The Great Firewall of Britain

Alastair Aitken 27 February 2014 0

There’s an irony to the introduction of the Great Firewall of Britain that the authorities are indubitably aware of but choose to ignore. China, the 21st century bogeyman of western geo-politics, was roundly condemned for putting its firewall in place. Ostensibly it was to prevent pornography and political extremism, which are the selfsame reasons given by the UK state. But the UK will go further than China in the near future.

It was inevitable that the UK firewall would expand in remit. Although impossible to prove – the nature of a secretive state is that you and I are not privy to such information – its expansion was surely planned prior to its introduction.

Political expansion

Given that the UK state apparatus can now deem as terrorists those who were once known as activists then, as surely as night follows day, the firewall’s political remit will be expanded to encompass further material and groups deemed subversive by the state.

There are those who believe that there can be guilt by association but this is a small world where the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon operate.

There are those who would believe that if a government deems something as subversive then it must be subversive.

The UK firewall is being enacted in secret. The argument goes that if a list of all the content deemed undesirable is published then this would only encourage the general public’s curiosity. There’s probably an element of truth to this: in the 1980s when a list of videos deemed “video nasties” was drawn up, it subsequently became impossible to rent such clobber from the local video store because it’d become so popular with the punters.

Who determines what gets censored? If the censor is viewing material likely to corrupt then they must have become the most depraved of individuals. Put them in the slammer before they corrupt us all.

Copyright expansion

The next step in expanding the UK firewall will be to encompass material claimed as copyrighted, or anything that remotely appears to infringe copyright. The reality of this is that it will only be applicable to output from the big content producers. In the UK big media appears to see small content producers as fair game to rip-off.

No redress

A system that operates in secret offers little means of redress. If your content is included on the banned list who is likely to want to help make your case for removal from the list? Your case of mistaken copyright violation will sit in the same schedule as many more extreme violations. Such muddying of the waters is a well-worn tactic: copyright violation equates to terrorism.

With the press already owned by a handful of enterprises that offer very similar outlets, will there be room left for genuine debate? Or will it be reduced to bread and circuses: which football team bought which player, who won which gold medal, which judge did what on Britain’s Got Talent?


The real problem comes when a public has been conditioned to not write about things deemed subversive, illegal or undesirable, and worse, to self-censor even thinking about such things.

The mass-surveillance by GCHQ and the NSA only adds to this paranoia, laying the groundwork for conditions not seen in Europe since the last of the communist regimes.

Man built it, man can destroy it

There are several routes to circumventing internet filters, using proxies or VPNs but my favourite method has to be the provocatively named Go away Cameron extension for the Google Chrome browser. It’s ironic that it was built by someone in Singapore, a de facto one-party state since independence. The geo-political sands have truly shifted when the inhabitant of a former UK colony provides the tools to protect the freedoms of UK citizens.

Alastair Aitken (124 Posts)

As a contract developer and manager I’ve worked in a wide range of enterprises in a variety of countries where I’ve encountered everything from great work, awful work, bizarre work, all the way down to quasi-legal work. If you think that you recognise your own organisation within my articles then you’re undoubtedly wrong, where you work isn’t that unique.

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