A week is a long time for Internet users, particularly when civil liberties and freedom of speech are at issue.
Case in point - the document detailing allegedsatanic abuse known as the JET Report which Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) tried desperately to stop being published on the Internet.
For those of you who haven't been keeping up with events, the report documents an alleged satanic abuse ring in Broxtowe in 1988. The report severely criticises the original investigation into the abuse, particularly the way the investigation was carried out by the council. Understandably, NCC was not very keen on its contents being posted all over the world.
But the Council's sentiments were not shared by three journalists who had investigated the Broxtowe incident. They decided the world needed to know what was said in the JET Report and set up a site to publicise it.
No sooner had the report settled into its cyber home when the council issued the journalists with a High Court injunction to have it removed.
Surely the council should have known what would follow: mirror sites popped up everywhere and organisations such as Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/law/ pgs/yaman/yaman.htm) actively encouraged web masters to follow suit. The council, bewildered by this sudden disobedience, sent out stiff letters threatening legal action.
One such letter was received by a US web-master who was warned to take the mirrored report off his server or face court action. He wrote back telling NCC: "You have no jurisdiction in the United States and I do not recognise your authority."
The council claimed it had good reason to want the site removed. Firstly, the report was protected under copyright law and anyone publishing the article would be in breach of copyright.
Secondly, the names of the children were on the report and are still in care. Any exposure, particularly by the press, could damage them.
But the author of the JET Report, John Gwatkin, claimed it had been intended for publication, but was censored after the council became aware of his criticisms. If this is true, the Council could be accused of a cover-up.
Tim Bell, chair of the Social Services at NCC, was not available to speak to PC Week, but was widely quoted as being dissapointed that the law is so ill-equipped to cope with the Internet.
Yaman Akdeniz, head of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties, believed the council seriously underestimated the power of the Internet and, more importantly, the zeal with which people will fight for the dissemination of information.
He said, "The global Internet does not recognise boundaries and will resist any attempts by individual governments and law enforcement bodies to suppress or censor information on it."
More importantly, people will not recognise the authority of an organisation that tries to suppress information that criticises its own operation.
The Net has become a sort of champion's arena, a plan where people can conduct wide-open debates and discussions. It is vital to our society and we now have a weapon to defend it.
Hoorah for free speech, hoorah for the Internet and hoorah for those brave enough to risk jail sentences to stand up for what they believe.
The JET report will appear (http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~dlheb/Default.htm) later this week.
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