Privacy groups urge Government to stop censoring web
By Nicole Kobie
Posted on 1 Nov 2011 at 15:29
Domestic policy is hurting the Government's efforts to promote online freedom globally, according to a group of privacy organisations and experts.
In an open letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague - who delivered a speech at a cyber security conference in London today - 11 privacy advocates argued that the Government isn't doing enough to protect freedom online.
"The Government's record on freedom of expression and privacy is less than ideal," the letter said. "Britain's desire to promote these ideals internationally is being hampered by domestic policy."
The experts noted that the Government has been considering controlling what content can be viewed online.
Britain's desire to promote these ideals internationally is being hampered by domestic policy
"This is clear from recent public support by the Prime Minister, and through Claire Perry MP's ongoing inquiry, for plans to filter adult and other legal material on UK internet connections by default."
The letter also cited counter-terrorism plans that would filter "material that is legal but deemed undesirable", as well as the Government's initial calls to ban social networks after the riots this summer, "a policy that drew praise from China and which the Government swiftly backed away from".
The group called for the Government to "reject censorship and surveillance" for its own citizens and to support such ideals globally. "This Government should be proud to stand up for freedom of expression and privacy off and online."
The group of experts will likely largely welcome Hague's speech today, where he warned that censorship would "stifle" the internet, although he didn't mention his own Government's content control plans.
The open letter's signatories include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Open Rights Group, Privacy International, as well as authors including Heather Brooke and Evgeny Morozov.
I may not agree with them but...
I may not agree with them (pornographers, racists, terrorists, pedophiles, extremists) but I will defend to the last the right of anyone to read and say whatever they like. Filtering the Internet and blocking views will simply drive them underground. No form of censorship is acceptable on Internet. We may come accidentally on content we find objectionable but I would rather face that possibility than have it filtered out for me by someone who thinks they know what is good for us. (See 'Bush telegraph' at http://www.melcroucher.com/melspages/zygote/)
By Jaydax on 1 Nov 2011
I understand the point you are making Jaydax, and I agree strongly with the principal you are trying to put across, but not to the point you've gone.
I too believe the rights of people I do not like should be defended, whether they are pornographers, racists, political extremists or whatever. But only to a point. I will only defend the rights of objectionable people who behave in a LEGAL manner.
In your list you include terrorists and paedophiles, and to suggest their rights and privileges should be defended is absurd - they are criminals and need to be treated as such.
I'm not keen on internet filtering for the simple reason that, while maybe started with the best intentions, it very easily becomes something open to abuse - whether by this government, the next, or the one after.
However, just because I don't believe in filtering doesn't mean it should be an open house for all and sundry to do whatever they want. Criminals still need to be treated as such. Free speech is central to democracy, but it shouldn't be allowed to be used as an umbrella for criminality by the back door...
By Mr_John_T on 1 Nov 2011
I only know for sure that the Government should keep us safe from invasion and safe on our streets.
It is bad at everything that it does, bar nothing, and its responsibilities should be minimal.
By Alperian on 1 Nov 2011
Criminals still need to be treated as such
"Criminals still need to be treated as such."
Yes, Through due process of law - The Courts. We have enough law in place already to cope with this.
Fund the Police to track down those who break the law... take them to the Courts.
No censorship has ever worked.
By Kevin000 on 1 Nov 2011
Of course censorship works!
Look at China - they have censorship of the web and there are no dissidents, criminals, underground religions etc. in China are there?
By cheysuli on 2 Nov 2011
I Agree with Kevin000
By jontym123 on 2 Nov 2011
Missing the point?
"No censorship has ever worked"
I guess that depends on what you mean by worked? Will it stop a dedicated criminal from finding the means to communicate with others, plan, post etc etc, probably not. Has it been effective in restricting the probability of my child stumbling across porn (parental controls) or worse, YES!
You have to use the 80/20 rule on this one, just because you can not prevent all illigal activity does not mean we should not try! And please not I use the term illigal here!
WRT Kevin000, main comment, you still need processes that discorage or hinder illigal activity, and punish those that ignore (80/20 again?) Otherwise we could just give all the money spent on security, speed cameras, CCTV, ect to the police and worry about it after the fact!
"Do. Or do not!! There is no try"
By ITZ_Go_One on 2 Nov 2011
Kevin, that's basically what I said ("I'm not keen on internet filtering...").
The main point I was making was refuting Jaydax, who seemed to be saying that anyone should be allowed to do anything they liked with no restrictions and no recourse, which clearly isn't the case.
Objectionable material and illegal material are two separate things - defending one shouldn't mean defending both.
By Mr_John_T on 2 Nov 2011
Slightly off point, but by definition the Internet is a peer to peer system, unless the police stick their corrupt noses into it.
If I send an encrypted email to a friend, so that the authorities would be completely unable to decode it, would that be against the law.
Alternatively, are my human rights being violated by an intrusion into a peer to peer network?
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