Here's how the iPad threatens free speech...

Apple's bid to dominate and control media markets could come with a heavy cost to society...

David Ridsdale pointed me to this excellent article by Frederic Filloux: The iParanoid Scenario.

He writes about French privacy laws that enable judges to rule that a news magazine, or any other type of publication, has to be with withdrawn because it contains information that has violated privacy laws.

France has a long history of using such practices to censor news.

In the early '60s, the country was waging a colonial war in Algeria. Then, for the most avid news readers, the game was to get the weekly magazine L'Express at the kiosk as early as possible before French authorities seized it...

What happens if the magazine is on your iPad?

Since with the iPad, Apple is seeking to control the entire value chain, from approval of iPad apps, through to delivery, and the look and feel of the media -- it must also have an iDelete capability built-in.

Mr Filloux makes an excellent point that even if a newspaper is willing to fight a court battle against parties that would seek to suppress a news story -- Apple could be ordered directly by a court to delete that content.

The truth is that, given the pattern of legal actions against the press in France, it is more than certain a French judge will be tempted to request an immediate remote deletion of presumably infringing content.

Wow. The very existence of the iPad threatens free speech rights. Or to put it another way, dominant proprietary closed systems endanger free speech. He's right.

But, there is always the Internet, an open platform...

Of course, we have the option to go on the Internet, but it is exactly as though, in the '60s, the journalists of L'Express had mimeographed and distributed their Algerian war stories by hand in the streets of Paris. Nice move, but tiny audience and no money.

Mr Filloux has done an excellent job in highlighting the risks to news journalism from a dominant and closed media tablet such as the iPad.

And we will have the iDelete function working, even when we don't know what was deleted. Why? Because we can. Because it will be touted as a benefit, it's an 'auto-correct' feature that fixes mistakes such as "the capital of Venezuela is Paris." It's a way of ensuring accurate information.

And a way to potentially suppress accurate information.

Yes, news organizations could fight court battles over the accuracy of their stories, and maybe even win, and have their deleted articles reinstated. But that's an expensive way to uphold free speech rights. The last time I looked the newspaper publishers were losing money -- lots of it.

[Earnings season: Newspapers finish 14th straight revenue-losing quarter; some intel from Wall Street filings]

I guess fear of news censorship is a moot point, at least here in the US. With no money for investigative reports there hasn't been much news published that risks being covered up.

A weak newspaper industry is enough of a threat to free speech and the great muckraking traditions of the press.

It is well put in this December 8 Op-Ed from the Wall Street Journal:

...newspapers have prospered for one reason: the trust that comes from representing their readers' interests and giving them the news that's important to them. That means covering the communities where they live, exposing government or business corruption, and standing up to the rich and powerful.

Well said by Rupert Murdoch.

If trust is important to success, will a newspaper on the iPad inspire trust? It doesn't look that way.

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