The UK Culture Gauleiter, Andy Burnham, gives an interview in the Telegraph today in which he says:
If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It’s true across the board in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is [also] an emerging issue.
Actually the people who ‘created’ the internet did it so that parts of the state could stay in touch after a nuclear attack… the idea the net does not need the government was an emergent realisation that came later. And of course there is nothing a government hates more that being thought irrelevent, which is what this is really about. Internet censorship is never ever about ‘protecting’ people, it is about extending and maintaining state power. That is the whole reason why advocates of censorship pretend child pornography is vastly more prevalent than it actually is. And you may be sure kiddie porn will be wheeled out yet again in this latest attempt to expand the power of the state.
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.
Which of course is indeed a naked, direct and unambiguous attack on free speech.
He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites. The Cabinet minister describes the internet as “quite a dangerous place” and says he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents “child-safe” web services.
Yes, no doubt Andy Burnham dreams of marching forward with The One across the internet in a sort of virtual Operation Barbarosa, presumably with UKGov in the roll of the Loyal Ally. But then unlike Barbarosa, this attack comes as no surprise to the ‘enemy’ (i.e. folks like us) and there is that pesky ‘First Amendment’ on the other side of the Atlantic sitting like 20,000 T-34 tanks waiting at Kursk. There is a reason Samizdata is hosted in the USA and not on this side of the puddle.
This crass power grab needs to be opposed on every level and not just attacked on the sheer technical difficulty of making it happen but also assaulted morally and politically.
But I agree when he says “If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now.” Yes we do need to revisit that and remind everyone that if the history of the previous century teaches us anything, it is that governments cannot be trusted. Free speech cannot be left to the sufferance of political systems and venal politicians like Andrew Burnham. We need to smite any attempt to encroach on the internet at every level and distribute technical ‘solutions’ to every initiative the state comes up as widely as possible regardless of what laws they pass.
We simply will not cooperate.