At the start of this month I said that journalists were failing to “protect the public sphere”. Well, here’s just one example of this in action that we need to be watching.
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, has confirmed to the Open Rights Group “that discussion are ongoing between rights-holders and Internet Service Providers about ‘self-regulatory’ site-blocking measures.”
For journalists any move in this direction should be particularly concerning, as it provides a non-legal avenue (i.e. without due process) for anyone to suppress information they don’t like.
The point is not blocking sites, but the ease with which it might be done. If distribution van drivers ‘self-regulated’ to stop delivering newspapers whenever anyone complained, publishers and journalists would have a problem. An avenue to appeal doesn’t solve it, because by then the editorial moment will likely have passed – not to mention the extra costs it incurs for content producers.
Here are some precedents from elsewhere:
- US Government seizes 82 websites, including “several sites that are hardly in the business of willful copyright infringement.”
- Brighton & Hove Council try to prevent a councillor posting video of public meetings to YouTube, citing “copyright”
- Flickr removes Obama parody due to ‘copyright-infringement concerns‘ (my emphasis)
- McDonalds wifi service denies access to gay-related websites, including investigative journalism site GayNZ
- Copyright claim in Turkey leads to all sites using Blogger being blocked
- Google censors search autocomplete on certain terms