Dominique Lazanski is Head of Digital Policy at the TaxPayers' Alliance.
It is no surprise that I support all of the arguments against this idea. The unintended consequences of website filter will “risk damaging legitimate businesses and undermining cyber security while further perpetuating the myth that this is an easy technological solution to a complex problem” according to Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch, and I completely agree. There is no end of legitimate technical reasons not to filter websites and such arguments are what ultimately brought down the SOPA bill in the USA earlier this year.
But aside from the technical issues and, of course, the fact that parents – and not the government – should decide how to raise their own children and educate them about being online, there is a more important international issue which is not being discussed. The International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs for short) are being renegotiated at an international level. The proposals that are coming out of the UK right now on website filtering and blocking could undermine this entire process for the UK.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a treaty-based organisation that is a specialised agency of the United Nations. The ITU has 193 countries in its membership and some of these members have proposed imposing binding mandates, exercising control over, for instance, regulating mobile Internet roaming charges, regulating charges for internet backbone peering, removing the administration of domain names from ICANN and controlling the development of internet architecture. We would see the impact of these new controls immediately. No longer would developers work together in a voluntary capacity through the Internet Engineering Task Force and no longer would we see the emergence of new top level domains, including the possibility of .London, as discussed in the Forum earlier this month. The spontaneous and collaborative nature of the internet would slow to a crawl or be put offline altogether.