Not a free speech issue

No, really, censorship of the internet really isn\’t a free speech issue. The Culture Secretary says so.

“There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.”

Closing down sites that the Culture Secretary (and isn\’t that a title that we Brits find a little, umm, "continental") doesn\’t like is not a free speech issue, oh no.

The thing is, there is no technological manner of doing this without closing off the net from beyond our shores. If, say, some porn site hosted in Russia (or the US, where the constitutional protections for such are rather strong) decides that they don\’t want to accord with UK law then there\’s no way of making them do so….other than cutting them off from being accessed via a UK IP.

Which is rather the end of the World part of the World Wide Web, isn\’t it?

Mr Burnham admits that his plans may be interpreted by some as “heavy-handed” but says the new standards drive is “utterly crucial”. Mr Burnham also believes that the inauguration of Barack Obama, the President-Elect, presents an opportunity to implement the major changes necessary for the web.

“The change of administration is a big moment. We have got a real opportunity to make common cause,” he says. “The more we seek international solutions to this stuff – the UK and the US working together – the more that an international norm will set an industry norm.”

Reading what Mr. Burnham says about "the children" it\’s clear that at least some of his concern is about porn. But given that the US Supreme Court has consistently ruled that porn is indeed a free speech issue, collaborating with the Americans would in fact mean a weakening of UK laws, not a strengthening. The recent law on "extreme pornography" for example, would fail the SCOTUS tests and be struck down.

There\’s a certain temptation to believe that he\’s just playing to the gallery here. How odd to think that a politician might do that.

9 thoughts on “Not a free speech issue”

  1. Interestingly that he thinks the UK and the USA are the English-speaking web. I’m sure the Canadians, South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders and dozens of other nationalities will be so pleased.


  2. You can expect Mr Burnaham to scrap the TV Licence very soon. In its place he’ll introduce a media licence… it’ll be the same price or maybe slightly less and will enable you to hook your computer up to the nationalised ISP which will provide sole access to the internet from the UK. The new ISP will only access certified and approved sites and will be introduced in order to protect children and fight terror. The licence will be very handy as it it will also entitle you to buy a state-registered mobile phone, watch TV and own a satellite dish. And it will all be very safe and everything will be pre-screened for you by our friend Mr Burnham.

    I remember back in the 1960s when amateur radio operators behind the iron curtain were carefully monitored and had to keep a full log of who they contacted and what they said. We used to be able to insult the Soviets for not allowing free speech. Now look at what our government is doing now it thinks the bear no longer has any paws to maul us with. Bring back the USSR and maybe we’ll get our freedoms back.

    Be afraid, people. Be very afraid.

  3. Pingback: Internet regulation |

  4. Many of the things I have been accused of being paranoid over have come to pass. Laugh if you wish but I am really concerned about these people and their fascist tendencies.

  5. The bastards in government don’t like the WWW because they cannot control it. There are people out there who dare to criticise them. What effrontary. How dare they? It’s one area where they can’t stick their fingers in. They are trying, notably the EU by having people arrested for the internet content they have written in a non-EU contry and which is hosted on a non-Eu resident server. Although it took a month the person in question was released by the authorities in the UK. Of course he should never have been arrested in the first place IMO. This trans national police nonsense has gone too far.

    This mantra of “it’s for the children” is ludicrous. I’ve been surfing the net since 1994 and have never stumbled across that sort of site. He just wants control and any control by government, especially Noo Labour is the thin end of a bloody thick wedge.

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