Friday, March 22, 2013

Leveson did't intend to regulate bloggers, SMEs or social networkers

I've written, ineloquently, to the Prime Minister about the ConDemLabour Leveson fudge.
Following years of unfettered and illegal behaviour by certain elements of the press, Lord Leveson concluded large news publishers should be regulated. His target was powerful oligopolistic news companies, not small websites and internet users slipped into the 3 party deal last weekend.
You can't control the worst excesses of the tabloid press by dangling the sword of regulatory Damocles over the heads of the nation's individual content creators. It merely creates a chilling effect on speech at a time when the internet has putting an affordable printing press in the hands of the masses.
As an academic blogger since 2001 I'd ask you to tread carefully with your dangerous blogs bill and focus on Leveson's specific recommendations not the intoxicating notion of controlling the internet.
I have little confidence that the Cameron, Clegg or Milliband or the thin paper you could slip between them on their plans to implement Leveson would have a great deal of influence on the unethical behaviour of parts of the press. Murdoch shut down the News of the World and re-opened the equivalent Sunday edition of the Sun once the dust had settled. Thus he re-acquainted his coffers with the funds millions of people are prepared to throw at him for access to the stories, ill-gotten or otherwise, those publications provide. As long as there is a mass market and that market doesn't care about the source of the stories, the incentive for bad press behaviour will remain.

To pluck internet regulation from the garbage can of issues surrounding Leveon's review of the press, however, is only likely to lead to unintended pain for bloggers, SMEs, social networkers and other internet users who had nothing whatsoever to do with phone hacking.

I'm naive enough to believe we live in an age where we can facilitate the production of freedom enhancing technological architectures, laws, social, physical and economic environments. Privacy enhancing technologies and carefully crafted regulations are good for privacy and freedom of the press and by extension conducive to a healthy society.

I'm also seriously concerned that we're not just compromising that opportunity to evolve towards a healthier society but doing precisely the opposite; partly through apathy and lack of engagement with politicians of zeal, occasionally well meaning, invariably charged with self-interest, almost always without understanding when it comes to modern technologies. The political classes are dangerously clueless about technology and those who do understand it really have to get our act together to educate them. Answers on a postcard or electronic equivalent please on how we can develop several orders of magnitude improvement on our performance to date.