Digital Privacy

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.

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.