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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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  • Bastards. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:45PM (#30460370)

    Fucking bastards.

  • 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?

    • by the_womble (580291) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:31PM (#30461126) Homepage Journal

      The man who will make the decisions is

      1) Has been forced to resign twice
      2) Does not hold any elected office
      3) Popularly known as "the Prince of Darkness"

      No, the last is not a joke - google for "mandelson prince".

      • by hitmark (640295)

        question is if this is grandstanding to move the line of "acceptable". This so that something that would be just as outrageous before it, will now appear sane in comparison...

    • You might at least have tried to reference Hadrian's wall

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      Yes. Moreover, if you run a small website you might not very well notice if you simply aren't getting hits from Britain. If you are large you may have a better chance at noticing but even then it isn't necessarily going to happen. Even more disturbing, people in Britain won't necessarily be aware that this is happening. They will likely simply get an error message when they try to access the website and they'll have no way to tell that that error is due to censorship and not due to some technical problem.
  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:49PM (#30460420) Journal

    Move to CHINA.

    At least there you'll have access to Socialist Propaganda!

  • by Kyrene (624175) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:50PM (#30460442)
    Ireland passed laws recently against uttering "blasphemy" and no one batted an eye...except on Twitter. A lot of this is getting swept under the rug, and it both shocks and appalls me.
    • Ireland passed laws recently against uttering "blasphemy" and no one batted an eye...except on Twitter.

      A lot of this is getting swept under the rug, and it both shocks and appalls me.

      Nobody batted an eye? It was all over the news!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jocabergs (1688456)
      A law against blasphemy... Blasphemy I say, this will not stand!!!
    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:07PM (#30461676)

      It's ok - the US is screwed up in lots of places too. In the state of SC you cannot legally hold public office if you don't believe in a supreme being. It doesn't state any specific one (so whether you're Muslim/Christian/Hindu/etc you're covered), but if you're an admitted atheist you can't legally hold office.

      It's one of those old laws, but still. Heck though nobody observed the law anymore, interracial marriage in South Carolina was technically illegal until 1998. And the vote to repeal it (again, in 1998)? Yeah, it did pass, but 38% voted AGAINST repealing the law.

      I'm convinced that the world as a whole may just be too messed up to recover from.

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        In the state of SC you cannot legally hold public office if you don't believe in a supreme being. It doesn't state any specific one (so whether you're Muslim/Christian/Hindu/etc you're covered), but if you're an admitted atheist you can't legally hold office.

        In the State of New York it's technically a misdemeanor to commit adultery.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Myrimos (1495513)

        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.

        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          Actually (though your link proved useful elsewhere in the thread) I was just quoting the atheist in office bit from memory. It's been an issue discussed in the state for years now.

          The interracial marriage thing I also remembered but referenced Wikipedia for my actual numbers (I had thought the repeal of that law was actually more recent than 1998) :).

      • As long as you've been touched by His noodly appendage, you're good to go then!

      • by hitmark (640295)

        sadly, this do not only apply for US, but also old world nations.

        norway have some creepy old laws about what religion the people in office must be members off, altho they are mostly ignored these days. Still, there was a need to rearrange what office covered religious topics, as the one planned to take said office (shared with culture at the time) where not a member of any religion...

        its a mess, and there are arguing on all sides about how to deal with it...

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Welcome to the brave new world. Now, stop talking about it before we sweep you under the rug.

  • 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?
    • 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.

      • Thanks to the EU and its various treaties, the word 'queen' doesn't mean anything anymore. She may still be referred to as such, but she is now a citizen just like the rest of us: http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2008/06/royal-assent-of-treaty-of-lisbon.html [blogspot.com]
        • Oh I know, it's just annoying how she still manages to make the front page being nothing more than a Celebrity that doesn't make movies or music.

          • by SomeJoel (1061138)

            Oh I know, it's just annoying how she still manages to make the front page being nothing more than a Celebrity that doesn't make movies or music.

            Like Paris Hilton?

            • by 0123456 (636235)

              Like Paris Hilton?

              Sadly, Paris Hilton has been in many movies.

              I've met both Paris Hilton and the Queen and I can safely say that I'd much rather be trapped in an elevator with the latter than the former.

            • I'm pretty sure she made at least one movie.

      • Re:Democracy ? (Score:5, Informative)

        by jameskojiro (705701) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:22PM (#30460978) Journal

        " 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. "

        If only every citizen in the United States did this then the United States would be a somewhat decent country.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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.

        You clearly don't know british history or political system. The UK is a constitutional monarchy which means that parliament is required for any laws to be put into place. It has been this way since the English civil war in which the monarch was overthrown, but eventually brought back but with reduced powers, hence why during the queens speech on the opening of parliament, ceremonies such as closing the house of commons door on black rod (the queens messenger) takes place to symbolise that the power really r

        • by rossdee (243626)

          Not to mention that said speech is written by the ruling party in parliament, not by Her Majesty.

      • Heck, I just keep the Constitution on my iPhone. There's more than one app for that. I'm a lot more likely to have my iPhone on me than my mantlepiece when I want to consult the Constitution.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by u38cg (607297)
        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.
    • You expect too much from Democracy.
      The UK, America and Australia, seem to be dead set on burying themselves under censorship and screwed up IP laws.

      If China decides one day, that it can have social stability without the censorship, I fear we (Western civilization) are going to get pwned.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Labour were elected by 22% of eligible voters. Worse than that, in England the Tories got more votes than Labour, but the English still got a Labour government because of votes from Scotland and Wales, which now have their own Parliaments.

      No party in the UK can get a majority of the votes because they're all useless. And, in any case, most of the laws now come from Brussels, not London.

    • Just think, there are people who want to hand over regulation of internet traffic to the government under the name of "net neutrality," yet here we have a government proving that it would happily censor content. Imagine what would happen once lobbyists convinced bribed politicians to regulate things like torrent traffic in order to prevent "economic terrorism."

      • Just think, there are people who want to hand over regulation of internet traffic to the government under the name of "net neutrality," yet here we have a government proving that it would happily censor content. Imagine what would happen once lobbyists convinced bribed politicians to regulate things like torrent traffic in order to prevent "economic terrorism."

        the concept of net neutrality is to legislate specifically to PREVENT abuses like the one this politician is trying to perpetrate.

        Note: he still has to go through the legislature, but ISP's already do this unilaterally whenever they think they can get away with it, and in the US Comcast is suing agains the FCC to keep them from preventing Comcast from butchering traffic.

        Hard-right libertarians don't seem to understand: This is not the pre-industrial era anymore! Royalty no longer controls the economy. Corp

        • by bonch (38532)

          the concept of net neutrality is to legislate specifically to PREVENT abuses like the one this politician is trying to perpetrate.

          I know what the intent is supposed to be. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Giving the government control of the internet would lead to censorship abuses like those in this article. An ISP is a private entity and is free to filter its own traffic however it wants.

          • An ISP is a private entity and is free to filter its own traffic however it wants.

            Why? The telephone companies aren't allowed to. Has the regulation of the telephone network led to censorship abuses?

            So much for being anti-censorship anyway. Apparently it's only evil if it's the government doing it.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        there is commercial censorship, and there is political.

        net neutrality deals with the former, not the latter, as the latter is better covered mechanisms already in place (like say freedom of speech, wherever that concept applies).

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:56PM (#30460546)

    Not required to publish? That's nothing. In the next planned amend the Secretary of State won't even have to know.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      I thought complete ignorance of their own actions was a mandatory part of the MP specification anyway.

  • by Blappo (976408)

    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 i

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Yvan256 (722131)

      I love transparency! I love it. I really do.

      I bet you like PNGs a lot.

  • 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!

  • by ais523 (1172701) <ais523(524\)(525)x)@bham.ac.uk> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:08PM (#30460758)
    See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldbills/001/10001.13-19.html#j164 [parliament.uk]. The proposal also gives the Secretary of State the rights to a) decide the punishment for copyright infringement, and b) redefine what a copyright infringement is. Therefore, he can effectively jail, or worse, anyone he likes for no reason. Also, the law gives him the power to rewrite the law itself; there are some restrictions, but he can just rewrite it to remove them. In short, passing this proposal would give Lord Mandelson a complete dictatorship over the UK. (If you don't believe me, read it yourself; the only meaningful restriction is to have a draft of the changes approved by parliament, and it would be easy enough to slip in a removal of that restriction at the same time as another change.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nuskrad (740518)
      Read a bit more closely, he can't create or modify criminal offences, so throwing people in jail is out of the question, and any SI under that section has to be put to public consultation (which will probably be ignored as a matter of routine of course) and voted on by both houses of Parliament. It is a worrying power, since it allows a controversial area of law to be changed with a lot less scrutiny, but don't overstate the matter.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ais523 (1172701)
        There's only a requirement to put a draft to the vote; I'm not entirely convinced it wouldn't be possible to slip in changes between an approved draft and the actual change. Also, even if the criminal offence requirement turns out to be unavoidable, (5) is dynamite:

        (5) The power may be exercised so as to—
        (a) confer a power or right or impose a duty on any person;
        (b) modify or remove a power, right or duty of any person;
        (c) require a person to pay fees.

        The ability to impose arbitrary duties on anyo

    • In short, passing this proposal would give Lord Mandelson a complete dictatorship over the UK.

      "Remember, remember the fifth of November,
      The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
      I know of no reason,
      The Gunpowder Treason,
      Should ever be forgot."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by deepershade (994429)
      It wouldn't give Mandelson any power, as he's not an elected member of parliament, he cannot enact or enforce any law.
      He's been forced to resign once and fired for fraud. After that he was effectively banned from standing as a member of parliament. As such, he was given a job in europe. But Brown being a corrupt douche wanted him back, and so gave him the lordship and hence a seat in the House of Lords. That enabled brown to hire him as business secretary, but he still has no power, merely taking an advise
  • The offending piece: (Score:5, Informative)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:08PM (#30460766) Journal

    I'm usually sceptical about /. summaries and their accuracy, so I looked a little deeper into this one before commenting.

    From the parliamentary document:

    124H Obligations to limit internet access

    20 (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

    25 (b) any other consideration.

    The "any other consideration" part is what would concern me. Yup, this looks like the real deal. Gives the SoS a lot of power with little oversight.

    • by tomtomtom (580791)

      Overall this is truly an evil piece of legislation and I sincerely hope it doesn't pass (though I don't hold out much hope). It is full of these so-called "Henry VIII clauses" (a favourite device of Labour's) which grant huge lawmaking powers to the Secretary of State. Even where it is explicit, there is nothing good in it at all.

      If you look into the definition of "technical obligation", it includes the ability for the Secretary of State to not only block particular sites but to ban an individual from the i

  • Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.

    --Frederick Douglass

  • They will need a bureaucracy to maintain the list of banned sites, and to insure all the various ISPs are informed of it. Then it only takes one to leak the list (or maybe two, if they try to track which list is leaked by inserting a tracking entry), and we can then all freely explore what problems it has and how ineffective it really is, and enjoy the Streisand effect on it all. And of course, they'll ultimately try to block WikiLeaks and that'll go over like a lead balloon, as it's a popular enough sit
  • To maintain some semblance of freedom of communication,
    we will probably have to try to standardize on a thin layer over current
    net protocols which provides:
    1. Encryption of transmitted data routinely
    2. Encryption on disk of data
    3. Distribution of any particular "page" of data into many
    redundant encrypted fragments around the world that know how
    to coalesce on demand.
    4. Automatic mobility of such data fragments, such that they
    migrate, and seek newer and more reliable storage for themselves.
    5. DHTs for finding

  • I am shocked (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:19PM (#30461846) Homepage
    I am shocked, shocked I say, to learn that the United Kingdom is going to continue it's policy of invading the privacy of every single person inside their border. From cameras used to trace every car's position, to arresting men for being too violent when capturing the thug that kidnapped their wife & children.
  • I would honestly get up and protest over this one, it's just a step too far towards the police state they want. If it comes to that point, I'd definitely want to be doing something real (not just signing petitions).
  • I should complain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:15PM (#30463010)

    ... being as I live in the UK. But frankly, why bother?

    My local MP is a Labour MP, and (like many Labour MPs) has never voted against anything dreamt up by the party leadership in her life. They could put forward a bill which puts under 18's to death by torture for jaywalking and she'd probably vote for it.

    The only silver lining is that this parliament will be cut short by a general election next year, which with any luck will get shot of Labour for a nice long time.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      Meh. My MP is Alistair Darling. I've been trying to get a constituency interview with him for the last two years. However, his majority is only 7000 - we might see him out yet...
  • by Cederic (9623) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @07:13PM (#30466186) Journal

    My MP received a telephone call followed up by an email from me 3-4 weeks ago on this matter.

    The Open Rights Group (at http://www.openrightsgroup.org/ [openrightsgroup.org]) have promoted a campaign for their members and supporters to raise this not only to MPs but also to members of the House of Lords.

    This is yet another draconian and easily abused piece of legislation that is declared as addressing something that isn't an issue, in a manner that allows its use for other purposes while failing to address the underlying issue in the first place.

    I'm fucked off about it, but frankly there's not a whole lot more I can peacably do.

  • IngSoc is now free from crimethink.

  • Is there ANY country that one could move to that has no civil liberties or human rights violations?
    Many of the things that western governments are doing in the name of fighting terrorists/child porn/drugs/criminals/etc are just as evil as the likes of the GESTAPO, STASI, KGB or any of the other major secret police organizations of the 20th century's great dictatorships.

  • 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".

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