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Censorship Government The Internet Your Rights Online

UK Government Seeks New Web Censorship Powers 187

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-that's-not-good dept.
oldandcold writes "Given the recent coverage and controversy over Australia's forthcoming web censorship system, it is somewhat surprising (and worrying) that Clause 11 of the UK's proposed Digital Economy Bill seems to have gone by largely unnoticed. It amends the Communications Act 2003 to insert a new section 124H that could give the Secretary of State powers to order ISPs to block pretty much any website for pretty much any reason. Such orders would not require the scrutiny of parliament, or anyone else for that matter, because the Secretary of State would not be required to publish them."
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UK Government Seeks New Web Censorship Powers

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  • by dyfet (154716) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:46PM (#30460378) Homepage

    Hmm...so you may not even know you have been banned....the great Internet wall of Britain?

  • Democracy ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bibekpaudel (1113383) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:52PM (#30460474) Homepage Journal
    And is that called a democracy? I think Britain is a very poor model of democracy, especially when compared to the rest of European countries. Do we still sound credible when we criticize China for internet censorship?
  • by Blappo (976408) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:57PM (#30460572) Journal

    I love it. I really do.

    And despite the fact that many would argue that any censorship is wrong, the distasteful part of these initiatives, the part that really cannot tolerate debate, is the lack of transparency.

    I don't care for censorship, but I'm willing to listen if you say it's necessary. I'll probably tell you to screw, but I'll at least listen.

    However, if you don't even bother to solicit opinion, or make yourself accountable to scrutiny, that's unacceptable, in a way that any normal, well adjusted individual would immediately recognize.

    So all you get is screw, and no, I really won't listen, thanks, get out.

  • Re:Democracy ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:59PM (#30460600) Journal

    What are you talking about? Britain is totally still a Monarchy. The news won't shut up about Queen Elizabeth this and Prince Henry that.

    I mean they don't even have a constitution, just a handful of scattered laws and judgements that would take ages to find if the need arises. How can you possibly be expected to fight for your democratic rights if you can't use the internet to look up which document it's even filed under?

    In the infaliable United States Democracy (in which I do not reside) - those people have their democratic rights MEMORIZED, printed off, laminated, and FRAMED above their mantlepiece.

  • by phoenix321 (734987) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:00PM (#30460622)

    We are running out of countries to route our traffic through, quickly.

    Well, lets adapt Niemoller for a second:

    When they came for China, I chose a proxy in Australia to route around.
    When they came for Australia, I chose a proxy in the UK to route around.
    When they came for the UK, I chose a proxy in the USA to route around.
    When they came for the USA, there was no country left to route through and all my complaints were met with 404s.

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:02PM (#30460642)

    We all know this kind of outrageous proposal won't fly, so what's the next "iteration" this will be compared to to make it look "reasonable"? The question is what are these people actually after?

      It seems like this is yet another maneuver to "Frame" the debate around the upcoming ACTA clauses.

    If enough of these outrageous ideas are being proposed, a simple removal of service for "egregious offenders" will look tame.

    Remember, you have to boil the frog SLOWLY, and part of that involves acclimating the frog to heat before it goes in the pot!

  • Re:Democracy ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:36PM (#30461228)

    I like how we're listed as a full democracy in the UK on that list.

    How can a first past the post system like ours possibly be a full democracy, it's barely a democracy at all, realistically we're a dictatorship with the difference between our dictatorship and others being that the minority that installs ours elects him in rather than installs him through violence.

    To put into context what I mean, from the electoral reform society 19 million votes by UK voters had absolutely no effect on being able to drive British policy because they were cast in a safe seat area against the safe seat, this in a population of 60 million.

    This is coupled with the whip system where the party elite can push the party members to vote a certain way on a certain issue or kick them out the party lowering their chances of election and possibly destroying their career as a politician unless they're one of the few that manage to make it as an independent, or unless an opposing party takes them.

    So last election, Labour gained effective 100% of power with the party line being dictated by those in cabinet and pushed using the whip system. They were elected with only 35% of vote, whilst the two opposition parties gained 32% and 22% of the popular vote, this means Labour will have had 100% of control of the UK despite only 35% of the UK supporting them and a clear 55% voting against them.

    Really, the only things that differentiate us from the likes of China and Cuba etc. is that:
    - The dictatorship can be changed every 5 years if a new minority becomes the largest minority, but rarely ever a majority
    - The dictatorship is not installed violently
    - Our country is relatively modern and peaceful and the human rights record hasn't deteriorated to their level, yet

    But however you cut it, to those of us in the majority who do not support the government in power at the time, the effect is the same, we have laws dictated to us by people we neither like nor support. We're told this system is okay though because we get a local elected representative that we wouldn't get under proportional representation. Quite what use a local represenative that you didn't vote for and doesn't share your views is I've yet to understand however.

    Britain has a thin veil that allows it to pretend to be a democracy, but it's democratic in so far as you get to tick a box and stick it in the ballot box, the chance of you being one of the people whose tick actually counts for anything though is, well, going by the last election, only 35%. To me, if my vote is consistently meaningless because I do not support the dominant party in my area, then I absolutely do not live in a democracy, I live in a dictatorship.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:55PM (#30461498)

    If it's mandelson that's backing this then it will primarily include whatever the music/film industry tells him to put on it. This guy has zero accountability to the public and his only concern is doing absolutely anything to satisfy big industry. He would try to ban the internet outright if he could to satisfy BPI. I gurantee that every single torrent tracker or website discussing torrents would end up on that list. In addition to any indie artists(Artists that don't send most of their income to the big labels stealing money that belongs to the labels of course).

  • by Spad (470073) <slashdot@sp[ ]co.uk ['ad.' in gap]> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:30PM (#30462090) Homepage

    It's not like we're "allowing" it. We've got an unelected Prime Minister who appointed an unelected (and twice resigned) megalomaniac as Secretary of State (amongst other things) and a population who are largely technically illiterate and apathetic about everything that doesn't involve the X-Factor.

    In short, we're buggered until at least May (when the next lot will at least have to pretend to do what they promised during the elections for 6 months or so).

  • by gink1 (1654993) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:32PM (#30462138)

    I'm really concerned about Britain. News seems to come in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis of new policing, security and other contractions of freedom.

    At this rate it will only take 5 years or so before the British people are all housed in Barracks "for their own good" and working on prison factories! And we all know what comes next!

    Well I'm exaggerating here, but for a point. I really hope everyone in Britain notices this trend and starts making some changes in their government now while they still can!

  • by Myrimos (1495513) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:41PM (#30463478)

    The article from which it looks like you drew your facts is here [washingtonpost.com]. Also quoted therein:

    "Atheists are now eligible to run for any office in South Carolina, which means the provision against atheists is unenforceable."

    The only defense I can offer for over a third of the South Carolina legislature voting not to overturn their anti-miscegenation laws is that, since the legislation was elected democratically, perhaps the constituents of South Carolina have exactly the kind of government they deserve.

  • The Internet Genie is being put back in the bottle. As it became a medium of the masses, governments finally turned their attentions towards what used to be a tolerated eccentricity of academics and computer geeks. When Aunt Tillie began watching YouTube videos, censorship of the new medium was never going to be far behind.

    The vast majority of people in democratic countries wholeheartedly support censorship. You don't even have to pull the terrorism of paedophilia cards. Hell, just mentioning anorexia sites will be enough to get 50% of people to express views along the lines of "They should be shut down." Thrown in bomb making and "extreme" pornography you'll get another good 25%. Piracy will net you another 10% more. Now; break out the child molesters and you can say goodbye to an uncensored net by the end of the week.

    We live in democracies. That means we are subject to the will of the majority. And if the majority say the net should be censored, then that's what is going to happen, and that is what is happening.

  • by internewt (640704) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:26PM (#30464198) Journal

    I agree. Inch by inch, Britain sinks into the muck of totalitarianism. All for the common good.

    I've found a method that shuts up those closet fascists who are willing to give away everyone's privacy etc. is to remind them that millions of people gave up their lives in the last century to protect the freedoms we have in the UK, and that what they are advocating is an insult to their memory.

    It is utterly emotionally loaded, and even has a sub-text of war is good, meaning that authoritarians simply don't know what to say.

    The most closed minded will still stick to their guns of censorship, submitting to authority, prohibition, etc., but it could work to change the views of a few.

  • by SanguineV (1197225) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:52PM (#30465838) Homepage

    But while you are listening to them rant about saving the children from paedophile-terrorist-aliens the nice men in white coats can circle around behind them and catch them more easily!

    More seriously though: they should be listened to because then you can point out the flaws in their position. I have spoken to a number of "[c]ensorship advocates" who simply didn't understand the implications and were more than happy to change their position when spoken to reasonably. Of course some will be beyond reason or be pushing some other agenda, but not all are beyond hope and if you refuse to engage them, isolate them and let them only hear the extreme perspective you lose any chance to convert them... In a democratic system this is a losing strategy as you need to convince/convert the majority to your view.

  • by Grumbleduke (789126) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @11:38PM (#30468670) Journal

    For the record, this clause didn't go completely unnoticed; it was spotted by the UK Pirate Party [pirateparty.org.uk] in their draft analysis [pirateparty.org.uk] (disclaimer: yes, I wrote most of that).

    The entire clause [parliament.uk] reads:

    124H Obligations to limit internet access

    (1) The Secretary of State may at any time by order impose a technical obligation on internet service providers if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate in view of—
            (a) an assessment carried out or steps taken by OFCOM under section 124G; or
            (b) any other consideration.

    (2) An order under this section must specify the date from which the technical obligation is to have effect, or provide for it to be specified.

    (3) The order may also specify—
            (a) the criteria for taking the technical measure concerned against a subscriber;
            (b) the steps to be taken as part of the measure and when they are to be taken.”

    A "technical obligation" is defined in the previous clause as an obligation on an ISP to impose a "technical measure" on a subscriber. The "technical measures" are also defined as something that limits the speed, blocks content, disconnects the user completely or "limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way". So yes, this clause would give a Secretary of State complete power over any internet connection in the UK.

    This clause is probably the worst in the entire bill, and considering some of the other parts, that's saying something

  • Re:Democracy ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Thursday December 17, 2009 @09:00AM (#30472300) Homepage
    The British Constitution is pretty damned simple, in fact. Go too far and we'll chop your head off. Don't believe it? We've done it before.

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