Internet at risk: UK Govt. wants new press regulation to apply to bloggers too

Posted: March 18, 2013 by tallbloke in Analysis, Blog, government, Legal, media, Politics
Tags: ,

There is much consternation about the outcome of the Levenson Report. Nick Cohen at the Spectator has a good article up on the subject:

It’s not a press regulator, it’s a web regulator
Nick Cohen – Spectator March 18 2013

Since the early 1990s, hundreds of millions of words have been produced about the Web. Enthusiasts have told us that it is the greatest communications revolution since Guttenberg invented movable type, and they are probably right. Utopian fantasists have imagined that cyberspace would be beyond the reach of governments – those ‘weary giants of flesh and steel’, as one particularly giddy theorist put it – and they were certainly wrong.

Their libertarian dreams, as we can see tonight, were an illusion. Those ‘weary giants of flesh and steel’ are tougher than they look. They are more than capable of using the new technologies to their own advantage, while censoring what their citizens write online. In the past, I would have directed you to China, Iran or Belarus to see web censorship. But now we can get all that at home.

Politicians and broadcasters are talking tonight as if those hundreds of millions of words had never been written, and we are still living in the pre-Berners-Lee age. They keep saying that the party leaders proposed “press regulation” today, when that was barely the start of it. The establishment – and when all three parties and the extra-parliamentary great and good come together, I think I can describe them as such – has emotional reasons for misleading themselves and the public. They see the excesses and alleged crimes of the tabloids and want to say that the legislation before Parliament will stop them. But there is also a strong element of propaganda. By focusing on the brutishness of the tabloids, they make public forget about attacks on fundamental principles and perhaps allow themselves to forget as well. For when people behave dreadfully they normally have to delude themselves before they can delude others.

I can see the propaganda’s appeal. Although I believe in freedom of the press in theory, I find the sanctimony, pornography and bullying of much of the press revolting. I don’t think the state has the right to control them, but if the tabloids closed tomorrow I wouldn’t shed a tear.

“Press regulation” as the BBC News was saying at Six and Channel 4 News is saying as I type, does not sound so bad, not even to me, if all it means is stopping the tabloids. The briefest study of the Royal Charter and the Crime and Courts Bill which carried Leveson proposals, however, shows that the first attempt at press licensing since 1695 does not confine itself to the press. In public, the establishment talks about “press regulation”, in the small print, its demands are much broader and very modern: it wants Web regulation.

The regulator will cover ‘relevant publishers’. If they do not pay for its services and submit to its fines and rulings, they could face exemplary damages in the courts. It is not just the old (and dying) newspapers, which the state defines as ‘relevant publishers’ but ‘website containing news-related material’.

As Index on Censorship says, ‘Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages in court, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place. This mess of legislation has been thrown together with alarming haste: there’s little doubt we’ll repent for a while to come.’

Read the rest here.


  1. Nothing to worry about. The internet has a long history of overcoming censorship. Even if the worst come to the worst, there is always TOR.

  2. Senator GoebbelsConroy tried this in Australia. It flew as well as a uranium balloon.

    He’s currently trying to muzzle the press, via thousands of lines of legislation made available for debate just 3 days prior to the vote. The compliant (publically-funded and left-leaning) media are portraying it as Big Media vs government. Glossing over the fact that existing media ownership regulations and defamation laws already protect the public from excesses such as those for which the British press have been notorious in the past.

  3. Aussie says:

    It is not just in the UK it is in Australia too.

    Bernd has it correct but I would make that Senator Josef Stalin Conroy instead of Herr Goebbels, but considering that Conroy is from the Victorian Right, the Herr Goebbels is more accurate.

    We are fighting this attempt to regulate our press. It is absolutely unnecessary and its intention is to stop our journalists revealing juicy bits of information from the salacious past of our Crime Minister.

  4. Aussie says:

    Hi Tallbloke are you aware that Australia is facing the same kind of garbage only they want to call the regulator the PIMA. Herr Goebels Conroy claims that this person will be Independent but we know that will not be true because the person will be government appointed. We have not been told of any impact upon bloggers, but we do not know everything about what was proposed because Herr Conroy has tried to do the Nancy Pelosi of “you have to pass the legislation so you will know what is in it”. In other words the haste to get the proposed legislation passed is too great.

    Our tabloids have not been sympathetic to the government over here, and one in particular the Murdoch Press owned Daily Telegraph put up the same thing that has been circulating within the UK showing a mugs gallery of dictators. They then depicted Conroy a Josef Stalin then the next day they apologised to Josef Stalin.

    I cannot say for certain that this attempt will pass or fail. The so called Independents are playing up i.e. they are not agreeing with the government. I guess the bribes have not been big enough.

    Our country is in a very bad way thanks to the red-haired slug (borrowed that one from Farmville) and her band of merry thieves. Our Crime Minister is still facing the scandal in her past, and according to an opinion that I have seen from a semi-retired judge the Crime Minister could be in real trouble as a result of that scandal… once it is properly investigated. It is much juicier than Climategate.

  5. tallbloke says:

    Hi Aussie,
    This is how Punch and other lampooning by cartoon pamphlets got going. The more they try to hide behind cooked up laws limiting freedom, the less respect they’ll get.

  6. tallbloke says:
  7. AlecM says:

    Blog as a limited company so the maximum you can lose is the capital value = zero.

  8. tallbloke says:

    AlecM: Good plan. Company name ideas welcome…

    Opinions’R’us Ltd?

  9. Roger Andrews says:

    So if you publish bad stuff in the UK they can nail you for it.

    Well, you may have written the bad stuff in the UK, but where exactly are you publishing it? If you’re using WordPress it’s being “published” in Redwood City, California, which last I heard was not under UK jurisdiction. A problem there, I think.

    And as I read Section NC29 (3) you (Tallbloke) don’t even have to moderate posts or comments:

    “A person who is the operator of a website is not to be taken as having editorial or equivalent responsibility for the decision to publish any material on the site, or for content of the material, if the person did not post the material on the site.”

    It’s not clear whether individuals who post bad stuff (not that I ever would, of course) have liability, but if Big Brother doesn’t like anything I’ve written he can always come over to Mexico and get me.

  10. Aussie says:


    The lampooning of Herr Conroy has been absolutely hilarious and I admit that when I heard about the apology after seeing the other piece I really cracked up :). The day after there was an even funnier piece when they put him in a grass skirt and stated that the regime in Fiji was delighted to know that Australia was following their lead.

    If only we could get an election now!!