The UK government is proactively seeking the ability to censor “unsavoury” content on YouTube, and by all accounts, authorities working with Google are getting pretty close to securing these arbitrary ban-powers. As “Internet freedom” people, we’ll go on record here and say that this is totally lame.
According to Sophos’ Naked Security blog, Google granted the UK government the ability to pull content from YouTube last week, though that content has to be terrorism-related to qualify. But the UK doesn’t want to stop there, and is seeking powers to remove anything they deem “unsavoury,” regardless of its legality.
The UK’s security and immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said that the government wants to filter content “that may not be illegal but certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that people would want to see or receive.”
Since “censorship” rightly sounds scary and awful, Brokenshire said that the UK’s attempts to target “unsavoury” content is merely a byproduct of their fight against terrorism. In layman’s, it’s the UK’s version of the NSA’s “we need to tap your phones because domestic security.”
Still, the UK has yet to receive these ambiguous ban-powers, and currently, Google still makes the final determination on what is removed from YouTube. What the UK government has is “trusted flagger” status, meaning that if a flag comes from the UK government, the content is expedited for Google’s review.
YouTube’s ToS draws the line at anything that “incites violence,” and the UK is worried that its citizens might become radicalized by exposure to content related to the ongoing Syrian conflict.
Thus, they want an upgrade from “trusted flagger” to “super flagger,” which would allow them to request content takedowns en masse instead of one by one.
In related news, the UK government has been pressuring ISPs to filter content related to child abuse and pornographic material since the passage of the 2012 Online Safety Bill. Part of that bill states that ISPs should provide porn-free Internet by default.
Though it’s still only hypothetical, Wired notes that the UK could actually be in breach of Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (which regard freedom of expression) if they managed to secure the ban-powers they want.