Why Vaizey should say no to net censorship

Just as the internet was starting to grip the public’s imagination, I was lucky enough to meet John Perry Barlow. JPB has had interesting careers. Songwriter for the Grateful Dead, Wyoming cattle rancher, and founder of the Electronic Freedom Foundation are among them.
Clad all in black, with a massive silver cowboy belt buckle and tooled boots, he looked every inch a  renegade from an earlier era.
So it was interesting to hear his take on the threats to society posed by the internet. It was simple.
“Noise is the price you pay for signal,” he said.
This is true both in the literal physics of acoustics, as well as in the metaphorical sense of communications.
Communications minister Ed Vaizey reportedly would like internet service providers to block certain traffic, in other words to censor it. Block the signal and you block the noise, goes the thinking.
This may sould like a great idea if your words and music and images are being copied all over the internet and you are getting nothing for it.  But two things will happen: small ISPs will go out of business, reducing customer choice and adding more people to the dole queue, and second, the  really bad guys will start using encryption and onion routers and fast flux networks to distribute their material, if they don’t already.
No repressive regime has ever managed to censor all “dangerous” material for long. Censorship has lent credibility to those censored. The net works because it is a free-fire zone for opinion, comment and ideas. It is not just a distribution channel, however tempting that function is to the suits. A little noise is surely worth the £100bn signal.the UK presently enjoys.

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