RES: [governance] Religiously objectionable material on the internet

Vanda UOL vanda at
Sat Jan 14 07:55:45 EST 2012

Nothing is more offensive to any human “rights” than extreme poverty, and everybody walks through people in the streets, begging, hungry,  in several parts of the world and I don´t see people complain for their rights!

To not see these poor people they choose another path to walk. Why not do the same in internet? 

De: governance at [mailto:governance at] Em nome de Aldo Matteucci
Enviada em: sábado, 14 de janeiro de 2012 01:52
Para: Salanieta T. Tamanikaiwaimaro
Cc: governance at; Jovan KURBALJA
Assunto: Re: [governance] Religiously objectionable material on the internet


Thanks Salanieta

for the insightful answer. It has helped me better focus on th issue.

I trust you'll stay on top of this and provide us with better and better context.


The intersting question here is whether this is an instance under (2.i) - protect the rights or reputation of others.

The line apparently taken by Mr Raj is that the mere existence or presence of offensive material on the net affects his "rights". He can cruise the net as long as he wants whitout these pictures imposing themselves on him - unless he deliberately clicks the offensive site.


Mere awareness is enough. This is the line taken by the Swiss High Court, when  it said that one is entitled to walk about unencumbered by awareness that an activity of which the person disapproves, may take place inside a building along his path. 


It is an awesome extension of the "right to privacy". We all enjoy - or suffer - a social identity. Social identities are impersonal. Social identities are thrust upon us either directly (as in prejudice), or indirectly - what STEELE calls "social contingencies" - situations which will remind an individual of his "social identity" and induce him to behave in certain ways. Social identities will either sustain, or hinder our self-affirmation (the sense we have of ourselves(. In practice soccial identities are a "mixed bag" - some good, some bad. They are existential to all of us, BTW, and when the social identity becomes totally bad, the person withers away.


The line of argument above goes in the direction of saying that the "right to be left alone" includes the right to be and feel free of social identity and social contingencies. This is akin to "social burqua". If I'm adept of the "telephone book religion" no one is even allowed to think poorly of my belief, let alone snicker about it to some friends.


I tend to disagree on your definition of "open site". "Open" is only something that I cannot avoid, or which is collateral to my going about my normal life. I'd have a right, it seems to me, not to have explicit adverts for sexuals favours appear on the right side of my eMail as I go about my correspondence. These adverts are thrust upon me irrespective of my will. Everything else is merely "accessible" and subject to my willful choice. I can exercise my choice in ways that avoid contact with material that is offensive to me. 


Best regards to Fiji

last time I was there I saw Comm. Bainimarama  play touch football across the street of Holiday Inn - it was his first day in power...


Again, thanks



On 13 January 2012 21:21, Salanieta T. Tamanikaiwaimaro <salanieta.tamanikaiwaimaro at> wrote:

Frank La Rue in his Report as Special Rapporteur is on record for stating that "any restriction to freedom of expression must meet the strict criteria under international human rights law". He went on to discuss at great lengths the restrictions of content on the internet in Part IV of the Report which can be found here: 


La Rue was very careful to say the following:-


 "As with offline content, when a restriction is imposed as an exceptional measure on online content, it must pass a three-part, cumulative test: 


(1) it must be provided by law, which is clear and accessible to everyone (principles of predictability and transparency); 

(2) it must pursue one of the purposes set out in article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , namely: (i) to protect the rights or reputations of others; (ii) to protect national security or public order, or public health or morals (principle of legitimacy); and

 (3) it must be proven as necessary and the least restrictive means required to achieve the purported aim (principles of necessity and proportionality). In addition, any legislation restricting the right to freedom of expression must be applied by a body which is independent of any political, commercial, or other unwarranted influences in a manner that is neither arbitrary nor discriminatory. There should also be adequate safeguards against abuse,including the possibility of challenge and remedy against its abusive application."


Having tried to access New Delhi's Legal Database, I noted that nothing has been published on the site as yet. However, presuming that what is reported in the article is true that there was a Private Criminal Matter in the District Court of New Delhi and in light of the reported unsuccessful stay in the High Court and brief mention of India's Penal Code on on "obscene publications".


In India's case Vinay Rai's Petition (caveat: I have not read the Petition but based on the presumption that what was sparsely reported is true) fulfills the first test. It will be interesting though to see how Courts all over the world have defined "publication".


The difference between postal traffic and emails are that they have an intended audience as opposed to having open sites etc. I am not taking sides in this matter but am interested in seeing the rationale and various philosophies that lie behind any decision making process.


It may be worthwhile to organise a Webinar or Debate on the matter if someone is willing to lend their facilities for free to enable this, we can try and get La Rue to participate and have a few volunteers etc




On Sat, Jan 14, 2012 at 12:41 AM, Aldo Matteucci <aldo.matteucci at> wrote:

Religiously objectionable material on the internet 

Posted on January 13, 2012 by Aldo Matteucci <> 


The following report from India[1] <>  has reached me: “The Delhi High Court on Thursday warned social networking site Facebook India and search engine Google India that websites can be “blocked” like in China if they fail to devise a mechanism to check and remove objectionable material from their web pages.” (…) “The case centres on a petition filed in December by a man named Vinay Rai, who referred to obscene depictions online of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Mohammed, and various Hindu deities. In response, a Delhi magistrate summoned the executives of 21 companies and suggested they face trial for criminal conspiracy.”

If the issue as described above is the whole story, what is now before the Delhi High Court (DHC) adds a twist to the age old issue of the responsibility of the provider (of the transmission support) for the content that is transmitted. Take two equivalent cases:

*	Assume “objectionable” material is sent through the mail. Is the Post Office bound to vet the content of every letter? Would the DHC block postal traffic if the Post Office fails to devise mechanisms to check and remove objectionable material? I doubt the DHC would act in this way.
*	Assume “objectionable” material is put in an “advertisement section” of a paper. Is the newspaper bound to vet the content of each advertisement? I suspect jurisprudence says it does.

Different standards are upheld – depending on the judicially perceived feasibility of “vetting”, and, I’d say, the prejudice of the court. If the Postal Office belongs to my country’s friendly Crown, it will get off easily when it declares itself unable to do the vetting. Internet providers are all-powerful “foreign devils”.

But the core issue before the DHC seems to me actually to be another one. In the olden days the main issue was one of (political and morals) censorship – the state vs. the individual. The DHC case and other similar cases, however, appear to refer to Government involvement on behalf of privacy rights of third parties.

*	“Objectionable” material about real places and people is put into a novel – e.g. the novel is set in sea resort, which is described as “dreary”. Or a hideous crime is described as taking place in a named neighborhood. Is the publisher bound to vet the content of the novel, lest such “collateral” comments be judged defamatory? It is, apparently: in France a host of lawyers go through a novel to purge it of any derogatory material it may contain regarding real persons and places. I suspect that Baudelaire’s quip: “pauvre Belgique” or Zola’s social novels would no longer be permitted to see the printer’s ink, nowadays.
*	A gyration of this is taking place in Switzerland, where GoogleMap has been enjoined to blank out faces and number plates of cars in front of buildings it has photographed.

A similar scenario appears now to be before the DHC. The DHC is not asked to protect the interests of the state (India is a secular state) but ostensibly to protect the rights of private persons – those of Mr Vinay Rai and religious people like him – in this case to have his religious feelings untrammeled by offensive images.

Please note the extensive interpretation of the right. Protection extends, beyond immediate exposure to offensive material, to the very notion that this material exists and is available. Mr. Vinay Rai need not see the offensive pictures, while he surfs the net, and he will not, unless he actively seeks them. He objects to the very fact that they be there, protected by just a click from unwary eyes. Formulated in another way, the enforcement of morals – no longer much of a public issue – remerges as conflict over private rights.

The DHC seems to argue that there is a privately held right to have the state censor religiously offensive material – which is available on demand – in order to protect “personal feelings”. If this is the case, then holding such material in the privacy of the home would also fall under the right.

The Swiss Hugh Court has ruled that assisted suicide – which is legal in the country – could not be carried out in the privacy of a specified building because this activity infringed on the right of the plaintiff to pass undisturbed. Mere awareness the act might be carried out inside justifies judicial intervention (would this right also extend to orgies?). A subsequent referendum validated the right to assisted suicide, so Isuspect the judgment will hardly be enforced – but it sets a precedent.

The battle over the “freedom of access” no longer is bilateral: between the individual and the (politically) oppressive state, but a triangular relation where the state is asked to intervene as a “protector of a private right”. It has a subsidiary interest in the matter to the extent that the circulation of religiously offensive images may be inflammatory.

Cynically, once provider “vetting” is introduced to protect privacy, it will be extended by the back door to serve politics. Darkness parading as white knight – an irony fully worth of George Orwell. Note further that the “self-censorship” by a provider is unregulated, subject to neither judicial nor political review, and thus likely to be much more sweeping than the official one, which is bound by the Constitution as well as its need to sustain broad legitimacy. The provider will apply the “precautionary principle” quite broadly, given that he has no interest whatever in the content, and he may even provide the service for free. The state threat to shut the provider down is disproportionate and effective.


PS: In astronomy a “three body problem” was proven by Poincaré not to have a unique or absolute solution, but to be inherently chaotic.


[1] <>

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Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro aka Sala


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Cell: +679 998 2851 <tel:%2B679%20998%202851> 




Aldo Matteucci
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CH 3074 MURI b. Bern
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