by Steve Watson
December 17, 2009
Internet censorship bills currently working
their way into law in the UK, Australia and the U.S. legislate for
government powers to restrict and filter any website that it deems to be
undesirable for public consumption.
In the UK, legislation slated as the "Digital Economy Bill", currently being
debated in the House of Lords, would allow the Home Secretary to place “a
technical obligation on Internet service providers” to block whichever sites
clause 11 of the proposed legislation “technical obligation” is
defined as follows:
A “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,
limits the speed or other
capacity of the service provided to a subscriber
subscriber from using the service to gain access to particular material,
or limits such use
suspends the service provided to a subscriber
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 comes in the wake of amplified UK government efforts 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
Mandelson also wants to impose harsh policies, via the Digital Economy Bill,
that would 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” by experts.
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
Journalist 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
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
a luxury two week holiday
at Nat Rothschild’s Corfu mansion with
multi-millionaire record company executive David Geffen.
Lord Mandelson greets
billionaire David Geffen
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
Last year 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 program, known as the “Interception Modernisation Programme” (IMP), would
allow spy chiefs at GCHQ, the government’s secret eavesdropping agency, the
centre for Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) activities, 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 last April
that it was
scaling down the plans, with then Home Secretary
stating that there were “absolutely no plans for a single central store” of
However, 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 announcement.
The London Times published leaked details of a
secret mass Internet
surveillance project known as “Mastering the Internet” (MTI).
Costing hundreds of millions in public funds, the system is already being
GCHQ with the aid of American defense giant Lockheed Martin
and British IT firm Detica, which has close ties to the intelligence
A group of over 300 Internet service providers and telecommunications firms
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 authorized
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 (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
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 Rights.
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.
Australian communication minister Stephen Conroy said the government would
be the final arbiter on what sites would be blacklisted under “refused
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 filters.
Earlier this year, the
Wikileaks website published a leaked
secret list of
sites slated to be blocked by Australia’s state-sponsored parental filter.
The list revealed that blacklisted sites included,
online poker sites
gay and straight porn sites
websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites
the website of a tour operator and even
The filter will even
block web-based games
deemed unsuitable for anyone over the age of fifteen, according to the
The broad attack on the free Internet is not only restricted to the UK and
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
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
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
The 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
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 Jones report.
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 fear-mongering about cyber attacks on
the U.S. government and how the country could be shut down.
Watch the clip below:
"Internet should have never been invented"
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
people use government Internet sites with “cookies” and other technologies.
Recent disclosures 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 advertising purposes.
The 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 realization 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 the last vestige of independent information.