New Internationalist

Web Censorship Roundup

An increasingly totalitarian regime wants to introduce mass internet censorship in a fundamentally undemocratic way. Web users may be disconnected and web sites taken down with no due process or clear evidence on the say-so of shadowy unelected bodies. Oh, and Google finally stood up to Chinese internet censorship.

The increasingly totalitarian regime in question is the UK’s Government. It is set to introduce its Digital Economy Bill without any parliamentary debate. The shadowy bodies are the usual mixture of big business media interests. They’ve lobbied (you know how lobbying works, right?) and pressured our elected masters into trying to force through a nasty bit of legislation that punishes the innocent and guilty alike without the need for little niceties like evidence.

Tom Chance of the Green Party identifies three backward steps in the legislation:

  • It forces internet service providers to disconnect you from the internet if somebody has used your connection to persistently download illegal content. That could be you, your housemate, family member or neighbour. No due process, no fine, just disconnection.
  • It hands sweeping powers over copyright to a politician without proper Parliamentary oversight, allowing them to further extend and complicate this arcane system without proper debate.
  • In an amendment put forward by Liberal Democrat Lords, it also forces internet service providers to block web sites if big business says they infringe copyright. This would have a "chilling effect", making people more reluctant to offer services that might attract this draconian attention.

Independent media outlets like New Internationalist might have our websites blocked just because some corporation doesn’t like the cut of our gib! Sites like wikileaks which encourage a healthy whistleblowing culture are even more likely to suffer.

The way that the legislation might be introduced is extremely dodgy too. The Open Rights Group outline the problems in how it will be implemented:

"If the executive gets its way, whatever gets passed into the Bill will be agreed behind closed doors in wash up. MPs can choose to follow the example of the thousands of people who are now emailing MPs from 38 Degrees’ site to demand a debate."

I encourage you to demand a debate too.

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  1. #2 ds 30 Aug 10

    Thanks for that recommendation; it is really helpful for me to say!

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About the author

Charlie Harvey a New Internationalist contributor

Charlie Harvey is the IT Manager here at New Internationalist. He's active in both the activist and tech communities and is a vocal advocate of Free Software. You can read more on his main Charlie Harvey site.

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