The United Kingdom will soon join Egypt, Iran, China and likely Australia with a regressive internet censorship scheme.
The proposal from British Culture Secretary Andy Burnham includes content ratings for websites and content, television style restrictions on when content can be played (ie violence only after 9pm) and broadening libel laws to make it easier for people to sue.
As with any argument for censorship, it's always about the children.
"It worries me - like anybody with children," he says. "Leaving your child for two hours completely unregulated on the internet is not something you can do. This isn't about turning the clock back. The internet has been empowering and democratising in many ways but we haven't yet got the stakes in the ground to help people navigate their way safely around…what can be a very, very complex and quite dangerous world."
However, Mr Burnham said: "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.
Where do you start in explaining how this is wrong?
Compulsory content rating systems usually involve the submission of content to a Government body for review in a system little understood by those creating content online. The queue to review the content, and the need to block content not rated could easily overnight shift the goalposts to old media and large corporations, killing many in new media and stifling online participation.
The idea of a 9pm for adult content is absurd and would result in many sites simply being blocked, or just going out of business. Besides the onerous and near on impossible task of rating all content, how in the world do you categorize and filter it. Consider that 10 hours of new content is uploaded to YouTube every minute.
The broadening of libel laws would have a chilling effect on free speech online. The law may have issues currently with access, but widening the laws and making them easier to use isn't a social justice play, it's a recipe that will encourage a surge in libel cases that would and could result in less speech online.
What I don't understand is why all of a sudden left wing Governments in the anglosphere have decided to go after the internet. First Australia, then the UK, and possibly the US next (although unlikely, don't rule it out). Burnham, like Australian Minister for Censorship Stephen Conroy calls the internet a dangerous place. Maybe I'm on another internet?
Here's what I haven't accidently viewed today
In 1996 maybe you could have ended up on a porn site by accident, but in 2008 more people visit social networking sites than porn sites, and while porn may only be a Google search away, it's not exactly popping up all over the place either.
The other thing that confuses me is the use of children as a justification; it doesn't stack up. I'm actually in favor of ISP's offering an optional kiddie safe cleanfeed, but ironically, at least in Australia, is that most ISP's already do offer such a feed...so what's the real reason?
Could the think of the children line simply be a smokescreen for repression of free speech? After all, I'm not exactly seeing protesters calling for repressive internet censorship anywhere in the world at the moment.
Could it be a play by big media to take back control of news gathering, or the movie and music industry to kill the internet so as to kill piracy (notably Burnham throws piracy into the mix).
And why left wing Governments? And more than one of them....at the same time, out of the blue.
A left wing conspiracy to kill the internet?
I know, far fetched, and a little loopy on the suggestion side, but we're not getting the whole picture here, and something more than kiddies is driving this.