May 01, 2012 | Jim Killock

What we have is regulation: what they want is control

If you want to know how bad things are getting, look no further than the confused conversation on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning.

If you want to know how bad things are getting, look no further than the confused conversation on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning.

Claire Perry was asked to comment on the Pirate Bay blocking, as an advocate of the default blocking of pornography.

She drew parallels between her proposal for ISP network level filtering to prevent access to “pornography” and the new blocking order for Pirate Bay.

She claimed (1h40m) that the Internet needed to be ‘regulated’ like all other media.

“I think the time is coming when the Internet should not be treated differently from any other form of media. We don’t accept it with any other media, with telly, or mobile phones, or anything else. Why should the Internet be any different?”

The Internet is not a broadcast medium, but politicians want to treat as such. Politicians want to know who the broadcaster and  publishers are and then ask them to act in the perceived interests of a passive audience.

Fortunately, speech on the Internet is more like a village square or a pub than television. That gives us tremendous power, but it won’t stop politicians for looking for the off switch when they find something they don’t like.

This strange alliance between copyright lobbyists and people concerned about children accessing pornography, is potentially extremely toxic. They both speak to a desire to control, monitor and pre-vet communications.

Internet regulation is intense and highly sophisticated, including e-Commerce, e-Privacy, copyright and data protection. The new push is for control, to replace regulation. Touchy subjects including copyright and child protection are merely the tools by which to advocate and build the infrastructure of control. The aim is to take the decision about what you are allowed to see and do online out of your hands.

Will we let it happen? That’s up to you. Join Open Rights Group and get involved in the fight.

Three reasons censorship is pointless

1 You’ll almost certainly still be able to visit the website, without any additional software, simply by using an SSL link, like

2 You no longer need a website to find shared bit-torrent files. You can use decentralized search tools, built into torrent clients, such as the EU-funded

3 Most copyright industries seem to be doing quite well (books, films, games, software). The case hasn't been made that drastic censorship measures are needed.

Three reasons censorship is dangerous

 1 It places ISPs firmly in the role of censor. Now that a gatekeeping, censoring role is established in politicians’ minds, new duties will be added. We see this spreading from a tiny number of child abuse sites under the IWF, to a growing number of copyright infringement sites, to proposals for extremist sites and default supposedly-adult content blocks.

2 It reduces pressure to deal with the real problems. In the case of Pirate Bay, some copyright industries, have a problem. They think it is control of the market and product; we think it is their speed of innovation. Pushes for copyright enforcement continue to create an illusion that control can be obtained by force rather than consent. People will pay for content: but they need to be tempted, rather than cajoled and harassed.

3 It makes the Pirate Bay into heroes. Whether you think the Pirate Bay was a bold experiment, an irresponsible criminal act, or a distraction, censorship makes them look both genuinely threatening and victimized. Like it or not, study after study shows Pirate Bay users are also the highest paying music and film customers. Changing their behaviour needs a better strategy than censorship, which will push these customers further away from the music industry.

Comments (7)

  1. AC:
    May 01, 2012 at 03:51 PM

    Under "It reduces pressure to deal with the real problems." you should have also mentioned proper parenting too! By making ISPs the censors on Ministers command, it essentially means the government are taking care of peoples kids for them, which is lazy and not a good example.

  2. Laurie Knight:
    May 01, 2012 at 04:43 PM

    "Like it or not, study after study shows Pirate Bay users are also the highest paying music and film customers. Changing their behaviour needs a better strategy than censorship"

    If users of the Pirate bay are also the highest paying customers of these industries, one would possibly think that these industries would not want to change said users behaviour - I mean it's hardly likely to end well for them is it, the users are unlikely to spend MORE after the industry kills of a well loved and used site.

    Are the music/film studios really _that_ stupid? If so they deserve their impending extinction, and I strongly welcome it.

  3. Steve St John:
    May 01, 2012 at 04:44 PM

    1984 ! ... end of transmission

  4. Andrew Ferguson:
    May 01, 2012 at 04:58 PM

    The combining may have been a R4/Today thing, but the fact that Claire Perry was happy to talk combined only adds to the worries of those that have the ideological concerns about these things.

    Copyright Infringement is breaking civil law no matter what your age.

    Viewing pornography is against law for under 18's, though having sex is legal for 16 and over.

    The LSE study linked to in the Claire Perry inquiry highlights that old methods of viewing pornography are still endemic, the internet is just one new option.

    Plenty of tools for families to use, we should ensure that schools, government embark on a decent education campaign, to let people know what is out there.

    If providers are given the role of policing, how long before litigation when TalkTalk HomeSafe does not block a tumblr blog that offends a parent.

  5. Economic Survivor:
    May 01, 2012 at 05:14 PM

    I heard the programme this morning and was somewhat alarmed that John Humphries seemed preoccupied with the issue of pornography, repeatedly bringing it up no matter where the conversation was otherwise trying to go. Seems the BBC have been handed their talking points in order to sway public opinion.

  6. Jim Killock:
    May 01, 2012 at 05:41 PM

    The drift of the pornography debate is very disturbing. What I'm finding most annoying is that "adult content" filters won't be just porn: they will include clubs, bars, chat sites, tech pages, scurrilous blogs, pages with swear words, medical advice. It's a dangerous and inept proposal.