Now I have got your attention, I want to write about Conservative communications minister, Ed Vaizey, who has announced the governments intentions to “lean on” broadband internet providers to block internet content - not because the content is illegal, but because the government doesn’t like it very much.
OK, so at the moment he’s talking about internet pornography, stating that he wants ISP’s to consider blocking by default all access to the mucky stuff by anyone who doesn’t “opt in” to receive it (and dropping fairly ominous hints about the contents of an upcoming communications bill if they don’t) but believe me this is the thin end of a very fat wedge.
Just to make things absolutely clear, most internet providers already have stringent measures in place to block access to anything that is illegal, and quite rightly so! They also already offer comprehensive means for parents to control what their children can and cannot look at whilst online, and I have no argument with that either. If they wanted to spend public money on a serious campaign to educate parents who don’t already know how to make sure their kids are safe when online, that is perfectly fine by me. If they wanted to introduce measures to child protection legislation, stating that parents who don’t take appropriate measures to block their kids from accessing adult content are guilty of negligence, I probably wouldn’t argue with that either! Hell, if they wanted to stop Christine Aguillera shaking her boobies on children’s TV, sorry, I mean the X-Factor; they’d quite possibly have a fair point.
But to say that a grown adult has to sign on to some kind of special register, just so they can look at pictures of naked men and women having sex on the internet, is absolutely ludicrous and sets a very dangerous precedent indeed.
Think about all the other content that breaks no laws, but the government may like to have their own list of everyone who wants to access it anyway, just so they know who they are. Footage of police officers beating up suspects in the cells, or dragging profoundly disabled men out of their wheelchairs on student protests, perhaps? People using the internet to organise demonstrations about illegal wars or high profile tax-dodgers, maybe? Recent months have shown us just how powerful a tool for sharing information and enabling legitimate protest the internet actually is, they have also shown us why governments around the world have manifold reasons for wanting to control what people can and cannot do online.
If this government was serious about protecting children, they would not be slashing the education budget and making hundreds of social workers redundant. It just goes to show that when they talk about the perils of “Big Government”, what they really mean is they don’t want to regulate the banks or what big business can do to the general public, but have every intention of continuing the crack-down on civil liberties and free speech, like the Victorian censors who locked the treasures of the newly excavated Pompeii away in a secret museum, just because they were quite...well...rude!
90% of British homes get their internet from just six companies, BT, Virgin, Talk Talk, BSkyB, Orange and 02, so if you wanted to oppose the government’s plans on this one the obvious choice would be to boycott any firm that capitulates to pressure from Vaizey. Sadly I think that’s quite unlikely to happen. So perhaps all we can do is wait for the inevitable to happen, when some anonymous hacker or disgruntled customer service advisor gains access to the database, obtains a list of all the government ministers who have opted in to watch a bit of the old hardcore in the comfort of their own home...and sends it to WikiLeaks.
And then laugh our fucking arses off!
But by then we might be laughing on the other side of our face, because they'll probably have blocked WikiLeaks too!