Tuesday, March 26, 2019

New Zealand's law jailing people for possessing even "the Manifesto" follows the debate on gun control; the idea of a paper trigger "weapon"

The dark news keeps coming.

Today, the EU passed its copyright directive.  I’ve explored the possible consequences on another blog, link here.  

New Zealand, as widely reported now already, has made it a crime to possess a copy of the “manifesto” of the perpetrator of the attack March 15 in Christchurch.  On Monday, I wrote a post on my COPA blop comparing this kind of “possession” offence comparable in concept to normal laws putting people ein prison for possessing child pornography.

But a more apt comparison might be for illegal possession of weapons, and in some sense in the US the first two amendments are logically linked.

New Zealand (as in a link on the COPA blog) claims that the “manifesto” included precise directions and locations for the attack.  Now, when the attack was reported on the US East Coast late March 14, I didn’t pay a lot of attention at first as I was preparing for a weekend trip.  By the time I got to Union Station March 15 I realized, from various text messages, the magnitude of what had happened and I read the manifesto on my phone and then on my laptop, and, yes, I saved a PDF of it, which is now in my cloud.  The Document Cloud link now gives a 403 forbidden, which means that you have to be a registered user and approved to see it (which is allowed in the New Zealand law) from anywhere in the world.  For example, you can be an actual academic or journalism professional, employed itself. You can’t see it as a self-declared blogger.   I plan to travel to Canada in May, and it is conceivable I could get into trouble if I don’t remove the copy from the a laptop (and its cloud backup) because there has been a legal case in Ontario already.   One reason I read it and wanted a copy was to ensure there was no covert reference to me or my own work in the document.

This idea (of requiring press credentials) itself is troubling (it reminds me of a series of tweets by Ford Fischer establishing that you don’t need official press credentials to photograph the police). 
I take the NZ’ “censor’s” word for it on the claim that there were specific directions. (I don’t recall reading that specifically.)  So I can see how NZ could see this as like a specific threat or blueprint for an intended event – even though it now has happened, there could be another one intended. 

It is illegal in any democratic country to transmit a threat or even a hyperlink to one (although in the past it has been unusual for people to get into trouble over “mere” hyperlinks). So there is at least the theoretical possibility that linking to it now would be illegal even here.
But NZ’s point is that the document is somewhat like a paper weapon, or (by curious analogy) 3-D printed weapon (or, even as a more bizarre metaphor, a cryptocurrency paper wallet). If transmitted, it could lead to another incident. So possession of a copy of one is like possessing a weapon illegally.

After 9/11, there was talk that even ordinary websites could be targets for terrorist hackers wanting to transmit “steganographic” information to other possible attackers.  The NZ situation reminds me of that talk. 

There is also a question that if a reporter or even amateur blogger receives classified information without asking for it (it simply arrives unsolicited), and the recipient publishes it, is he/she committing a crime (in the US)?    Anders Corr discussed this in May 2017 with respect to Trump here.

In April 2002 an old site of mine (material later moved) had a hack at a sensitive spot (talking about nuclear terror) and the overlaying material might have been classified.  I have republished that in the past.  I did contact the FBI.  On at least three other occasions (the most recent was 2005) I have contacted and given information that was probably classified, and called the FBI each time and not published.  In 2008 I received information about a threatening situation in Africa but decided to publish it.

The freedom of self-defense is very important to a sense of personal identity for many people.  

Confiscation of weapons after an incident caused by “somebody else’s grievances” is a horrible experience. I certainly support closing of all loopholes (David Hogg has constantly battled the NRA on trying to hide these loopholes). In most cases (except for some unusual ones in rural areas) there is no legitimate reason for civilians to have military-style high firepower weapons (or bump stocks – which have now been outlawed suddenly in the US).

But by analogy, NZ is claiming that words alone can sometimes amount to a weapon, or at least a trigger. So it makes some logical sense to control possession of these keys or triggers.  But that can have serious ramifications for freedom of users to post their own content eventually, as platforms have to be so wary of the unpredictable possibility that another violent video or trigger manifesto will suddenly appear.

We have a world where the freedom we are allowed to express ourselves in certain individually tailored ways and even to defend ourselves, can be misused by others with catastrophic effects.  David Hogg certainly has expressed that idea with respect to weapons possession; but Hogg has used social media to advance his own agenda (as I have done with mine) and essentially used a medium that could be largely shutdown for public safety if the threat were compelling enough. The parallel should be noticed. This observation makes the need for social solidarity and even participation in tribalism a practical necessity, something the far Left preaches and that conservatives find shameful. Yet, at some point, we’re left with the possibility, if something bad happens “to you”, well, it was just your karma.  We have no other answer that works.
(Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 4 PM EDT)

Update: Wednesday, March 27

Matt Christiansen weighs in on this.  Evil exists. The Chief Censor is following the terrorist's script. 

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