New Zealand just snuck through a harsh new Internet censorship law by attaching it to a set of laws aimed at creating better responses to earthquakes.
I shit you not. They are actually using the urgent need to bring relief to earthquake survivors as a way of forcing through laws that restrict human rights.
This is annoying and troubling. But when one considers that a few weeks ago Ireland did exactly the same thing (except no earthquakes), and that Australia has been doing it for years, it becomes downright scary.
Britain has also admitted that it’s trying to do exactly the same thing and Russia has been on the censorship bandwagon for ages.
And I hate to say “I fucking told you so” but I fucking told you so.
The way they are doing this is by imposing laws on Internet Service Providers. This is important because many of the more savvy Internet users usually shrug their shoulders when warned about Internet Censorship. They think there will always be a way around it.
Well, sorry guys, but if your ISP says you aren’t allowed Internet any more there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it (apart from starting your own ISP of course). Sure, there will always be some way around these things but that doesn’t mean this isn’t bad, and it doesn’t mean that laws like these aren’t going to make all our Internet lives a lot more difficult.
And the more commonplace laws like these become the more sophisticated the enforcement will become, and the more tech-savvy someone will have to be in order to avoid them. The window of opportunity will keep getting smaller until only the truly “leet” can get unrestricted access to the Net.
And if the solutions to these problems don’t work for the majority of people then they simply do not work.
The way the laws will function is that if some large company (like, oh I don’t know, TimeWarner) decides that they have caught you pirating some of their stuff then they will just inform the police, the police will inform the ISP and the ISP will turn off your Internet.
There are huge problems with this approach, not the least of which is the fact that identifying people through their IP address is notoriously inaccurate.
The legislation also works the other way around: if they find a website that they say is assisting in piracy they can force the ISPs to stop anyone from being able to get to that site. This effectively removes from the Internet any site they don’t like.
This is the feature that is most troubling for those of us who think that freedom of speech is a good thing.
Of course some will say that I’m making too much of this because the laws are only aimed at pirates, right? Well, no. The problem with these laws is that they don’t require accused people to have a day in court. All the media companies have to do is accuse you, they don’t have to actually prove anything.
So they can take away people’s Internet for any reason they like, as long as they can pretend they thought you were pirating.
And why do the media mega-corporations feel that this is necessary?
Well, there are two reasons:
Firstly, they want to bypass the courts because they know how difficult it is to prove anything.
Secondly, the media megacorporations feel that these laws are necesssary in order to keep the prices of their products unatturaly high. They refuse to admit that they are charging too much and that it is this that is driving the huge increase in piracy.
They also don’t want to admit that there is no evidence that piracy is actually leading to reduced profits for these companies since most pirates download things that they wouldn’t have bought anyway. This is why they want to sneak the laws through: there is no need for them, and they know that people will aggressively oppose their Internet freedom being taken away.
Of course, as bad as these new laws are the real problem is the risk that they will be abused.
Any law that is sneaked in without due review is going to have problems, and when those problems relate to sweeping powers and no oversight then that is poo just looking for a fan.
There is one last thing I want to comment on: timing.
Does it strike anyone else as being very strange that several countries have all enacted very similar legislation, in very similar ways, within a few months of each other?
To me this feels like a co-ordinated attack, which might sound like a conspiracy theory until you remember that each of the countries I’ve mentioned have lobbyists that all answer to the same companies. If all of Sony’s lobbyists start pushing the same plan, at the same time, in whichever country they are based in that isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s just good planning.
These companies have the ability to co-ordinate simultaneous global movie releases combined with a wealth of cheap merch. Do we really think their lobbyists can’t be made to all work on the same timetable?
Don’t be silly.
In any case these laws serve the wealthy at the expense of the rights of normal people. They have been rushed through in undemocratic fashion in order to deliberately bypass the right of the people to demand explanation before their freedom is taken away.
And they are yet more proof that even more politicians are under the thumb of a handful or powerful corporations than we thought.
[Standard Disclaimer: this post was entirely my own opinion and was not paid for in any way, directly or otherwise, by anyone or anything that stands to gain in any way from the ideas expressed herein.]