Growing Internet Censorship in the UK Draws Fire

By Drew Wilson

The UK is under an increasingly dark cloud of censorship these days. A court decision has made ISPs in the country block three more BitTorrent websites. As Internet censorship grows in the country, so does the backlash. Both the Pirate Party and the digital rights organization Open Rights Group are speaking out against the latest developments.

The Guardian reported that file-sharing websites KickAss Torrents (KAT), H33t, and Fenopy have been ordered to be blocked by a UK court after legal complaints by the major foreign record labels. The latest crackdown isn’t going unchallenged, however.

The Open Rights Group has come out against the latest wave of censorship. From the Open Rights Group:

Blocking is an extreme response, which will encourage new forms of distributed infringement. The BPI and others should be mindful that their tactics may have the opposite effect to their intention, by legitimising and promoting resistance to their actions.

We are concerned that these orders are not protecting speech, are overblocking forums and discussion, and are prone to error as the actual block lists are private.

Furthermore, users and the public interest have not been represented in the processes. ORG is actively examining ways to rectify this and will shortly be hiring a legal director.

The Open Rights Group isn’t the only entity speaking out against this. The Pirate Party has also condemned the blocking:

“The British music industry has nothing positive to show from their site blocks and personal legal threats. Looking at sales figures from 2012, you can’t draw the conclusion that stopping access to the Pirate Bay did anything to help artists.”

“Even so, the industry is insisting on pushing for ever greater blocks, just as we in the Pirate Party have been warning. The UK has now handed the power over what we see on the Internet to corporate lobbyists. The BPI is out of control.”

“Last October Foreign Secretary William Hague said that ‘efforts to suppress the Internet are wrong and are bound to fail over time’. However the British government seems unwilling or unable to tackle the issue of site blocking.”

It’s unclear how much British censorship will increase, but the trend certainly isn’t looking good at this point. No one really knows just how extreme these waves of censorship will get in the future, but the trend so far seems to be that censorship is experiencing exponential growth. It will lead some to wonder if this censorship will some day get to the point of blocking websites that simply disagree with the legal tactics of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). In any event, this is, indeed, a worrying trend.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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