Censorship and the Internet – Govt suggests content controls
In a new Government proposal for this year we could be seeing controls imposed on internet content.
In an interview late last year with The Daily Telegraph, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham indicated that he is considering cinema style age ratings on websites, as well as potentially requiring ISPs to offer “child-safe” internet services.
The very suggestion has already prompted a certain amount of outrage, both from individuals who believe that the internet should be a self-regulating community, and from those who resent the government acting as a ‘nanny state’.
From its first inception, the internet was intended as a peer-to-peer area where governments couldn’t reach. And in its infancy, that was fine, as it was a medium used primarily by academics, with limited reach. However with the massive reach and availability that the internet now enjoys, things have changed. Now the internet is populated with criminals and ne’er-do-wells as well as geniuses and innovators, and the government needs to walk the line between allowing freedom of collaboration, speech, and self regulation which is the spirit of the internet, and allowing a media which isn’t subject to the laws of the land.
It would be nice to think that the internet can be fully self- or peer-regulating, but while this works to an extent it is open to abuse by those who aren’t interested in the spirit of co-operation. Content on the internet must be subject to some regulation, even if it is only libel laws – the difficulty comes in drawing the line.
“The fact is that the openness of the Internet, which is such a wonderful thing, does depend on a certain amount of regulation” – Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web.
It’s an issue which is bound to provoke a good deal of debate, as no doubt civil liberties and free speech will be invoked, as will the need to protect the innocent from the not-so-innocent. In the end, though, the arguments all seem to be somewhat theoretical because the biggest question is, even if the government brings in new content legislation, how will anyone ever police it?