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.