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Human Rights in Ireland >>
Pirate Party Speaks Out Against Government Filtering Plans
Tuesday April 20, 2010 11:08 by Pirate Party Ireland - Pirate Party Ireland
The Pirate Party of Ireland was disheartened to learn that the government is currently in the planning stages of establishing arbitrary internet censorship. What form this censorship will take when it is finally rolled out is quite opaque, but it would most certainly result in the blocking of many websites. Such a system will be ineffective in its goals, produce perverse effects, impose substantial costs, and reduce freedom of speech.
Recently our neighbours in the UK have passed the hugely controversial Digital Economy Act which bears striking similarities to the apparent train of thought of our own government. The DE Act drew fire from every side. Of the Act, Andrew Heaney, senior executive of TalkTalk - one of the UK's largest ISPs - said ""This is the kind of snooping you'd expect in China, not a modern western democracy. It raises huge questions over privacy invasion and freedom of expression."" This Act was eventually forced through during their "wash up" period. Whether our own government is to push through similar plans is yet to be seen, but the secrecy surrounding the government's talks on this issue to date, and what has emerged in the FOI documents reported on by the Irish Times and other news outlets, has not been encouraging.
As noted by Paul Durrant of the Internet Service Providers' Association of Ireland (ISPAI), such censorship regimes impose prohibitive costs to be levied upon the countries ISPs as they try to cope with having to follow the letter of the law. In the current economic climate, the measures discussed here, along with other financial burdens that may be put on data providers by Noel Dempsey's similarly controversial proposed Retention of Data Bill, will not bode well for the viability of such enterprise.
Other costs of such a surveillance and censorship regime include significant lowering of both the ability to do business online privately, and also in internet speeds resulting in higher data transfer costs for Irish enterprises. Electronic Frontier Australia (EFA) Chair, Dale Clapperton, said, of Australia's filtering systems, that ""Leaving aside the serious privacy and free speech implications of mandatory ISP-based Internet filtering, the government's own trial shows that ISP-based filtering can cause serious performance degradation and is not accurate enough to be forced upon people who don't want to use them. On average, these filters wrongly blocked access to 4% of the websites tested"".
Another major issue is that the offenders being targeted by such measures are almost always far more informed and well equipped to bypass such blocking measures - leaving law-abiding consumers as majority affected by the censorship. If enforced, users will be disconnected due to unsubstantiated accusations and without due process, for actions they may not have committed. Access to the internet has become a basic utility, without which the capacity for participation in our economy and society becomes greatly reduced. The disproportionate response of disconnection would constitute a policy of systematic disenfranchisement of citizens.
Some may be of the opinion that such occurrences will not come to pass, but last Fridays High Court decision is further evidence of the trend towards arbitrary censorship and control. Bowing to pressure from the Irish Recorded Music Industry (IRMA) to have internet users suspected of copyright infringement cut off completely from all internet usage by their ISP, Mr Justice Charleton ruled on Friday that Eircom should begin with this thoroughly disproportionate measure - without any consideration for the fact that many people today depend on the internet daily for their work and livelihood.
With all due respect, Justice Charleton erred both factually and in interpretation when he quoted Colmcille as having said '""le gach bó a buinín agus le gach leabhar a chóip (to each cow its calf and to every book its copy)"". This aphorism, ironically enough, was made in a judgement against Colmcille, who had copied, illicitly and in secret, Finians Book of Psalms. The freedom to access and transmit information is at the heart of open societies, and always has been, whereas its restriction has been the preserve of illiberal regimes. Ireland must decide which of these paths we wish to follow.
We the members of the Pirate Party will vigorously oppose the implementation of any form of arbitrary internet censorship and would ask that others would join us in opposing such measures.
ABOUT THE PIRATE PARTY:
The first Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) was formed in Sweden in 2006,and has inspired the growth of Pirate Parties all over Europe and
then the rest of the world. The international Pirate Party movement made great advances in 2009 when the Swedish Piratpartiet gained
a seat in the European Parliament with a second seat on the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Irish Pirate Party is aiming to be registered to contest the next General Election.
For more information check out our website at http://pirateparty.ie or email firstname.lastname@example.org