UK’s Likely Next Prime Minister Wants A Pony: A Magic Internet Where No One Ever Says Any Bad Things
from the please-live-here-in-reality dept
Is it too much to ask that politicians try to live in reality? The obsession over the past few years that anything bad that people say on the internet is the fault of the internet (rather than the people using it) and must be outlawed is already problematic enough. But the politicians and their “solutions” are reaching ever more ridiculous heights.
We’ve written a bunch about the UK’s Online Safety Bill, a “protect the children!” law that seems to have been written devoid of any concern for reality or basic civil liberties. As we’ve noted previously, the ideas in the bill appear to have been modeled on the original version of the Great Firewall of China, in which the government sends out vague decrees of “don’t let bad stuff exist online” with threats of massive punishment for any internet service that somehow lets bad stuff (again, vaguely defined) exist online. And that’s not even getting into how it also seeks to outlaw encryption. Though, honestly at this point, it seems like UK politicians view that as a side benefit to the whole thing.
There was a brief reprieve as the bill was temporarily shelved as the UK sought to fill its Boris Johnson-sized hole at the top of the government. There were even some Conservative politicians who (correctly) started calling out how the bill will be an absolute disaster for free speech. Some of the candidates for the Prime Minister slot even suggested that they were not fans of the Online Safety Bill. Unfortunately, it’s increasingly looking like Liz Truss will be the new PM. And, apparently Truss absolutely loves the idea of the Online Safety Bill. When confronted about the concerns for free speech, she had a simple answer: teenagers should get their own internet. Because that’s going to happen.
In a series of posts exploring the unfixable problems of the Online Safety Bill, open internet activist Heather Burns highlights what a total disaster the bill is, and how there are no fixes that can be made that can save it. As she notes, this very much creates a “splinternet” in which the UK internet is not just conceptually different than the rest of the worlds’ internet, but technically different as well, as it requires three effectively impossible features:
- A mandatory age verification layer
- A surveillance layer that will monitor all content
- An effective ban on end to end encryption (to better enable #2)
Truss’s comments more or less confirm that this is how the Online Safety Bill will work. She wants to create an entirely different internet, one that is fundamentally incompatible with the actual internet.
It seems likely that she doesn’t think she’s creating a new and incompatible internet. She just doesn’t understand any of this and is pushing the typical “but think of the children on the internet” moral panic that is so common these days.
But, it would be nice if, just once, we had politicians making these policies that actually understood how all this works, and that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make “bad” content disappear from the internet.
Is it too much to ask politicians to live in reality?