by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 2nd 2008 3:41pm
When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Considering that the only real tool politicians have is the ability to regulate, it's no wonder they try to regulate everything in sight. The Inquirer points us to a report about some efforts underway in Japan to dramatically increase regulation over the internet in a variety of different realms. The first area would be to expand what the Japanese "Broadcast Law" covers to include almost all web content. The law was intended to regulate broadcast content, but by adding in the phrase "open communication" it will now also include just about any public information put on the web, including newsgroups, bulletin boards and blogs. Once that's in place, the Japanese government will then be able to go after any content it finds "harmful," which seems rather loosely defined itself. The second change would push mobile phone operators to put in place various filters to block "harmful" content from minors -- though, again that definition of harmful is loosely described. The report notes that some operators already have such filters in place (though they're not mandatory) and it includes blocking various social network sites and some sites based on politics or sexual orientation. The final change would be to Japanese copyright law that currently says it's legal to download songs for personal use. The change would be to get rid of that exception. At this point, it sounds like all of these proposals are under review, rather than already put in place, but as the article notes, they don't seem to have received very much press attention, despite being major changes concerning internet regulations. All of these changes seem to be the type that politicians like. They all make the politicians look good for either "protecting the children" or helping out big industry lobbyists -- but which do little to actually help the people the government is supposed to represent.
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