The world’s political elites have found the internet to be a thorn in their side since attempts at spinning news in their favour is much more difficult if an alternative truth is out there! It is not an accident that many of the most oppressive regimes block access to the internet in whole or part. We in the West have benefited greatly as the ‘net’ allows us to explore the truth or otherwise of political and news statements, interact with sceptics and organise for change. By the same token Governments (being naturally conservative) don’t like losing the power to dictate and control the news and have been looking at ways to restrict the internet’s content. Trying to be more subtle than a ‘Third-World’ dictatorship, their suggestions range from providing a free (but restricted) internet service, to forcing providers to pull the plug or monitor users, to banning certain actions via legislation.
One of these proposed acts of legislation is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a multilateral agreement which proposes international standards for enforcement of intellectual property rights. Critics claim however that it fails to find the right balance between protecting those rights and preserving the fundamental rights of society as a whole, such as freedom of expression and access to information. There are many weaknesses with this piece of legislation. For example, ACTA pushes internet providers to carry out surveillance of their networks and disclose the personal information of alleged infringers to rightsholders. Negotiated behind close doors and ignoring existing legislation it will also allow unscrupulous Governments/authorities to use it to harass ‘dissidents’.
The e-mail campaigners Aavaz are urging people to sign a petition to EU Commission President Jose Barroso to ensure there is a full assessment of the threats to our rights and freedoms at the European Court of Justice. Their petition is at http://www.avaaz.org/en/acta_time_to_win_eu//?vl.
Since we generally oppose restrictions and bans in the real or cyber world we urge you to sign.