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Things that raised a chuckle

BY  Ivo Vegter , 1 November 20080 comments


Kiddie porn is bad, kids

Iyavar Chetty, head of the Film and Publications Board, stunned conference delegates last month with the breaking news that developing photographs no longer require a dark room, so producing child pornography is now cheap and easy. We`d have taken a photo of him to publish here, but were afraid of being arrested for owning cellphone cameras.

Of course, good-looking children aren`t all that cheap, but let`s not quibble over the details. He`s right that one can now fairly inexpensively buy a child pornography kit "consisting of a computer, a scanner, a photocopier and especially an internal modem".

In fact, we even know people who sell them. Lucky we have technically sophisticated government institutions on the case to crack down on this kind of reprehensible product.

Can't root out Poison Ivy

Having declined time and again to resign over her litany of failures since 1999, communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri couldn`t even bring herself to join her cabinet colleagues when they did the only honourable thing in the wake of president Thabo Mbeki`s ouster. Since a record of great successes cannot be behind her confidence that she would not have to ask for reappointment, one can only conclude that the deep roots she has grown in the executive branch are less a function of Mbeki`s patronage and more a function of her socialist orthodoxy.

There weren`t many cabinet members left to choose from, so perhaps one shouldn`t read too much in her appointment as acting president between Mbeki`s resignation and the swearing in of the night watchman, Kgalema Motlanthe. One dreads to think what her brand of "managed liberalisation" would do for the entire economy. On the upside, perhaps her deputy - Roy Padayachie - can take over from her. He at least gives the appearance of considering the needs of the industry. On the downside, some of the vapid loudmouths from the Youth League might have designs on a few cabinet posts too. The poison`s rash sure lasts long.

When collusion is good

Long-time ICT industry attorney Mike Silber notes an interesting point about the campaign to combat spam. While nobody (other than spammers) think it`s a good thing that 80 percent of the world`s e-mail traffic consists of unsolicited commercial mail, and everybody (except spammers) agrees spammers should be named and shamed (as the ISPA is doing with its "Hall of Shame"), there are limits on what an industry body can do against spammers.

"Collaborating on spam is dangerously close to collusion," he says, "but justifiable on the basis of consumer benefit and technical needs. If, however, a spammer were to be blacklisted by ISPA, and anyone who provided them with a service got kicked out of ISPA, this could be considered collusion and anti-competitive behaviour," he says.

This casts a whole new light on the presumption that competition law is a good and necessary adjunct to a well-functioning economy.

Politics, Aussie-style

Trust Australians to devise a wonderfully practical means of fighting back against government attempts to make them responsible for policing online content and monitoring communications. They failed to make the usual, reasonable case that data retention is expensive, that governments are organisationally incapable of making use of retained data, and that there are privacy arguments against imposing such a requirement on internet companies. So they made a shrewd Machiavellian counter-proposal: if the government sets up a big central wiretapping data repository, they`ll co-operate. Functionally identical to what the government was asking of private firms, this idea looked so expensive and Orwellian that they never heard another peep about it.


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