There’s an old joke — attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, and others — whose punch line is, “We’ve already established that, my dear, now we’re negotiating the price.” The joke came to mind earlier today when I encountered an item headlined “Internet censorship in the West” from, of all places, PressTV, the Iranian international news network:
Despite its historic and international reputation for heralding free speech, the United Kingdom has the second strictest censorship of the internet in the European Union.
The UK has a number of laws and policies that restrict the way information can be made public, including some that make it illegal to report on information that the government or corporations are trying to keep secret.
During the London riots, David Cameron ordered the censorship of social networking sites, and his censorship plans have been applauded by China.
Western governments are attempting to put forward laws that further restrict the freedoms of internet usage such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
We know price negotiation when we see it:
- “Free speech is central to our democracy but so is public safety and security.” (Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis on David Cameron’s plan to limit access to social media after riots in London.)
- “This wasn’t about free speech. It was about safety.” (BART Deputy Police Chief Benson Fairow on shutting down cell-phone service in order to disrupt a planned protest in San Francisco.)
- “SOPA does not censor the Internet. It only targets activity that is already illegal.” (SOPA author Lamar Smith on his creation.)
- “China bans using the Internet to subvert state power and wreck national unity, to incite ethnic hatred and division, to promote cults and to distribute content that is pornographic, salacious, violent or terrorist. This is completely different from so-called restriction of Internet freedom.” (China’s State Council Information Office on Internet regulation.)
- “According to computer crime regulations, access to this website is denied.” (Response when linking to any encrypted Web site from Iran.)
To paraphrase James Whitcomb Riley: If it looks like censorship and acts like censorship and smells like censorship, it’s censorship.