Thursday, 26 November 2009

Free Speech SOS UK

Minister of Truth and Lord High Everything Else Peter Mandelson is at it again, pushing the Government into new legislation aiming to disconnect UK households from the Internet if they are accused of repeated illegal downloading of copyright material. (Hat tip: Charlie's Diary.) Accused is the operative word - guilt is assumed, and due process of law excluded. Since we can safely assume that Joe Bloggs Esq, Author of Renown, cannot similarly knock any media corporation off the Web with a corresponding accusation, this seems to amount pretty much to a one-way licence for selected oligarchs to silence any critic who doesn't have heavy political cover, provided they will first take the trouble to snap their fingers imperiously.

The thought that they might also make some selected allegations purely to oblige the politicos who grant them this special privilege is, of course, unthinkable in a modern and civilized democracy.

Nonetheless, after due consideration, I am very much against this proposal indeed. Do read SF author Charles Stross's counterblast here, where he also draws our attention to the petition ISP TalkTalk have started against it at the 10 Downing Street site. This is shiny and new and has near on 25,000 signatures so far. (Update: had this morning. It appears to have lost over 9,000 signatures over the course of today. Has anybody else noticed this, and what the blue blazing hell?!) The Don't Disconnect Us snowball needs to keep growing, ideally into the early millions, and the sooner the better. There is an election coming up very soon, and if this bill of goods looks sufficiently unpopular, New Labour may well have to row back on it.

More significantly, the Tories - still the front-runner to form the next government - could find it convenient to knock seven barrels out of Labour on the subject, in which case they will be most unlikely to terminate their political honeymoon instantly by reviving the wretched thing in a hurry. Particularly since they are not on course for a particularly stonking majority! They will need to be given reasons to commit themselves, though, or they'll surely yield to the temptation of getting the new powers without copping the blame for them.

Please, fellow Brits, take a moment to sign the petition. I almost never touch such things, but this one is rather serious and has a chance of actually influencing something for a change.

If this crapload is allowed to bed down before we all get excited about it, it may become a little less convenient to whinge publicly about it afterwards.

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