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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ed Vaizey, an apology - or, no sex please, we're English

I have previously thought that the government is pursuing an active agenda to force ISPs to regulate the Internet on their behalf, in the best Chinese-Iranian tradition. It seems I under-estimated the workload on Ed Vaizey, Minister for Creative Industries, Arts, Broadband Britain, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all. Fortunately, he seems sane rather than ambitious - he leaves the latter to his boss Mister Hunt.
Essentially, he's hands-off. He has far too much to do with all his other portfolios plus this extremely complex and rather obviously unworkable anti-piracy crusade that Hunt landed on him. So no net neutrality unless forced on him by Brussels (via the Netherlands), no anti-porn legislation. Not for a few years in any case. Phew.
This was my conclusion from his 30 minutes grudgingly if charmingly brought in front of the Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells and Devizes crowd. It was a 2-hour seminar hosted by Claire Perry MP, an impressive ex-McKinseyite (the Dr Evil consultants not the sex clinicians), who has decided to temporarily hitch her political fortunes to the anti-porn crowd. What emerged from the debate is that ISPs are simply not going to budge an inch on opt-in child-friendly filters - and good for them, as 62% of households do NOT have a child (ONS) and are therefore unlikely to welcome being blocked. The charities and blue rinses frothed, but ultimately all this #censilia stuff foundered on the rock of goodish sense. Filter schools, filter companies, filter government offices, filter your own kids, filter on opt-in - but leave the rest of us alone (that includes WiFi).
There were two revelations, which I linked. First, the TalkTalk HomeSafe filter will remove porn (on Symantec's filters) as well as P2P - which Dido Harding claimed would be the way to stop "illegal material". (She's unlikely to appear at a Creative Commons event anytime soon with that kind of careless talk).
Second, the big four fixed ISPs are going to launch a Code of Conduct for porn opt-outs (to add to the UKCCIS work). Now are those the same four who are caught by the Digital Economy Act, and have to design systems to counter-act piracy? Why yes. Are they the same four who are active in anti-neutrality activities to remove P2P despite a tissue-thin code of conduct? Why yes, that's right.
So remove porn, P2P and piracy - now can any clever entrepreneur think of a network filter to remove all three?
By the way, this anti-porn and piracy stuff is "DEFINITELY NOT CENSORSHIP" as they protested too much. None of the MPs present signed Julian Huppert's excellent Early Day Motion against censorship, however...

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