Hook into the Matrix
In the recent past, I read this statement from the Matrix foundation. Surprisingly, this foundation doesn't advocate the harvesting of energy from human battery farms. Rather, they develop an open protocol for online chat. The result is a curious blend of email and Discord or Slack, yet with the ability to message any user on server using the protocol. Anyone may spin up a Matrix server, provided he has the wish and wherewithal.
This statement was a response to clauses in the UK's laughingly-titled 'Online Harms Bill'. Whilst I agree with most of this article, I was dismayed to read the following:
Whilst we sympathise with the government’s desire to show action in this space and to do something about children’s safety (everyone’s safety really), we cannot possibly agree with the methods.
Respectfully, stop sympathising with authoritarians who want to take away your freedom. They are not good people. Good people aren't nosy. Good people don't deprive others of liberty. Neither do they class a whole group (Internet users and entrepreneurs) as responsible for the actions of a minority. Guilt by association and collective punishment are antithetical to any lover of freedom and life.
Their reasons of 'child safety' and 'online harms' (whatever on earth that means, it isn't defined by the law, and neither is it the place for law) are simply pretexts. They don't give a donkey's for children's safety. This bill will do nothing, nothing to improve the safety of children. If it is meant to stop the most depraved of wretches sharing unmentionable things online, it will not. The perpetrators will simply go after children in other ways. They won't change.
If you, Mr. MP, care about children then ask why are they drawn to bad online content? What's going wrong with families and upbringing? Start with questions that might actually address the problem rather than implicate everyone who uses the Internet!
The ride never ends
The trajectory is to increase state power and control over your life. Again, they are NOT good people. Those at the reigns know EXACTLY what they are doing. They love dominating you. It's understandable why some imagine the government as simply well-meaning but misguided, for it makes our helpless subjugation easier to accept. But we won't stop getting the boot from the state until we start calling their actions out as morally reprehensible.
The bill has been called 'amazingly badly written,' with the introduction of 'lawful but harmful' content that online hosts will be legally compelled to remove. This is anathema to the ancient ideas of British freedom, which strongly encourage the idea that 'everything is permitted except that which is forbidden', the spirit of that being that the law should not introduce vague but serious responsibilities for the population. When it is clear that there is a legal responsibility, but it isn't clear where the law ends, then we are not free. Our freedom is subject to the whims of officials. This is a definitional police state, as observed by former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumpton.
The result of this will be over-censorship and little restraint on government power. This has been the pattern everywhere it has been tried. The model is easily comparable to that of the Great Firewall of China, as discussed in this incisive article on TechDirt.
The article eventually ends
When you see it suggested that 'the law has good intentions but it is ambiguous', consider that MPs intend for ambiguity. There is an entire staff whose job it is to write law, they are doing exactly as paid. Ambiguity means MPs can dismiss objectors as irrational slippery slope proponents, or conspiracy theorists. Then when it's appended to the statute books it only takes a few judgements to 'clarify' the law.
The gradient feels increasingly downhill for freedom. We're trapped inside this freewheeling vessel and careening to the rocks. The intention is clear. Voting is useless. The press have been silent to the point of compliance. It only takes a well placed messaging campaign and an unvigilant, apathetic public. With this bill, the greatest 'online harm' will be done by the state. None of us are 'safe' when the state is out of control. From what I can tell, engagement will the political system is futile. There may be some hope from opposition groups like the Open Rights Group, or a backbencher Lord might rail against the bill. But I mostly despair.
I hate to end on such a dull note, but what else can I say? The only positive is that it exposes our ruling class as being power-hungry, and the futility of all political systems to reign in power in a very late-stage empire like our own.
But there is one consolation: at least we still have beer. See you at the pub.