Thoughts on the Draft Communication Bill: An Interview with Andy Phippen

The Left Central Writer

Professor Andy Phippen

As Professor Noam Chomsky points out, the internet is capable of liberating oppressed people while having the potential to be utilised for surveillance and for controlling opposition to state oppression. It is the latter observation that the pressure group Open Rights Group believe relevant, considering our civil liberties to be at risk due to the draft Communications Data Bill pointing out:

It marks a serious increase in the powers the state has to order any communications provider – whether it is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like BT or an Internet company like Google – to collect, store and provide access to our information about our emails, online conversations and texts.

The Orwellian feature of the legislation is outlined by Open Rights Group arguing it grants the technical ability to identify the political orientations of protestors who blog or write for radical websites. An issue relevant to whistle blowers or investigative journalists who might find themselves subject to the measures outlined in this draft legislation under the guise of ‘public interest’ or their journalistic work compromised by a vague requirement of the state to investigate a crime.

Professor Andy Phippen agreed to talk about the proposed legislation:

AP: Government’s respond to social problems by avoiding the issue and focusing instead on the internet, a knee jerk reaction motivated by ‘legislative hyper-activity.’ The internet mirrors society. We need to focus on the actual social problem and criminal activity rather than focusing on the internet.

LC: What’s the motivation behind the Bill?

AP: Technological advancement brings fears for governments; even the invention of the printing press produced a hysterical reaction. Biblical scholars were concerned that they were going to lose social control over the ‘common man.’ The availability of books meant those in power lost control.

Yet from history we learn that the printing press empowered humanity and in the same way the internet democratizes information. The government today fear a loss of control in much the same way as the biblical scholars did. Knowledge is power and the internet has empowered.  To take one example, look at academic research. It is becoming more freely available and as a result it has enriched the knowledge base. Academic research and other information, once available only to elites, is now widely available.

LC: Do you think the internet enhances our democracy?

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Global Justice and the Future of Hope

Rajesh Makwana

Image © Niklas Sjöblom

Would it be easier to create a sustainable global economy if the world more closely resembled the demographics and geography of Iceland – a volcanic island with a manageably small population and a unique abundance of renewable energy? This was among the many questions raised during a panel discussion at Tipping Point Film Fund’s UK premier of Future of Hope, often referred to as the Iceland documentary.

Since the Nordic country experienced the systemic failure of its entire banking sector in 2008, a number of Iceland’s senior banking executives have been arrested, sacked or sued. Grass roots organisations, including the Ministry of Ideas that was featured in the film, have since hosted a National Assembly of unprecedented scale. The government-backed Assembly was designed to focus specifically on the nation’s next steps; to agree on a set of collective values and to establish a clear vision for how to rebuild their economy from the ashes of the old. While the film did not focus on the Assembly itself, progressives would not be surprised by its outcome: participants emphasised the importance of robust public services, establishing an environmentally responsible and sustainable economy, and ensuring equality and transparency in the country’s future renaissance.

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Winter of Discontent: Arab Winter

Georgia Lewis

Image © The Advocacy Project

Image © The Advocacy Project

The picture of a woman in Cairo with her abaya torn away by men who do not deserve the respect of a soldier job title has gone global. With her face covered but her blue bra on display, her awful humiliation has gone global largely thanks to Twitter and Facebook, two tools which have played a massive role in disseminating information on the events of the Arab Spring.

She has not been identified but she has become an important symbol of the events in Egypt and the wider Arab world. The role of women, the role of powerful images and the role of social media cannot be underestimated and the blue bra photograph captures all this graphically and shockingly. The photograph also demonstrated that the military is not in any hurry to relinquish power so that the people of Egypt can enjoy a sane and functioning democracy. It also flies in the face of the tired myth that the Arab world is not ready for democracy. Egypt’s military may not be keen to give power to the people but nobody can deny the people want power and are prepared to fight hard for it.  Read more of this post

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