10
Aug
07

The Future is a scary place…we’re told

Apparently that’s the overwhelming conclusion of the House of Lords report on the Internet, which they likened to the ‘Wild West’. Putting aside the argument that the notional concept of the Wild West is pure fiction anyway, from the portions that have been reported this document seems to have discovered that the Internet isn’t immune from exactly the same sorts of threats that people encounter every day in ‘reality’. Gosh that’s a revelation! How long exactly did it take them to work that one out?
What worries me the most though isn’t the banal rehash of what’s been true for at least five years, but the assertion that ISPs should somehow be made responsible for what others do with their service. People have been scamming people with letters and phone calls for years, since these mechanisms became widespread in fact. But I’ve never seen the government turn around to Royal Mail or BT and ask them to stump up when some old lady buys shares in a company that doesn’t exist, or hands over her details to a criminal!
This isn’t a new idea though is it, as the whole YouTube and Torrent rows demonstrate. You can’t hold Google responsible for stuff found by their indexing or put by others on YouTube. In the same way that Ford aren’t responsible for letting people drive their cars while drunk. It isn’t Ford’s responsibility to sit outside the pub and stop you driving, and it isn’t the ISPs responsibility to work out which packets of data that are travelling on their network might ultimately upset someone.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see ISPs being more pro-active on killing virus packages and mail zombie data in transit, because I think that’s entirely practical, and it’s something they could actually do. But making them liable is frankly the stupidest thing I’ve heard recently.  As many of them resell services from other providers, like BT, they could share responsibility around, eventually bringing a huge class action against the relatives of Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Alexander Graham Bell, Elisha Gray and Edison  for their contribution to the creation of this highly dangerous facility.
Clearly based on this thinking Elton John is ready for a peerage, which I respectfully suggest is given to him just minutes before the unelected second house is disbanded and replaced by an elected one with people who have more of a grip on modern technology. But then the other elected house doesn’t seem to have any of those, so maybe that’s asking too much.

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