As you read this article on the internet, have you considered how safe you and your loved ones are online? Especially those must vulnerable? As you consider the role of your government in providing safety and national security have you thought that the government may have missed issues that are vital to you as a citizen?
You know about this website right? It’s definitely more important to know about than any social media outlet: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/registry
From this site, in less than two minutes I pulled up an interactive map with the houses of 9 sex offenders (most of whom were paedophiles) in the area of the Midwestern town that I and a few thousand other people call home in the USA. One of the offenders lives 500 metres (half a mile) down the road. Thanks to the FBI for creating and maintaining this database.
Unfortunately, most readers outside the USA will find that our* governments have not created a Sex Offenders Registry, and the limited access to vital preventative child safety information is in direct proportion to the priority given to paedophiles’ privacy over children’s safety. Any government that does not invest in an online registry means child safety and giving the public this information is not a high enough priority. (*I’m a dual U.S. & Australian citizen living in Europe.)
Many paedophiles will reoffend (statistics vary). We the citizens must demand that a Sex Offender Registry is online, public, frequently updated and easily accessible in every nation.
Separation of Activism and State
Another online threat is the risk of loss of privacy and our right to protest unjust laws and government action. The two cases of Aaron Swartz and Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrate these points. Obviously King’s story does not involve the Internet, but the two short-lived activists have much in common.
Aaron Swartz whose story can be seen in the Netflix documentary The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz was a technological genius, lauded for his Internet insight even at 14 years old, and involved in the campaign to prevent the proposed over-stretching SOPA law. He was accused of computer fraud for downloading copious amounts of scholarly articles too quickly (which he accessed legally) with people speculating that he may have hosted them on an open server to provide public access to the information. The legal fees, massive fines and possible 35 year prison sentence were extremely heavy burdens to bear, and after his untimely death the U.S. government prosecution stated that they would not have asked for the full sentence. In other words, Aaron was being made an example of and threatened by individuals who were making decisions on behalf of the government which is meant to represent all the people. Why? Was he singled out for being an influential activist?
During the civil rights movement Dr Martin Luther King received threats which were later to be found as originating from the FBI, threats to tarnish and smear his character if he didn’t stop what he was doing. And what was he doing? Challenging unjust laws and systemic racism that peacefully threatened those in power.
National security and the public and secret organisations with massive budgets and masses of experts should focus on criminals not activists. Mostly, that is exactly what they are doing. But there are cases that should have us, the tax-paying citizens, questioning just how much accountability these people and organisations have. It would be for their own benefit and for the benefit of the citizens for more systems of accountability to be put into place.
Recognizing the need for accountability and the lack thereof, some have taken very serious measures to bring secret government decisions to the public arena. In some countries, these government critics are assassinated by their own leaders, a clear sign of tyranny. But in our democratic nations, whistle-blowers are deemed traitors by one side and hailed as heroes by the other. Either way, the healthiest democracies will pursue liberty and freedom for all without becoming a tyrant for those it sees as internal or external threats. We must speak out on the behalf of those that are being unjustly treated by governments that are abusing power to punish activism. Aaron harmed no on in his activism and has left his footprints throughout the internet we enjoy, as you will see in the documentary.
So how can a person who upholds the law protest from within that system? Greenpeace’s example comes to mind, when its founders travelled by ship to protest a test nuclear explosion. When the U.S. Coast Guard came to enforce the law and potentially hinder their protest, many Coast Guard sailors signed a letter to the Greenpeace crew stating that they were in favour of the protest but had to carry out their orders to thwart it. Having broken protocol, the sailors and captain were disciplined, yet this was an act of peaceful protest from both those whose jobs were to enforce the law and those involved in activism to stop a bomb with a 20 thousand year footprint.
So, citizen, check out the Sexual Offenders website that the U.S. government has created to protect us and our children. But also consider ways to speak out against laws that would have kept Aaron, advocating for equal accessibility of information, behind bars longer than someone found to be distributing child pornography material.