UK Culture Secretary Andy Burnham Wants Websites To Be Rated… To Protect The Children
from the can-we-rate-Andy-Burnham-instead? dept
The UK sure does have one impressively clueless culture secretary in Andy Burnham. We first came across him nearly a year ago, when he was suggesting that it should be ISPs’ responsibility to deal with file sharing by monitoring usage and cutting off users who file share. Then, just a few weeks ago, he made an incredibly poorly thought out speech, where he pushed for copyright extension on performance rights, not for any good reason — but because of some odd “moral” compunction to take content away from the public and give it to the record labels. For this he was roundly criticized by those who actually understand the topic.
But, of course, it appears he can’t stop there. His latest move is to suggest that all websites should be rated and ISPs should be responsible for blocking access to inappropriate content, “for the children” of course. Burnham seems to think that the proliferation of information online is a bad thing:
“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…. 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.”
Because, that’s just what the world needs: more government censorship determining what is and what is not “appropriate” online. This is the typical mistake made by politicians who think the internet is a content platform, and not a communications platform. If he’s going to censor the internet for such content, will he also make it illegal to say bad things over the phone?
To make it even more ridiculous, he wants to take the UK’s libel laws — already some of the most draconian around — and make them even worse. He wants it to be easier than ever to sue for defamatory speech, apparently not noticing how many bogus defamation lawsuits are brought by those who are merely upset at being criticized, rather than defamed. Making it easier only encourages more bogus lawsuits.
Would it really be that out of line to suggest that a culture secretary actually understand the internet before trying to regulate it?