Tomorrow (12th March) Reporters Without Borders will be celebrating World Day Against Cyber Censorship. While the UK is not on Reporters Without Borders' list of "Enemies of the Internet," we should not be complacent.
Internet censorship affects over 95% of UK Internet users with most of us unaware of it. Nearly all of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) filter all their web traffic using the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) blacklist without notification or consent. The IWF is a non-government, non-regulated body whose remit is to block access to sites allegedly containing child abuse images or racist material. Whilst this is a noble goal, it is far from a perfect system.
More recently, the Internet - which has been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize - has come under threat in the UK from the Digital Economy Bill. While the the original Bill was heavily criticised for the excessive powers it gave the government and copyright owners, a recent amendment(drafted by the British Phonographic Industry and moved by the Liberal Democrats last week) takes this even further. According to several of the major Internet-based companies and ISPs, the powers it grants to copyright owners could "threaten freedom of speech and the open internet, without reducing copyright infringement as intended."
Andrew Robinson, leader of the Pirate Party UK warns, "Censoring the internet is not a step we should take lightly. The government wants to make it easier to censor a website because it contains copyright infringements than if it contained child pornography. Just days after the BBC revealed that 75% of UK adults believe internet access should be a basic right, all the major political parties are backing new Cyber Censorship powers for something so trivial it isn't even classed a as crime, just a civil infringement. This country needs the Pirate Party."
The Pirate Party will be marking World Day Against Cyber Censorship and encourages all those who support a free Internet to do so as well. Together we must fight to protect our freedoms.