A few years ago, we mocked then Senator Joe Lieberman's request that internet companies put "report this content as terrorist content"
buttons on various types
of online content. The plan went nowhere, because it's a really bad idea, prone to massive abuse. Yet, over in the UK, some apparently think it's such a grand idea that they're actually moving forward with it. This isn't a huge surprise -- the current UK government has been going on for quite some time about banning "extremist"
content, and just recently ramped up
And now it appears that a bunch of big UK broadband access providers have agreed to play along
The UK’s major Internet service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk – have this week committed to host a public reporting button for terrorist material online, similar to the reporting button which allows the public to report child sexual exploitation.
They have also agreed to ensure that terrorist and extremist material is captured by their filters to prevent children and young people coming across radicalising material.
I love the term "radicalising material" as if it's the material itself that has the power to magically turn mild-mannered Brits into violent jihadis just by appearing on their screens. That's not how it works
. Yet some have such an irrational fear of the power of words we disagree with that it must be prevented from anyone ever seeing it.
Also, the comparison to child porn is a common one, but wrong. Images of sexually exploited children are not a judgment call issue, for the most part. It's an obvious thing. "Extremist" material or "terrorist" material, on the other hand, is almost entirely subjective. And, over time, the definition of what counts always seems to expand, rather than contract. And that doesn't even take into account how many people will simply choose to use such buttons to try to censor any sort of content they dislike.
David Cameron seems quite excited about turning an open and free internet into a closed and censored space
, where only content he likes is allowed:
Addressing a special sitting of federal parliament, Cameron said: “We must not allow the internet to be an ungoverned space”.
Why? What's wrong with letting people speak their minds? The whole "terrorism!" claim is overplayed:
“In both our countries we have seen some of our young people radicalised, going off to fight in Iraq and Syria, and even appalling plots to murder innocent people back in our own countries.”
Yes, but perhaps you should look at the root causes of why that's happening? But Cameron insists it can't possibly be poverty or UK foreign policy:
“And let us be frank. It’s not poverty, though of course our nations are united in tackling deprivation wherever it exists. It’s not exclusion from the mainstream. Of course we have more to do but we are both successful multicultural democracies where opportunities abound.
“And it’s not foreign policy. I can show you examples all over the world where British aid and British action have saved millions of Muslim lives, from Kosovo to Syria – but that is not exactly the real point. In our democracies, we must never give in to the idea that disagreeing with a foreign policy in any way justifies terrorist outrages.”
Hmm. So disagreeing with foreign policy cannot justify terrorist outrages... but, apparently it can
justify blatant censorship. Because, apparently, the only possible reason why people are radicalized is because they read something on the internet. David Cameron insists that's the case:
The root cause was in fact the “extremist narrative”, Cameron said.
This meant “we must ban extremist preachers from our country, we must root out extremism from our schools, universities and prisons”, as well as dealing with the internet.
So he presents no actual evidence, but completely waves off poverty and disagreements over UK foreign policy as being non-factors -- and then automatically assumes that the problem is "extremist" speech online? Incredible.
And the end result is pure censorship. How long until calling it censorship is considered an "extremist" position as well?