Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Internet Freedom Campaign Steps Up

I mentioned in a blog a couple of weeks ago that some of the biggest Internet companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Wikipedia were planning to boycott the Internet this month - Internet Blackout Scheduled For January .  The information I had at the time indicated that the blackout would happen on January 24th - well you probably noticed, especially if you're based in the US - that it happened yesterday (January 18th).

Apparently Google, Twitter and Facebook also took part, but I'm guessing that their activities were limited to the US as I could access them here in Blighty.  To be fair to Wikipedia, which blacked out the English language option only, it did provide information on how to circumvent their blackout - they weren't trying to stop people using them completely, just trying to make a point.

If you haven't read up on their point of view, then try this link, it should help you decide who is right and who is wrong in this debate.  Wikipedia point out that they are not at direct risk from the legislation being opposed - they aren't the most natural portal for pirated material streaming - but they see the proposed legislation as an over zealous and unnecessary restriction on the free Internet. 

The other protesters joining in do have very real fears from the legislation - Google is the starting point for millions of people in their search for information, trivia, facts, lies and links every day, every hour of the day, probably concurrently every second.  If Wikipedia was running, I'd try to validate that claim!  Under the proposed legislation, as it stands, the likes of Google could be shut down for allowing illegal piracy (I know in decent civilisations there isn't such a thing as legal piracy, but I'm currently immersed in the thought processes of B L O'Feld, who probably does think you can have such a beast!).  But Google make the point that they police their systems all the time and constantly remove links that they spot as breaking the law.  They just don't think they need the threat of being closed down as a result of not preventing others misusing their Internet space.

As I see the argument, Internet companies are at threat of being closed down for failing to prevent illegal activities being carried out on them.  In essence, that has a ring of reasonableness about it, but wait.  Isn't this like penalising airlines for allowing terrorists to carry bombs across National boundaries, even if the airlines carry out appropriate measures to prevent that happening?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against stopping piracy, and I've offered my views on how that can be tackled elsewhere, but I quite like the freedom that the Internet gives me and I certainly appreciate living in a country that allows me to say what I like as long as it isn't defamatory, even if its plainly wrong.  Take the time to read the Wikipedia article, follow the links to the arguments it provides, and for goodness sake don't stand on the side saying nothing.


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