Of The Internet: Unprecedented Censorship Bill Passes in UK
process used to rush through draconian legislation as a pitiful handful
of MPs attend debate
A draconian Internet censorship bill that has been long looming on the horizon
the house of commons in the UK yesterday, legislating for government
powers to restrict and filter any website that is deemed to be undesirable
for public consumption.
Economy Bill” was rushed through parliament in a late night session
last night after a third reading. In the wake of the announcement of a general
election on May 6, the government has taken advantage of what is known as
the “wash-up process”, allowing the legislative process to be
speeded up between an election being called and Parliament being dissolved.
Only a pitiful handful of MPs were present to debate the bill, which was
fully supported by the “opposition” Conservative party, and
passed by 189 votes to 47 keeping the majority of its original clauses intact.
The bill will now go
back to the House of Lords, where it originated, for a final formal approval.
The government removed
a proposal in clause 18 of the bill, which openly stated that it could block
any website, however it was replaced with an amendment to clause 8 of the
bill which essentially legislates for the same powers.
The new clause allows
the unelected secretary of state for business, currently Lord Mandelson,
to order the blocking of “a location on the internet which the court
is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection
with an activity that infringes copyright”.
Opposing MPs argued
that the clause was too broad and open ended, arguing that the phrase “likely
to be used” could be used to block websites without them ever having
been used for “activity that infringes copyright”. Other MPs
argued that under the bill, whistleblower websites, such as Wikileaks, could
The legislation will also allow the Home Secretary to place “a technical
obligation on internet service providers” to block whichever sites
11 of the proposed legislation “technical obligation” is
defined as follows:
“technical obligation”, in relation to an internet service provider,
is an obligation for the provider to take a technical measure against particular
subscribers to its service.
A “technical measure” is a measure that — (a) limits the
speed or other capacity of the service provided to a subscriber; (b) prevents
a subscriber from using the service to gain access to particular material,
or limits such use; (c) suspends the service provided to a subscriber; or
(d) limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way.
In other words, the
government will have the power to force ISPs to downgrade and even block
your internet access to certain websites or altogether if it wishes.
The legislation is part of an amplified effort by the government to seize
more power over the internet and those who use it.
For months now unelected
“Secretary of State” Lord Mandelson has overseen government
efforts to challenge
the independence of the of UK’s internet infrastructure.
The Digital Economy Bill will also see users’
broadband access cut off indefinitely, in addition to a fine of up to
£50,000 without evidence or trial, if they download copyrighted music
and films. The plan has been identified as “potentially illegal”
The legislation would
impose a duty on ISPs to effectively spy on all their customers by keeping
records of the websites they have visited and the material they have downloaded.
ISPs who refuse to cooperate could be fined £250,000.
and copyright law expert Cory Doctrow has noted, the bill also gives
the Secretary of State the power to make up as many new penalties and enforcement
systems as he likes, without Parliamentary oversight or debate. This could
include the authority to appoint private militias, who will have the power
to kick you off the internet, spy on your use of the network, demand the
removal of files in addition to the blocking of websites.
Mandelson and his successors
will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail time, for any
digital transgression he deems Britons to be guilty of. Despite being named
the Digital Economy Bill, the legislation contains nothing that will actually
stimulate the economy and is largely based on shifting control over the
internet into government hands, allowing unaccountable bureaucrats to arbitrarily
hide information from the public should they wish to do so. Mandelson began
the onslaught on the free internet in the UK after spending a luxury two
at Nat Rothschild’s Corfu mansion with multi-millionaire record
company executive David Geffen.
20,000 members of the public have written to their MPs in the last week
to lobby against the bill being rushed through, however, their concerns
have fallen on deaf ears and the government has been allowed to deal a devastating
blow to the last real vestige of free speech in this country.
The Wider Agenda
Of Internet Control
The Digital Economy
Bill is intrinsically linked to long term plans by the UK government to
carry out an unprecedented extension of state powers by claiming the authority
to monitor all emails, phone calls and internet activity nationwide.
IN 2008, the government
announced its intention to create
a massive central database, gathering details on every text sent, e-mail
sent, phone call made and website visited by everyone in the UK. The programme,
known as the “Interception Modernisation Programme”, would allow
spy chiefs at GCHQ, the government’s secret eavesdropping agency,
the centre for Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) activities (pictured above),
to effectively place a “live tap” on every electronic communication
in Britain in the name of preventing terrorism.
Following outcry over
the announcement, the government suggested that it was scaling
down the plans, with then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stating that there
were “absolutely no plans for a single central store” of communications
as the “climbdown” was celebrated by civil liberties advocates
and the plan was “replaced” by new
laws requiring ISPs to store details of emails and internet telephony
for just 12 months, fresh details emerged indicating the government was
implementing a big brother spy system that far outstrips the original public
The London Times published
leaked details of a secret
mass internet surveillance project known as “Mastering the Internet”
hundreds of millions in public funds, the system is already being implemented
by GCHQ with the aid of American defence giant Lockheed Martin and British
IT firm Detica, which has close ties to the intelligence agencies.
A group of over 300
internet service providers and telecommunications firms has attempted to
fight back over the radical plans, describing the proposals as an unwarranted
invasion of people’s privacy. Currently,
any interception of a communication in Britain must be authorised by a warrant
signed by the home secretary or a minister of equivalent rank. Only individuals
who are the subject of police or security service investigations may be
subject to surveillance.
If the GCHQ’s
MTI project is completed, black-box probes would be placed at critical traffic
junctions with internet service providers and telephone companies, allowing
eavesdroppers to instantly monitor the communications of every person in
the country without the need for a warrant. Even
if you believe GCHQ’s denial that it has any plans to create a huge
monitoring system, the current law under the RIPA (the Regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act) allows hundreds of government agencies access to the records
of every internet provider in the country.
In publicly announced
proposals to extend these powers, firms will be asked to collect and store
even more vast amounts of data, including from social networking sites such
as Facebook. If the plans go ahead, every internet user will be given a
unique ID code and all their data will be stored in one place. Government
agencies such as the police and security services will have access to the
data should they request it with respect to criminal or terrorist investigations.
This is clearly the
next step in an incremental program to implement an already exposed full
scale big brother spy system designed to completely obliterate privacy,
a fundamental right under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human
Death Of The
Internet In Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.
Similar efforts to
place restrictions on the internet are unfolding in Australia where the
government is implementing
a mandatory and wide-ranging internet filter modeled on that of the
Communist Chinese government.
minister Stephen Conroy said the government would be the final arbiter on
what sites would be blacklisted under “refused classification.”
The official justification for the filter is to block child pornography,
however, as the watchdog group Electronic Frontiers Australia
has pointed out, the law will also allow the government to block any website
it desires while the pornographers can relatively easily skirt around the
Earlier this year,
the Wikileaks website published a leaked secret
list of sites slated to be blocked by Australia’s state-sponsored
The list revealed that
blacklisted sites included “online poker sites, YouTube links, regular
gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites
of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites,
the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.”
The filter will even
web-based games deemed unsuitable for anyone over the age of fifteen,
according to the Australian government.
In neighbouring New
Zealand, the government has quietly
implemented an internet filter and is urging the leading ISPs in the
country to adopt the measure, in a move that would give the authorities
the power to restrict whichever websites they see fit.
The New Zealand Department
of Internal Affairs (DIA) reportedly turned on the internet filter on February
1st without making any announcement, prompting critics to charge that the
measure had been activated in stealth. It was no coincidence that around
the same time the government’s Internet filter went live, Infowars
began receiving notification from readers in New Zealand that their access
to Alex Jones’ flagship websites Infowars.com and Prisonplanet.com
had been suddenly blocked.
The broad attack on the free internet is not only restricted to the UK,
New Zealand and Australia.
The European Union,
Finland, Denmark, Germany and other countries in Europe have all proposed
blocking or limiting access to the internet and using filters like those
used in Iran, Syria, China, and other repressive regimes. In 2008 in the
U.S., The Motion
Picture Association of America asked president Obama to introduce laws
that would allow the federal government to effectively spy on the entire
Internet, establishing a system where being accused of copyright infringement
would result in loss of your Internet connection. In 2009 the Cybersecurity
Act was introduced, proposing to allow the federal government to tap
into any digital aspect of every citizen’s information without a warrant.
Banking, business and medical records would be wide open to inspection,
as well as personal instant message and e mail communications.
legislation, introduced by Senators John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and
Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in April, gives the president the ability to “declare
a cybersecurity emergency” and shut down or limit Internet traffic
in any “critical” information network “in the interest
of national security.” The bill does not define a critical information
network or a cybersecurity emergency. That definition would be left to the
president, according to a Mother
During a hearing on
the bill, Senator John Rockefeller betrayed the true intent behind the legislation
when he stated, “Would it have been better if we’d have never
invented the Internet,” while fearmongering about cyber attacks on
the U.S. government and how the country could be shut down.
The Obama White House
has also sought a private
contractor to “crawl and archive” data such as comments,
tag lines, e-mail, audio and video from any place online where the White
House “maintains a presence” – for a period of up to eight
years. Obama has
also proposed scaling back a long-standing ban on tracking
how people use government Internet sites with “cookies”
and other technologies.
under the Freedom Of Information Act also reveal that the federal
government has several contracts with social media outlets such as Youtube
(Google), Facebook, Myspace and Flickr (Yahoo) that waive rules on monitoring
users and permit companies to track visitors to government web sites for
U.S. military also has some $30 Billion invested in it’s own mastering
the internet projects.
We have extensively
covered efforts to scrap
the internet as we know it and move toward a greatly restricted “internet
2? system. All of the above represents stepping stones toward the realisation
of that agenda.
The free internet is
under attack the world over, only by exposing the true intentions of our
governments to restrict the flow of data can we defeat such efforts and
preserve what is left of the last vestige of independent information.