Wednesday, February 07, 2007


There's an old net.saying that the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. The CYFSWatch saga has just proved this point again. After Google censored them at the behest of the New Zealand government, they've simply found another host and are still in business. No doubt the government will play whackamole and try again, but not even the Church of Scientology could win at that game. I don't expect the New Zealand government to have any better luck.

While I don't like what CYFSWatch says, I do not think there is any basis for the government to censor them. While its tone is aggressive, it hasn't come close to that taken by RedWatch (no photos of people's houses or cars; no veiled but deniable suggestions that those named should be targeted for harassment and assault - and even that was carefully within the bounds). No-one has yet been explicitly threatened with violence, and it does not meet the bar for incitement (it may meet the bar for defamation, but that is a matter between those named and the site's authors, and no business of the government). While the naming and posting of address information is distasteful, it is essentially public information. More importantly, it should not be an offence for people to recount their dealings with a government department and name those they dealt with - particularly if they are unhappy as a result. The process of holding government to account for its actions relies on people being able to do this, and if it is an offence or results in censorship, then we have just taken a significant step towards Stalinist Russia.

If CYFS disapproves of what is said, then there is an obvious path available to it: respond. Obviously it cannot discuss individual cases publicly, but it can talk about its procedures and the safeguards it (presumably) has to ensure that those in its care are kept safe and that the powers of CYFS staff to remove children are not abused and used only where appropriate. And of course the procedures it has to ensure that CYFS staff who act inappropriately are properly held to account. The New Zealand public ought to be able to have faith in these safeguards. The fact that so many people who have dealt with CYFS are resorting to the internet suggests strongly that they at least do not.


To be honest, I would have no objection to CYFS publicly discussing the identifiable cases involved here. Justification on grounds of protecting the identities of the children concerned is clearly gone once the parents release their own names.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/07/2007 06:15:00 PM

The site hasn't been taken off. I doubt it will be unless and until CYFS prove defamation or possibly contempt of court - in which case they will be fully entitled to ask Google and any other host to remove it.

Posted by Rich : 2/07/2007 07:10:00 PM

This is Social Engineering at it's best with no natural justice for families.

I as a parent would love to exploit those who fail to do their jobs as a professional as these are the one's to me who destroy families.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 10:35:00 AM