UK Queen's Speech: More, Faster Broadband… But It Will Be Censored And Spied On
from the some-good,-some-very-bad dept
So over in the UK, they just had the annual Queen’s Speech in which the Queen lays out a bunch of regulatory proposals, and (as per usual) it’s a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the internet. As plenty of the headlines have blared, one part calls for universal broadband access, with a minimum speed of 10 Mbps (I’m assuming they’re only talking about downstream speeds, rather than symmetrical, but who knows…). It would also include “automatic compensation” if your internet connection goes down. That’s a very good idea as a starting point (I’d argue the speed should be even higher, but it’s a start).
But… with that comes some things that sound a lot… worse. First off, there would be an expansion of the ridiculous “porn licensing” program in the UK whereby sites will need to do “age verification” if they have adult content. Not that anyone’s saying that porn should be easily accessible to kids, but age verification is hardly foolproof, and can lead to a variety of other problems, including undermining the privacy of web surfers and just a general chilling effect on creating certain types of content online, for fear of it being locked away or filtered if it’s deemed too mature. There are also concerns about how the government implements this ridiculous plan for 10-year prison sentences for infringers, and how that will impact a free and open internet.
And then there’s the expansion of internet surveillance that is equally worrisome. There’s a lot of stuff about “restricting extremist activity” and trying to stop the children from being radicalized (“think of the children!”). In theory, those must sound like nice ideas, but in practice, they’re a broad framework for a massive censorship regime. Free speech groups are already raising concerns about all of this:
The new proposals should avoid creating an environment that could make it even harder for people of all faiths and ideologies to express their beliefs and opinions, the groups said. Current legislation already prohibits incitement to violence and terrorism, and a compelling case for broadening them further through civil measures has not been made.
?The government?s move to counter extremism must not end up silencing us all,? said Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship. ?We should resist any attempts to make it a crime for people of faith to talk publicly about their beliefs, for political parties to voice unpopular views, and for venues from universities to village halls to host anyone whose opinions challenge the status quo. We urge the government to use its consultation to ensure this does not happen.?
As with many regulations, many of these feel like “x is a problem, something should be done, this is something” kinds of solutions, without much thought or concern to the nuances behind the implementation and the wider consequences (intended or not) of those proposals. That’s unfortunate, especially when it comes to a platform as important and central to our lives as the internet.