Lucy Powell brings Orwell to life

Lucy Powell (who looks rather like a really timid nursery school teacher) is borrowing from the future envisaged in author George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” # by seeking to control the the right to private on-line fora and to constrain and shape individual opinions and free speech within fora generally. If that seems an extreme interpretation, as with all legislation (including that with perhaps good intent) the key is to look at the structure and framework.

As is too often the case, this framework (like other anti-freedom legislation) has an underlining assumption that the government of the day (or worse, whatever less democratic structure might replace it) is benign and has at its heart a liberal and open notion of society.

This bill has been critiqued by organisations far more qualified to do so than Grumpy, and there is little to add here, but there are some stand out items, which follow a common thread for legislation of this type .

  • A bill debated for a mere 10 minutes only , but which can see an offender jailed for up to 7 years.
  • “illegal content” defined not as that which has been found to be illegal in a court of law, but that which a ‘reasonable person’ (who ??) considers involves a breach of the law. This, along with other similar recent and proposed frameworks, delegates the determination and policing of legality to other than a competent agency of the executive.
  • Transformation of a mere ‘Administrator’ into a ‘publisher’, who is required, under penalty of imprisonment, to determine what is illegal.
  • Open-ended definitions defined by Regulations, enabling endless scope creep. This is evident in Powell’s pathetic justification for the Bill, as she cites ‘misogyny’ as one target for her strictures; however, misogyny is NOT against the law, but this shows where these regulations are heading – see earlier Grumpy postings on this topic.

This will not prevent such discussion vehicles; the internet is a resilient, many headed, global hydra, and discussions will presumably either move to channels such as Newsgroups / IRC (or some new framework, such as a based on a distributed public blockchain with no ‘owner’ and with immutable posts), or simply be moved to overseas servers outside of the reach of British law, underlining the pointless nature of this Bill.

It’s not only pointless, it’s not good for democracy.

{# “1984” George Orwell Penguin Books 1949 ISBN 978-0-141-18776-1}