Patricia De Lille wants censorship of blogs

Patricia De Lille has done what too many politicians do when faced with something a little out of their control, she has called for the government to clamp down. Specifically she has called for censorship of blogs and the Web, generally, because she is concerned about the ability of just about anyone to post potentially defamatory comments on the Web. She has also called for a clampdown on the popular messaging service, Mxit, using the time tested “child porn/stalking formula”. According to IOL De Lille has asked the National Intelligence to track down the identity of a person who made defamatory comments about Simon Grindrod, a fellow Independent Democrats member:

“Another worrying development in cyberspace is the abuse of blogging, which allows anonymous individuals to post defamatory comments about anyone they choose, without the legal consequences they would face in other more reputable print and electronic media,” said De Lille in a statement.

This outburst says a lot about De Lille’s “democratic credentials” and her grasp on this whole blog thing. Sure anyone can create a blog and post comments about anyone but to use that as a reason to censor blogs and what is published on the Web is a bit of a stretch. De Lille is proving to be something of a hypocrite, clinging to her democratic ideals when it suits her and ignoring them when it doesn’t suit her. Here is an interesting quote from the site:

“When my opponents attack me, I don’t go crying in a corner like a little sissy and say, ‘Oh you know they’ve attacked me, I’m a woman.’ I just wait for the next opportunity and return the punch. That’s how I behave in Parliament and obviously, not everybody likes it,” says Patricia de Lille, the firebrand former Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) MP, in a new biography written by journalist Charlene Smith.

De Lille is no sissy, that’s for sure. Two years of death threats for publicly questioning state corruption in the controversial R43-billion arms deal have not stilled her quest for justice, political accountability, and human rights.

It seems her quest for respect for human rights doesn’t apply when she doesn’t like how those rights are expressed. There are those silly and most inconvenient fundamental rights in our Bill of Rights that tend to get in the way of this sort of thing, specifically the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion, belief and opinion. Now these rights are not absolute so they are hardly permission to do and say whatever you want but short of hate speech and similar abuses of these rights, each South African has the right to express his or her opinions and creativity. I haven’t seen the comments about Grindrod, but he certainly seems to attract attention so it isn’t surprising that a blogger would take him on. If the comments were that bad, I see no reason why Grindrod couldn’t lay charges with the South African Police Services and have them ascertain the blogger’s true identity and take action against him/her. Instead, De Lille takes this opportunity to call for a blatant violation of our collective rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Perhaps the party should be called the “Independent Democrats When We Want To Be”.

As for the Mxit complaint, De Lille has complained that children are being stalked and attacked using the popular messaging service and wants the government to clamp down on that too. Rather than looking for creative ways not to stifle innovation, she pushes the child abuse and pornography button in a move that looks a lot like George W Bush’s efforts to keep the American population in line with his “if you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists” line. This is a move intended to stir support for her efforts to not just clamp on the exercise of our constitutional rights but also innovative technologies like Mxit, all most likely due to a poor understanding of the technologies she complains about. Don’t get my wrong, pedophiles do use services like Mxit to bait young children but this is really something that parents need to educate their children about. Just like our parents used to teach us not to accept sweets from strangers or even talk to people we didn’t know, so should parents teach their kids not to give out sensitive information on the Mxit network or on the Web. This is not a reason to shut the services down. Instead, De Lille should be pushing for better education about these risks. As for the very real danger posed by these pedophiles, we have a body to deal with that. We call it the South African Police Service.

Never mind slanderous bloggers and tech savvy pedophiles, Patricia De Lille represents a far greater threat to our democracy and our fundamental rights. If she gets her way here we are heading right back to 1984.

Update: Jonathan, Angus, Rafiq and Dave Duarte have both chimed in already. Cry havoc and let loose the blogs of war?

Update 2: Vincent has just pitched in with his usually detailed and grounded analysis.

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