When I was a kid my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I of course said I wanted to be the CTO of a fast growing ISP with prospects 🙂 Dad was somewhat confused with this and told me not to be a silly boy because the internet hadn’t been invented yet and I should learn to be a doctor or a judge or pursue some similarly respectable form of employment.
Some days it feels as if dad will end up having his own way and I will end up as a judge. In the news this morning is yet another report suggesting that ISPs should put together a code of practice in respect of taking down websites that do something we aren’t supposed to like.
There is a lot of this going on. If it isn’t the movie and music industry rightsholders wanting us to block sites promoting copyright infringement it’s Nominet in cahoots with the police trying to suspend domains allegedly supporting criminal activity. Today its a Home Affairs Committee reporting on radicalisation suggesting that ISPs need a voluntary code of practice that supports the taking down of websites containing violent extremist material.
Glancing through the report the committee did cover the issues surrounding radicalisation and the internet with reasonable thoroughness. For example it was recognised that there were existing legal mechanisms that allowed the take down of websites if they were breaking the law.
Now hands up if you think it is a good thing to kill people because they don’t have similar religious views as your own (leave a comment)? Okaay now hands up if you think this is a bad thing – “Like”, “tweet” or “+1” if this is you.
Now next question how many of you think it is a good thing for you to take decisions that have up until now been thought as the role of a high court judge – ie difficult ones that have serious implications if you get it wrong.
Because the whole world has moved or is moving onto the internet laymen (OED – a category of person often comprised almost exclusively of politicians) latch on to the idea of controlling that new world and stopping people accessing bits of it. In isolation some of these desires may not seen unreasonable. In reality when you take the whole picture into consideration the sum of these “not unreasonable” parts amounts to wholesale censorship.
If we are not careful the internet will turn into a police state. I’m not scaremongering here1. There will be some
roads waves you can’t walk surf because of fear of being seen by some authority somewhere to be associating with a website or concept even that displeases someone in authority.
Keep the internet open. Keep politicians away from the internet. We don’t need internet specific laws – we just need someone to make existing ones work. Layering codes of practice on codes of practice is not the way to do it.
1 well I might be but I voice what should be a real concern to people