See the update below

Subject: Censorship in Latin America community web site?


I've been watching a discussion that is very relevant to my work as a technologist concerned with ethics, morals and society, and yesterday I noticed that it was wiped out from the web site.

The discussion had caught my attention with this headline:

TEMA: Dec 8, 2007 @ 11:27 AM
Prácticas monopólicas de Microsoft en México 2003-2007
Estimados colegas sirva este espacio para convocar a los miembros de la comunidad IEEE R9 a colaborar en el tema de prácticas monopólicas. Como es bien sabido por todos ust...

Yesterday, when I opened the URL above to see whether there was anything new, I got this error:

Unavailable Content

Sorry, the content requested is not available. It has either been removed or you do not have sufficient permissions to access it.

Since I had sufficient permissions just the day before, it's quite clear to me that it was removed. Since it's about Microsoft's monopolies in Mexico, I'm highly concerned that this has Microsoft's strong hand in it.

I already get very little benefit from my IEEE membership, but I've historically renewed membership because I thought I was supporting a good cause. If IEEE will bend over to Microsoft like that, I'd rather not renew my membership, and let others know they shouldn't do it, for I don't feel like supporting censorship and unethical monopolies.

I can't find any contact information for people who run that site, so I'm resorting to you. Thanks in advance for looking into this,

[URL of this posting and personal signature snipped.]

So blong...

Updated 2007-12-13 22:37 UTC

Here's what Andres Castelblanco was sent in response about this issue, with copy to myself and others:

I'm Aaron Benitez, Founder and Administrator of the IEEE Online Community for Latin America and The Caribbean (Region 9, R9).

First of all, I thank you very much for addressing this concern to my attention. I have answers to all of your questions regarding this issue:

1) The IEEE R9 Online Community is aimed to:

  • Support Region 9 committees, councils, sections, chapters and branches' activities.
  • Release volunteers from excessive paperwork load.
  • Increase collaboration among chapters and branches of any technical society with presence in our region.
  • Provide information to our members about the activities of the Institute in our area.

This is detailed on the welcome page of . As you all can see, it is not our goal to provide a forum for TECHNICAL MATTERS that IEEE Societies already cover.

2) The discussion was removed by its creator, Ignacio Castillo, who based his decision on the considerations above that I provided him with. It was not me nor anyone else the ones that deleted this content.

3) IEEE Region 9 does not censor. I am also a member of the IEEE Computer Society's Chapters Activities Board and I am perfectly aware of many of the IEEE - Microsoft agreements that currently exist. There is no way MS could make us censor anything. It's not part of our Code of Ethics.

4) I strongly demand to the person in charge of to update his blog with this information. If not done so, THAT would be censorship. I tried to post this as a comment in there but it was not possible.

5) I've run the R9 Community for two years now and this is the first time someone suggest that there can be censorship. Therefore my interest in giving an explanation is more than clear.

I thank you all for your attention,

  • Aarón

Aarón, here are my considerations about your posting:

1) I don't know of any IEEE Societies in charge of technical (?) matters such as Microsoft's monopolies. It doesn't even seem to be a technical matter to me, but rather a political and social (Update 2: ethical and economic too) issue. I'd be happy to be pointed at the IEEE discussion spaces where discussions like this are welcome, but I don't quite see that this is out of line with many other discussions that take place in that web site.

2) I apologize for assuming the discussion was removed against Ignacio's will. Thanks for confirming it was you who initiated the process of getting it removed, by talking to him about it. It's quite unfortunate that he could unilaterally make the decision of removing all the discussion that had taken place, including others' postings. This is quite supportive of censorship, in case a discussion goes in a direction different from the outcome expected by its initiator.

3) That's very comforting, thanks.

4) Done. I can't see in our logs any indication that any attempt was made to post anything in the discussion portion of this message, although I see that the discussion page was opened. I can see other discussion posts in other messages made today, so I'm clueless as to why it failed for you. What error did you get?

5) Well done, thanks.

So blong...

Updated 2007-12-13 23:40 UTC

I guess the point in 2) isn't quite clear, so let me try to help people connect the dots. So, Aarón suggested Ignacio to remove the discussion in which many people were involved, and he went for it, leaving no traces whatsoever not only of his own postings, but also of postings by others.

Now, it is possible that other active participants in the discussion were contacted and agreed with the removal, but did this actually happen? If not, I still regard the removal as censorship.

I guess we could just clear it all up by restoring that discussion, with a pointer to this conversation and a suggestion that the discussion continues here. Or perhaps someone kept a copy of the discussion (I was too naïve to do it myself) and we could post it all here...


Updated 2008-03-03 16:20 UTC

After a few weeks waiting for approval of my membership to the much smaller in spite of not being a regional group IEEE Social Implications of Technology forum (370 members vs 2374 in the Latin American forum), I could finally get in (several weeks ago, actually, but I didn't report back before, sorry) and see that the discussion hadn't gone much further.

IIRC Ignacio sent me the contents of the discussion, but I've been far too busy to convert it to something that I could easily publish here.

Oh well...

So blong...