I love the freedom of the Internet. The idea that any kind of knowledge, any kind of product or service is just a click away still astounds me.
Children born today will find it very difficult to believe that it was ever any different. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys this freedom. There are those poor souls who have no access to the internet because of lack of means or infrastructure. Then there are those who only have access to a limited subset. They can see what their government wants them to see.
For some reason, I find that really sinister. I abhor the idea of someone in power deciding what I can or cannot see.
Living in the UK, we are lucky to have a press that is the envy of the world. Up until recently, I believed that they operated with no interference. They print what they want, even if it holds the state to account for their behaviour. I can’t imagine the press reports about MP’s expenses would be allowed in China or Burma for example. This was the press at their best.
Not so long ago, the press blotted their copy books by illegally hacking phones to source interesting news copy. This was not their finest hour. In response, the government is introducing a new watchdog backed by legislation to control the worst excesses of the press.
I don’t like it.
David Cameron recently unveiled an agreement with all the main internet service providers in the UK to introduce a “porn filter”. Unless subscribers opt out of the scheme, their internet access will be filtered to exclude adult content. According to the Open Rights Group, as well as sexual content, this will include violence, extremist related content, eating disorder web sites, suicide related web sites, alcohol and smoking related content and esoteric material (whatever that may be). Who’s going to decide what’s OK and what isn’t?
I really don’t like it.
Anyone who wants to view any kind of adult material will have to opt in. This means that they will be on a list of people who have actively chosen to view such content. I really hope we are not sleepwalking into a world where such a choice has negative consequences for the individual concerned.
The thing I find really sinister is that the infrastructure to block content will exist. Will successive governments resist the temptation to filter anything inconvenient? Can we even believe that we have free access today?
- Internet Regulation (mequa.wordpress.com)
- UK ISP on porn filters: if you want internet censorship ‘move to North Korea’ (wired.co.uk)
- ‘An Open Letter to David Cameron and the IOC’ (iamsamstevens.wordpress.com)
- UK ‘Porn’ Filter Will Also Blacklist Non-Porn Websites (usahitman.com)
- UK Porn Filter: Censorship extends beyond pornography..of course it does! (seeker401.wordpress.com)
- UK ‘Porn’ Filter Will Also Block Violence, Alcohol, Terrorism, Smoking And ‘Esoteric Material’ (wemustknow.wordpress.com)
- Government censorship — no matter how well-intentioned — can never be a good thing (betanews.com)
- Porn filters: 12 reasons why they won’t work (and 3 reasons why they might) (theguardian.com)
- Internet at Risk: Cameron’s ‘Porn Filter’ is a Stalking Horse for Censorship (tallbloke.wordpress.com)
- UK Internet Porn Censor to Also Block Conspiracy Theories (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
David Cameron’s proposals are quite shoddy in my book – the politics of fear and “think of the children”.
The Internet is already subject to censorship though. ISPs in the UK regularly block both child porn and pirate/torrent sites. Cyberbullying (as I alluded to in my blog) is likely to be clamped down on too, with some high-profile suicides resulting from it. Some cyberbullies I’ve known have lamented this, saying that people’s “fragility” shouldn’t impact on their “freedom of speech” (i.e. freedom to bully with impunity). They are unlikely to get much sympathy from many others, except those fanatics of “liberty at any cost” and, of course, other cyberbullies.
One problem is that the worst offenders are the ones who feel most entitled to absolute liberty, including the liberty to abuse others with impunity. At the end of the day, it seems any possible “solution” (including doing nothing) is likely to end in a lose-lose. I don’t have positive solutions to offer I’m afraid, just my commentary on the current state of affairs with reference to some of my first-hand experience.