ORG writes to Ministers about web blocking

Only a couple of weeks ago Jeremy Hunt and Nick Clegg asked Ofcom to review the practicalities of the web blocking aspects of the Digital Economy Act. At the time of the announcement, you may have been forgiven for optimistically thinking that the review signalled an intention to move away from this very problematic idea. But Ed Vaizey is now meeting with ISPs and rights holders to discuss what has been called a web blocking ‘Plan B’. These discussions are, we understand, ongoing.

We’ve written to Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt to stress just how important it is that groups such as ORG, Consumer Focus and Liberty are represented in these discussions. Here’s what we said:

Dear Mr Vaizey, I am writing with regard to a meeting held last week to discuss alternative plans for web blocking, as reported in the Guardian on Friday 25th February.

The issue of web blocking has been the cause of great concern amongst individuals and organisations interested in human rights, civil liberties and consumer rights. At Open Rights Group we can claim to represent tens of thousands of people who have expressed strongly held concerns about the impact and workability of web blocking as a means of tackling file-sharing.

These issues raise very serious problems relating to freedom of expression, access to knowledge and privacy. But it is likely that these issues will not be given sufficient weight should discussions feature only rights holders and ISPs. To include only these voices means there is a real risk that the flaws of the Digital Economy Act will be repeated.

We would like to stress that we believe groups such as Open Rights Group, Liberty and Consumer Focus should be invited to participate in any discussions aimed at taking a fresh look at web blocking provisions and at finding a ‘Plan B’ for tackling file-sharing.

Yours faithfully,

Jim Killock

Executive Director

cc: Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP

The provisions of the Digital Economy Act are so flawed precisely because they were designed to satisfy such narrow interests, with little regard for the consequences for civil liberties, human rights and consumer interests or for their workability. It is little wonder so many people signed our petition against web blocking. You can register your concerns by joining them here.

It is also odd that these discussions should be going on whilst the Ofcom review of web blocking and the Hargreaves Review of IP are ongoing. Both of those reviews should be informing the Government’s position on the justification and workability of such measures.

We’ll keep you informed when we receive a reply to our letter. And rest assured whatever we hear back we’ll be continuing to put forward these important points as strongly as we can.