Internet censorship: why governments are against what people want

How can an administration that started out with the world’s greatest slogan – Power to the People – get things so wrong?

Pro-consumer principles in four simple words … as policy guidance for the age of the informed consumer, you can’t get more focused than that.

Yet our rulers now shun people-friendly positioning in favour of the apartheid era attitude that ‘we know what’s best’.

They might deny they’re control freaks, but they sure look like control enthusiasts. These enthusiasts now want to control social media.

Under nonsensical government proposals, host sites will have to set up filters to block content deemed objectionable. Anyone hoping to share an opinion or information will have to apply to become a digital publisher, pay a subscription fee, submit content and wait for the censor’s go-ahead.

Ain’t gonna happen!

Our control-minded rulers can’t even control the spending of easily identified rogue municipalities. How can they control the worldwide web?

The thinking seems to be: if something seems threatening, gag it or ban it. (Sound familiar?)

Violence and intimidation are more direct forms of disapproval and we’ve already seen some members of our taxi-industry apply these ‘controls’ to Uber-empowered motorists and their passengers … while police stand and watch.

Adaptation rather than mindless resistance makes more sense. Just consider:

  • Travel agencies faced by online bookings … leading to new business models or agency closures
  • The music industry faced by music downloads … leading to plummeting shop-based sales followed by a new-look music industry
  • Retailing faced by Amazon and online shopping … leading to retail co-existence with the web

Takeaway food shops have to adapt to Mr Delivery and others, while hotels must cope with and – formats that allow guests to ‘crash’ on someone’s sofa or in a spare bedroom.

For a fee, wannabe chefs can now practise cooking for the neighbours at their own home (via, and, a hint of big catering industry changes.

And, of course, auctioneers deal with online competition from eBay, OLX, et al.

Banks also face the spectre of real competition, thanks to the Net and peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. P2P is driven by pioneers like, with Virgin Money eager to move in.

How will banks react? Hopefully, by cutting fees.

Governments don’t really get the idea of competition. But they do study history.

Our authorities should therefore look back at the Arab Spring. As social media-driven protests spread, many governments tried to ban Facebook, Twitter and similar formats.

But the people loved techno-empowerment and the media and the messages proved too powerful to stop. (Some Egyptian new-borns were even named ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’.)

What names will we be calling our rulers if they persist with efforts to control the web?

Image: via Flickr.



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