tech companies that violate our identities and privacy intentionally or accidentally.
·         Free speech is violated daily.

The Internet is like a heart or brain for the world. Everything passes through it. This blog needs an unfettered, free Internet to exist. Governments, companies, non-profits, and individuals conduct their lives online. Every record is kept online. Every communication is recorded.

Sure, in the past, the government read our mail and listened in on phone calls. It still does. But the Internet is the sum of so much of our existence that the threat to it or of it is far greater than prior violations to our information.

The SONY hacking was an example of how an entity can be damaged – even blackmailed – by an anonymous bully. The whole fiasco still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

The SONY hacking may seem like old news, but there are some real issues that arose from it and they still go unanswered today, namely:

What is to stop a nation, a terrorist, or a business competitor or an opposing political party from
Invading your digital content and destroying it, stopping its circulation, or hampering your ability to earn money from it? North Korea needs to be cyber-slapped by the United States. You can't let another country dictate what we do here.

How do you prove who did something to your computer or content? So far it seems like anyone can hack you and they don’t leave as much evidence as a real burglary, so it is hard to know who to even punish. What is an appropriate punishment?

The movie theater chains that refused to carry the movie because of threats are weak for capitulating to the requests of bullies. If every threat made by everyone is taken seriously, we would not publish anything of any consequence. Let the military and police keep us safe; movie theaters and publishers needs to just stay the course and release the content of their choice. If it really wasn’t SONY pulling the movie, and instead it was there big film theaters who vetoed the movie,  that causes a bigger problem: What do we do when the middle man dictates what we see, read and watch?

What if it were a publisher that was hacked and the publisher shelved a book because of s threat, whether by a foreign government, an American political entity or a rich and powerful person? We can’t have that crap here.

What if The New York Times, under the threat of being hacked, let alone physical violence, pulls a story it was going to run or tones it down? We’d say, stand up to the thugs who think they can physically kill off ideas, information, and opinions.

How do we export freedom if we don't practice it here? The US is always talking about bringing freedom to places like North Korea, China, Cuba and Iran. Well, practice what you preach and keep the First amendment alive and well here.

I believe the truth if the matter is that SONY had something crazy on its computers, something bigger than the embarrassing emails floating around, and bigger then medical records and social security numbers that were breached. There must have been something that exposed SONY to legal damages or criminal filings on their computers. The imagination could run wild, but knowing Hollywood there could be stuff about addicted actresses, actors who sexually assaulted someone, child porn, or who knows?

SONY was cyber-attacked and then blackmailed. SONY wasn't really afraid of a physical threat but rather that its dirty secrets would be revealed. Think about it. The movie would have brought in hundreds of millions if released properly. Instead, it dribbled out a release to a few hundred screens and some lame attempt at offering people to stream it online. Now it is left with a deficit. SONY is allowing for the movie to go away. That is not the normal reaction you expect from a company that is backed. 

We can't let criminals or governments or terrorists profit and benefit from their illegal activities and threats, but Sony, on so many levels, failed us.

Free speech took a huge, huge hit. Maybe this type of hacking has happened before and we don't even know it. Maybe other media and entertainment companies have killed other projects even before they got started because of blackmail. Seeing how SONY acted in such a public situation makes me believe that it is not an isolated one.

So what do we learn from the SONY cyber-attack and subsequent capitulation? That hacking pays off, that a government can have its way through threats or blackmail. It sends a chill down my spine.

SONY is either a coward for not properly releasing the film or they are hiding something. Someone at Sony was afraid of something being leaked that was worth at least 200 million dollars to them.

But free speech is worth even more!


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not
that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015



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