The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Iptegrity deeply regrets the British decision to leave the European Union. I feel that - far from being Indpendence Day or a liberating moment- this decision is a bad sign for democracy in Britain.

The referendum campaign was dominated by propagandist,  manipulative  and bullying commentary from powerful media owners, who sought to silence their critics, and they succeeded in  muffling  the voices of those who believed Britain would have been better to stay in Europe.  We do not know how

close the ties are between them and the politicians who hope to gain power, but we may suspect the connections are close.

The campaign showed a poverty of political debate that is unbecoming of a country whose Parliament is regarded as the mother of all Parliaments. It owed more to reality TV shows than to  a democratic, free discussion.

Over the past nearly 10 yeas that I have run Iptegrity, I have  criticised European Union policy. I have been especially vocal where the EU was evidently being influenced by corporate interests for their own benefit, and  potentially to the detriment of citizens.  I have done this in the spirit of democratic accountability. The European Union has many flaws, but I believe the best way to rectify them is to work from within. It is a positive sign of the EU that does support free speech, and allows a range of  voices to be heard. The EU has shown that it is also willing to listen to the voices of its citizens, as in the case of ACTA, and citizens need to recognise that together, they can send strong messages to policy-makers.

The European institutions are subjected to heavy corporate lobbying because the size of the EU market with over 400 million people, dictates that companies want to get influence. It should not come as a surprise that EU policy-makers will  bend in the way that these industries want them to. It is our role, as citizens, to keep a watchful eye and be there to remind policy-makers of an alternative viewpoint. I felt proud to be able to add my voice to those EU debates in the sectors where I have expert knowledge.

I fear that I cannot say the same for Britain. The Westminster Parliament is a closed shop. Access is highly restricted.  Behind the scenes, ideas can only penetrate from those who have the money or channels of influence to tunnel their way inside. Industry keeps a very tight hold on policies and ensures that those who may take a different perspective are kept out of the way. A closed gallery of elite journalists report on Parliamentary business.  Parliamentary seminars are run by a commercial company, and only those who can pay, are permitted to attend.

In a Brexited Britain, industry will either get a closer hand on the strings of government, or it will ignore us altogether, focussing on the bigger political might of Brussels. That leaves Britain at the mercy of the largest corporations who can afford to put lobbyists here, and out of scope where the bigger and dirtier deals risk being done.

The only thing that has been clear from the Brexit campaign is that those who were so keen to leave, had no plan. The financial markets are already telling us, using indices and equity prices as their voice, that they fear a negative outcome for Britain. Universities are also beginning to absorb the possible negative impact of losing not only student income, but research funding, from the EU.

 In a State of such extreme uncertainty, we need free democratic speech more than ever. In the 21st century, we need a free, open and unfiltered Internet to facilitate it. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Britain. The filters on British broadband networks are arbitrarily  filtering out legitimate business, children's charities, and churches.

When we leave the EU, what legal protection do British citizens have against a government that is hand-in-glove with an industry that wants to sell more and more tools to snoop, and powerful organised lobbies?

I do not take any great pleasure in writing this. It makes me sad that the country which gave rise to free speech rights over 300 years ago, does not understand why it now has to positively  support them. 

Pause for thought and gather our strength, because we will need it.

If you refer to this article please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, 2016, Brexit: a sad day for free speech in Britain   in, 26 May 2016. Commercial users - please contact me.

If you like this article, you might also like my latest book The Closing of the Net which is about corporate influence over EU policy, the Internet and free speech.








The Copyright Enforcement Enigma tells the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package and how the copyright industries tried to hijack it.

'accurate and absorbing account of the story of the Telecoms Package' -Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology

'...a must read for those interested in knowing in depth about copyright enforcement and Internet.' -Journal of Intellectual Property Rights.  

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

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Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten, European expert on Internet policy and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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