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As China, Iran, and Australia initiate draconian efforts to shut down the internet as an alternative news source, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom is mulling a similar attempt to block dissenting voices. The so-called Digital Economy Bill, essentially ignored by the media, would allow the Secretary of State to “a technical obligation on internet service providers” at the whim of the government.
Francis Davey, who offers legal advice to technology and media firms in computer and internet law, notes on his blog that a provision under consideration by the House of Lords — specifically clause 11 of the proposed legislation — would provide the means to block “undesirable” web pages such as WikiLeaks and other whistle-blower sites. The clause would also allow the government to block peer-to-peer networks.
The Secretary of State may at any time by order impose a technical obligation on internet service providers if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate in view of—
(a) an assessment carried out or steps taken by OFCOM under section 124G; or
(b) any other consideration.
The previous clause defines “technical obligation” as follows:
A “technical obligation”, in relation to an internet service provider, is an obligation for the provider to take a technical measure against particular subscribers to its service.
A “technical measure” is a measure that — (a) limits the speed or other capacity of the service provided to a subscriber; (b) prevents a subscriber from using the service to gain access to particular material, or limits such use; (c) suspends the service provided to a subscriber; or (d) limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way.