Silence from the website blocking Working Group

Ed Vaizey: CC-AT Flickr: jontintinjordan Ed Vaizey’s website blocking ‘Working Group’ met to discuss a plans for a voluntary scheme to block access to websites accused of infringing copyright. It’s an idea that has caused quite a stir; 2,000 people have so far written to their MPs and the terms ‘The Great Firewall of Britain‘ and ‘Hadrian’s Firewall‘ were coined on Twitter

But despite the interest in the issue you’d be hard pressed to find out what happened, or what happens next. There has been a deafening silence from those involved. There has been no comment from the BPI, Internet Service Providers or the Government.

This is not particularly surprising. The only reason the public knows that the Working Group even exists is that we followed up rumours in the Guardian and wrote to the Minister in charge, publishing his reply.

In that reply Ed Vaizey promised to include consumer groups in future. So we can only hope that the silence this week is not indicative of the way future policy making decisions on this issue will take place, and that consumer and also rights groups will be involved as soon as possible. Further secret meetings only create more uncertainty about the intention and direction of the discussions.

We’ve tried to point out why we think this is an important public interest issue; it puts censorship decisions in the hands of businesses, it likely won’t work, and in practice will have damaging consequences for people’s rights to freedom of expression by disrupting legitimate traffic.

It is clear that the questions of accountability, oversight and due process will not be appropriately covered by a Group with such narrow membership. These are issues of broad significance that demand the light of public scrutiny not the shadows of secret Working Groups.

It is important to keep emphasising that these issues are matters of public interest, involving issues of due process and the application of fundamental rights in the UK.

You can help by writing to your MP now.