This last week's events in Iran have demonstrated the potential of the Internet as a tool for freedom. As Timothy Garton Ash writes in today's Guardian:
Is there sufficient energy, somewhere between a self-mobilised, networked youth, the Mousavi camp and disaffected factions within the regime, to sustain the demand for a new election? Or will it all fizzle out, defeated by a combination of repression, censorship, exhaustion and disunity? … One thing our governments can and should do … is to maintain and enhance the 21st-century global information infrastructure which allows Iranians – whichever candidate they support – to keep in touch with each other and to find out what is really happening in their own country. Earlier this week, I spent some time in the studio of the BBC Persian TV service, watching them upload and air electrifying video footage, blog posts and messages generated by Iranians from inside Iran. Probably the single most important thing the US state department has done for Iran recently was to contact Twitter over the weekend, to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that could have taken down service to Iranians for some crucial hours of people power protest. Welcome to the new politics of the 21st century.
And yet, what do we see in yesterday's Digital Britain report? Plans to order Internet Service Providers to implement the following:
28. For that reason the Government will also provide for backstop powers for Ofcom to place additional conditions on ISPs aimed at reducing or preventing online copyright infringement by the application of various technical measures. In order to provide greater certainty for the development of commercial agreements, the Government proposes to specify in the legislation what these further measures might be; namely: Blocking (Site, IP, URL), Protocol blocking, Port blocking, Bandwidth capping (capping the speed of a subscriber’s Internet connection and/or capping the volume of data traffic which a subscriber can access); Bandwidth shaping (limiting the speed of a subscriber’s access to selected protocols/services and/or capping the volume of data to selected protocols/services); Content identification and filtering– or a combination of these measures.
Alongside demands from childrens' charities for mandatory Internet filtering, and intelligence agency demands to install thousands of wiretapping devices across the UK Internet, it seems that it is not just the Iranian government that is uncomfortable at the freedom the Internet has enabled.