The UK’s Culture Secretary discusses his plans for censoring the Internet:
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham says he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. 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.
If he stopped there, it might be no big deal (although, to be clear, web filtering doesn’t work). Alas:
His plans to rein in the internet, and censor some websites, are likely to trigger a major row with online advocates who ferociously guard the freedom of the world wide web.
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.
“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.”
So we are explicitly talking about censoring content the Government doesn’t like. The talk of libel is particularly alarming, given that the UK has apallingly low standards for libel. Will they go as far as Australia and China? The plans aren’t clear.
At least it’s “not a campaign against free speech.” Good of him to tell us that; otherwise we might get confused.
There’s no indication here whether the Obama Administration is interested in participating. I doubt it. Obama is smart enough to pick his battles, and censoring talk radio appears to be a higher priority for him.
POSTSCRIPT: It’s an indication of a problem that the UK has a “Culture Secretary” in the first place.