Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Da man speaks, so watch what you speak?

The Economic Police have sent this blogger (in my day job as a business reporter) a statement regarding the issues surrounding the publication of an article on security holes at the Latvian domain registry Nic.lv and allegations that police were pressuring Bizi Team, a Latvian hosting company, to completely shut down the Latvian IT portal www.datuve.lv. which published the article.
Without attempting to translate the documentfrom PR/ bureaucratic Latvian, it basically confirms that there were contacts between the police and "the portal" claiming that one comment posted on datuve and signed by a poster using the name of a police inspector had been removed.
Otherwise, the essence of the statement was that police were right to take measures to stop what they considered was a publication that "affected the rights of others", giving as examples libel and slander (also of state authorities), violation of privacy of physical persons, disclosure of state secrets and the disclosure of vulnerabilities of infomation systems and the explaining ways to overcome information system security.
I am not prepared to write an essay on freedom of expression vs such interests as libel and slander and national security. As I have spend the first 27 years of my life (minus one year in a German refugee camp) in the US, I can only admire the way the First Amendment has applied to protect freedom of expression both in libel and slander cases involving public officials and in national security (the Supreme Court ruling on The Pentagon Papers).
Where the statement by the Economic Police gets dangerous is in alleging that there is a right, which they can enforce (even by pressure or "persuasion"), of affected parties to have information disclosing vulnerabilities removed. This is open to extremely broad interpretation and could be applied to almost any software review. For those who remember those fantastic few hours some years ago when the home page of the Latvian parliament (Saeima) was graced by a bare-breasted lady on a motorcycle (the page had been hacked) in front of the Saeima building , it was soon revealed that the rather common web page design software was set by default to leave all aspects of any page open to modification. So it was pretty easy to put in the motorcycle babe -- but should it be grounds for banning a publication that points this out (I think it was Microsoft Front Page that was used).
So how far are we going to go?? Exploits by the dozens are published on the internet every day, and to try to stop this is like sweeping back the ocean with a broom. Moreover, to even attempt or think of attempting to ban an entire portal largely dedicated to discussion of legal commercial and open-source software and programming techniques is absurdly, dangerously overbroad, like carpet-bombing a city because Osama bin Laden might have been seen in a park.
My firm belief is that the freedom of expression must almost always take the upper hand and be untoucheable, maybe restricted only in wartime (regarding operational facts), but never under such circumstances as this case. If anyone feels harmed by datuve's information, let them prove it in a civil court.
The paper will be doing something on this in the next couple of days, emphasizing the press freedom issues and the potential threat to www.datuve.lv as well as the statement by the Economic Police, to be fair and balanced.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good job. Please, keep informed, when the article will be available on paper.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Kristaps Kaupe said...

Good, that we have in Latvia have at least one journalist :) which reads blogs and gets information for articles from them. That's the way how this IMHO should work - blogger(s) founds some news, then journalists from big media make deeper investigations.

Juris Kaža said...

Well, Kristap, guess who the blogger was:):):). Thanks for the tip, also to datuve, petruha, blackhalt and martins at Bizi Team.

Juris

Anonymous said...

Juri, I still want to know the truth about the cenzorship from Economic Police in this case with "datuve.lv" - was it initiated from NIC or was it just a coincidence??? In your publication in "datuve.lv" it is not clearly declared :(((

Juris Kaža said...

rdaksAnonynmous,
The statement from the police clearly indicates that they had been in contact with bizi team and datuve, but does not disclose the precise nature of what was said. According to datuve and bizi team, they tried to "persuade" then to remove the article on Nic.lv.