The totalitarian tip-toe is tap dancing to tyranny with the proposed Internet censorship bill in the United Kingdom. In the name of keeping children safe from porn, the UK law will impose Internet filters on far more than just porn.
According to Wired:
As well as pornography, users may automatically be opted in to blocks on “violent material”, “extremist related content”, “anorexia and eating disorder websites” and “suicide related websites”, “alcohol” and “smoking”. But the list doesn’t stop there. It even extends to blocking “web forums” and “esoteric material”, whatever that is. “Web blocking circumvention tools” is also included, of course.
The definition of “esoteric” makes clear that censorship of broad topics is the goal of this so-called ISP filter:
es·o·ter·ic [es-uh-ter-ik] adjective
1. understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest;
2. belonging to the select few.
3. private; secret; confidential.
Translation: anything outside the acceptable mainstream narrative will be filtered. In short, the free flow of information is under assault with this law.
The organization Open Rights Group refers to this totalitarian tip-toe as “sleepwalking into censorship”:
What’s clear here is that David Cameron wants people to sleepwalk into censorship. We know that people stick with defaults: this is part of the idea behind ‘nudge theory’ and ‘choice architecture’ that is popular with Cameron.
The implication is that filtering is good, or at least harmless, for anyone, whether adult or child. Of course, this is not true; there’s not just the question of false positives for web users, but the affect on a network economy of excluding a proportion of a legitimate website’s audience.
Open Rights also says the law could be used to play economic favorites, thus undermining the free market on the Internet:
There comes a point that it is simply better to place your sales through Amazon and ebay, and circulate your news and promotions exclusively through Facebook and Twitter, as you know none of these will ever be filtered.
It seems Western government’s voracity for Internet censorship has increased many fold since the Snowden revelations about digital spying.
Direct Internet censorship was imposed on millions of U.S. government computers blocking them from viewing any material related to the Snowden leak, which at the time of the leak and even now represents a large percentage of all political and technical news stories.
And as John Naughton of the Guardian points out today, the real story about the Snowden leak that everyone is ignoring are the implications on Internet freedom, which he lists as the following:
The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.
Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.
Third, as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant. “Today,” he writes, “the rhetoric of the ‘internet freedom agenda’ looks as trustworthy as George Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ after Abu Ghraib.”
As a final note, porn filters already exist for parents in the private marketplace if they choose to use them. So, there is no need for governments to make them mandatory, which indicates that the real agenda behind these new proposed laws is much more about censorship than protecting children.