In this post in the Great Firewall thread, Tomndeb said:
My question is - does the Board permit discussion of how to violate manifestly unjust laws? Like ones that violate human rights? The Chinese law may (or may not) be clearly beyond the pale of civilized legislation, but we can probably agree that some laws need to be disobeyed, and disobeyed with vigor. For example - I like to think that if this Board had SudanDopers, it’d be willed with tips on avoiding acts of genocide, and to heck with Sudanese law.
Yah, it’s a bit of a fanciful point - but the question remains: At what point, if any, can Dopers help other Dopers to break unjust, evil laws?
I’m given to understand that the boards only care about American law. If they’re going to prohibit discussions which violate ANY law, they might as well just shut down and turn the server into a fish tank. AFAIK, it’s not a violation of US law to disseminate information on breaking through the Chinese Firewall.
Ethical discussions regarding whether and when it is legitimate to break a law are valid exercises.
Practical discussions of how to break a law are pretty much verboten.
The current thread has not (yet) been shut down and I do not intend to close or remove it as long as it remains a discussion of ethics.
As I noted in the thread, itself, this board has actual owners, (with real live lawyers–a point I did not emphasize in the thread), who may or may not perceive the situation the way I do. Their decisions regarding the thread will be final.
This board may violate some laws from time to time–we will not suppress any idiot who denies the Holocaust although that person would be subject to legal sanctions in much of Europe. However, the current discussion revolves around a Westerner (Yank?) potentially violating law as a visitor in another country. To the extent that someone on this board might be perceived as encouraging that person to break the law while in the other country, there is a sufficient shift in circumstances as to require that we be more circumspect than if it were simply two Yanks making blue-sky conversation about streaking with their wives in Islamabad.
You raise a good point. Here is our current thinking on the subject:
The registration agreement was modified a few years ago specifically to clarify what laws we intend to enforce on the SDMB. It now says users aren’t allowed to violate or advocate violation of U.S. law. We don’t consider ourselves obligated to enforce the laws of other countries.
That said, as a general proposition we don’t see much percentage in encouraging people to violate foreign laws. An example is gun control regulation in the Netherlands, which I understand is much stricter than in most of the U.S. We don’t want to get into the business of second-guessing Dutch lawmakers on this controversial issue, and would remove posts encouraging people to violate Dutch gun laws. Our default assumption is that you shouldn’t violate the laws of wherever you happen to be living. Thus tomndebb was right to raise questions about this thread.
We’re inclined to make exceptions for foreign laws that in our opinion fly in the face of what Americans consider fundamental liberties, such as free speech. I’m told Holocaust denial is illegal in some European countries, but we don’t prohibit such discussion on this board, repugnant though we may find it, nor would we ban or rat out a European user who posted such thoughts. (Not on my watch, anyway.) The idea that we should cooperate with Chinese government censorship is similarly repellent.
Notwithstanding the above noble sentiments, we consider all cases involving enforcement or violation of foreign laws individually. If, for example, telling somebody how to get around Chinese law would also enable them to get around U.S. law, we’d be unlikely to allow that.
Turning to the thread in question, I note that the OP isn’t asking for technical advice on how to evade censorship; he’s asking about the wisdom of giving his students such advice. This is well within the limits of what we consider permissible discussion, so we plan to let the thread proceed.