The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Internet Regulation: Think of the Children!

Posted by rantingkraut on December 28, 2008

New Labour seems to be serious about starting to regulate the net more generally rather than in specific cases where real or imagined criminal activity is an issue. The latest idea is an enforced age labelling of websites. As usual, a need to protect the children is at the forefront of justifying government interference. For once, I think the welfare of our children is a genuinely relevant issue, though not in the way that the government has in mind.

The age rating proposed may not sound much like an exercise in censorship. After all, it merely adds some information to an existing product. The important part of this idea is not the rating system envisaged, but the administrative infrastructure needed to enforce it. Once there is a working system of enforced contents screening, it will in practice be up to the authorities –not the voters– to decide what contents will be permitted.

There is also no need to speculate whether the labour government -or their successors for that matter- really wish to go further in censoring contents. Just recall what was demanded in the past and you know where this is going. This is why we need to think of the children. Those who are critical of authority today will find a way to work around censorship technology. It is the coming generations we need to worry about. If today’s children grow up with political commentary that is again dominated by the government and a concentrated mainstream media they will simply not acquire the habit of looking for dissident information from diverse sources.

I want my daughter to grow up with access to the full range of opinions available, not just those world views I and her teachers preach to her. I want her to live under a government and with mainstream media that have to content with constant scrutiny from a multitude of bloggers. Last but not least, I want her and all of her generation to be able to participate in the decentralised grass roots debate which Web.2 has enabled, without fear of censorship or persecution. I am thinking of the children. That is why I oppose censorship in its early stages.

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