Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

Internet Threats

In 2022,  the open and neutral Internet is under threat more than ever as policy-makers seek to rein in the bit tech global platforms, some of which did not exist when I set up this website in 2007. 

We have seen several different groups of stakeholders lobbying for blocks to be placed on websites,  user access to be suspended or content filtering. It all started with copyright, but now many other lobbying interests are leading the charge. Many are non-governmental organisations representing vulnerable people or children, others are big industrial corporations whose motives are less likely to represent a public interest. A worrying development is how law  enforcement have themselves become a stakeholder in this debate, seeking to get the private corporations to carry out enforcement on their behalf. 

The issues also have moved on. Over the time that I've been writing on this field, we've seen  calls for Internet blocking arising in respect to libel and defamation, and  now there is very long list. One of the more worrying developments, especially in the UK since Brexit, is the matter of abuse of individuals. Those who oppose government policy tend to experience high volumes of very unpleasant abuse, and in some cases violent threats. This is not acceptable.  It does raise a very difficult question, from a policy and human rights perspective. How to balance the need to protect free speech against malicious or arbitrary restrictions against the need to tackle the those who engage in this unpleasant and anti-social activity. 

This section address  a range of threats to the Internet from 2008 to the present day. 

If you like the articles in this section and you are interested in Internet policy-making in the EU, especially with regard to copyright policy, you may like my books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the ‘Telecoms Package’

If you are following  discussions around telecoms and technology policy and content blocking ,  you may like my book The Closing of the Net which covers the British copyright blocking orders, as well as the Megaupload case.


On the same day as the Queen’s Speech on 27 May, a  private members’ Bill was introduced to Parliament  that provides for wide-scale content filtering by network providers and device manufacturers.  Whilst the headline objective is to remove ‘adult’ content from the Internet, the Bill opens the door to  a much broader interpretation and in that regard, poses serious risks to freedom of expression.  If adopted, the proposed regime would  be implemented and overseen by private companies, outsourcing the government’s duties to corporate actors. It may never get on the Statute, but it does signal attempts by lobbying communities to pressure the government.

Read more: Online Safety Bill 2015– a back-door to Internet filtering?

This year is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the Great Charter that established the right to a fair trial and  put an end to arbitrary justice in private hands. What, you may ask, does this have to do with technology policy for the 21st century? It’s a strange twist of fate that this year, in Britain, we face calls for private companies to take on the role of  (secret) police-man, judge and censor all wrapped up in one.

Read more: Why Magna Carta matters to technology policy

 If the government were to mandate a privately-funded body to handle adult content blocking it would be ‘a species of censoring... without any obligation of prior judicial approval’  

A report on the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)  - a UK-based Hotline to report the most serious cases of child abuse on the Internet –  by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken (now Lord) MacDonald, has a lot to say about the difficulties of a take-down regime for adult content, suggesting that the IWF drop such content from its remit. In the broader discussions around Internet content blocking, his rationale is  interesting. He concludes  that there would be  serious risks to free speech  rights "if" a privately-funded bodywere to be  given Internet take-down powers over 'sensitive' content. As Iptegrity readers will know, guarantees of fundamental rights under  EU law mean that a court ruling is required before governments can

Read more: Adult content takedowns need judicial ruling, says former public prosecutor

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States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

"original and valuable"  Times higher Education

" essential read for anyone interested in understanding the forces at play behind the web." ITSecurity.co.uk

Find out more about the book here  The Closing of the Net

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Iptegrity in brief

 

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing. I am on the Advisory Council of the Open Rights Group.  I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. For more, see About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com 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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