A fundamental disconnect between Them and Us

Gary Marshall writes in issue 179 of the .net magazine of summer 2008:

“In just a few years the net has become part of the fabric of our lives, and the laws affecting what we can do, see or say online are being drafted now. And that’s worrying, because there are two sides here. The people who have the power neither know nor care about the internet, but they’re indoors with the lobbyists and the tabloids. The people who do know, who do care, and the people who don’t know but whose lives are affected by bad laws…they’re on the wrong side of the triple glazing.

That’s why we have laws where you can be detained for downloading a document published by the US government – not, the last time I checked, a hotbed of anti-Western sentiment. That’s why our copyright laws will soon represent the interests not of consumers but of multinational corporations, and it’s why it’s a crime to bypass copy protection, no matter how ridiculous or draconian. That’s why the government is seriously considering a database of every single thing you see, do or say online and, if reports are to be believed, wants it to happen in real time, presumably so it can spot people downloading documents from the US government and harass them more quickly.

It’d be hypocritical for me to urge people to take to the streets: I’m a member of Bill Hicks’ People Who Hate People Party (“People who hate people! Come together!” “No!”) But there’s a fundamental disconnect between the people making the laws and the people who are subject to them, and we don’t have a say because technology isn’t an important part of the political agenda. I think it should be. In the UK, 61 per cent of us are online; 15 million households. That’s a lot of votes.”

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