To coincide with the start of the London Conference on Cyberspace, eleven organisations and experts on freedom of expression and privacy online have today written to the Foreign Secretary stating that Britain's desire to promote these ideals internationally is being hampered by domestic policy.
Pointing to UK policies including proposals for greater controls over what legal material people are allowed to access on the Internet in the UK, for example through Claire Perry MP's ongoing inquiry into online child protection, Open Rights Group, Index on Censorship, Privacy International, Evgeny Morozov, Heather Brooke and others (full list below) argue that Britain's desire to promote these ideals internationally is being undermined by domestic policy. You can read the full letter below. We'll be tweeting from the conference today and tomorrow - you can follow us here and Peter Bradwell here.
"Rt Hon William Hague MP,
First Secretary of State and
Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs,
Foreign & Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London. SW1A 2AH
31st October 2011
Dear First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs,
World leaders will today converge on London for the Conference on Cyberspace.
The conference will take place in the shadow of revolutions that have laid bare the relationship between technology, citizens' freedom and political power.
This has created a unique opportunity for the UK government to show leadership in promoting the rights of citizens online.
However, the government's record on freedom of expression and privacy is less than ideal. Britain's desire to promote these ideals internationally is being hampered by domestic policy.
The government is currently considering greater controls over what legal material people are allowed to access on the Internet. This is clear from recent public support by the Prime Minister, and through Claire Perry MP's ongoing inquiry, for plans to filter adult and other legal material on UK Internet connections by default. The new PREVENT counter-terrorism strategy contains similar proposals for the filtering of material that is legal but deemed undesirable.
Earlier this year the Prime Minister suggested there should be more powers to block access to social media, a policy that drew praise from China and which the government swiftly backed away from. There are also plans for more pervasive powers to surveil and access people's personal information online.
The government now has an historic opportunity to support technologies that promote rather than undermine people's political and social empowerment.
We call for the UK government to seize this opportunity to reject censorship and surveillance that undermines people's rights to express themselves, organise or communicate freely. That is the only way to both enshrine the rights of citizens in the UK and to support these principles internationally.
This government should be proud to stand up for freedom of expression and privacy off- and online.
This conference should herald a new stage in which these principles are upheld in UK policy.
Brett Soloman, Executive Director, Access,
Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director, Article 19
Cory Doctorow, Fellow, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Jonathan Heawood, Director, English PEN
Evgeny Morozov, author, 'The Net Delusion'
Andrew Puddephatt, Director, Global Partners
Heather Brooke, author, 'The Revolution will be Digitised'
John Kampfner, CEO, Index on Censorship
Tony Curzon Price, Editor-in-Chief, openDemocracy
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Simon Davies, Director, Privacy International"