The beacons! The beacons are lit!

Word reaches us in the People’s Republic of a New World.

This New World is composed of many states, just like this one, and they too share in the munificent glory of the Wikio rankings. The inhabitants of this New World speak in strange tongues, making utterances like “Javascript”, “Drupal”, “user-led design” and “bugger, this still isn’t working.”

Actually, I’m probably one of the few people in the political blogosphere who doesn’t regularly read tech blogs as well. I am very much your plug-in-and-play blogger.  So far as technology goes, I am a classic rearguard early adopter, last in line of the nearly-cool kids. It’s a burden.

But it does have the advantage of making me my very own canary.

If I suddenly start to get something, start to perceive a development, or start to read up on something to do with the world of tech, it means something BIG is about to happen.

And this is the development I perceive:  increasingly, as the governmen’s designs on our personal freedoms grow ever darker and Jacqui Smith’s boots grow ever shinier, tech bloggers’ concerns are becoming our concerns as politicised liberals.

Mike Butcher at Techcrunch writes:

Are we also expected to think that the consumers using online services are not going to be put off from engaging in the boom of “sharing” that Web 2.0 created? How would you feel if every Twitter you sent, every video uploaded, was to be stored and held against you in perpetuity? That may not happen, but the mere suggestion that your email is no longer private would serve to kill the UK population’s relish for new media stone dead, and with it large swathes of the developing online economy.

These proposals will affect both the blooming of online culture in this country, the development of the innovation economy and its civil liberties – all in one fell swoop.

Techies tend, in my experience, to be naturally individualistic, entrepreneurial and liberal folk (it’s no coincidence that they people the ranks of the Liberal Democrats so thickly). They also tend to be distrustful of mainstream politics and prefer not to think of themselves as politicised (that was me once as well; I have all the attitoods of the natural techie with none of the career-enhancing specialist knowledge).

And for as long as our advancing state left their core universe alone, they were happy. Sure, the internet got taken over by the great unwashed non-techies, and corporations tried to snuffle into their email accounts. But if you’re a geek, you can escape all that, encrypt yourself and slip behind a molecule, gather someplace where the mainstream can’t find you and carry on doing your thing.

But if the mainstream has a totalitarian dictatorial arm in the form of a Labour government, and they want to regulate the whole of the universe you inhabit, in every dimension, then you are forced to take notice.

Yes. The geeks are angry. Mike Butcher goes on:

What is to be done about this?

Well, one approach might be a coalition of civil liberties campaigners, digital rights groups and business. The Open Rights Group is a key thought leader in this. There is also an interesting looking event on soon: The Convention on Modern Liberty. But I also hope that more mainstream figures who are in some way associated with tech, perhaps Stephen Fry, can be persuaded to join.

Why should business get involved?

Mark my words, business would be affected by this: startup technology companies, already restricted by plenty of red tape associated with setting up a business would now have to build in plans for content ratings, tracing users, capturing data for the Home Office – you name it.

And when terrorists can merely default to VOIP or messaging services held on servers outside the UK – hell, they are even using online games to pass messages not old-fashioned, traceable email – it seems utterly ludicrous to subject the ENTIRE population to this burden. All this legislation will do is drive organised crime and terrorists deeper into parts of the Net where they will be virtually impossible to trace, leaving the rest of us monitored like battery chickens.

On Monday I will be calling Westminster Council about how we can go about setting up a public rally against these initiatives, and I’d like to hear from anyone else who wants to get involved.

Stay tuned.

You heard the man. Liberals and libertarians, big-L and small-l alike, our kinspeople need us! Head over and comment.


  1. Bleh, Stephen, we’ve never done revolution in this country. What we do is subbornly refuse to obey the rules until the rules get quietly changed.

    Alix: why does your post make me think of “they came for the jews, but I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t a jew”…?

  2. As someone who is both a techie and a Lib Dem, I’m always puzzled by the fact that the two online communities don’t cooperate more, given that on the major issues affecting both, they tend to agree so much. Hopefully this will change!

  3. Jennie speak for youself, I have rich veins of Celtic blood running through my veins. I was ground on a big man constantly saying No and Never while I was always thinking why not. Going on the parade this afternoon brought out the little teenage world solver in me once again.

  4. Stephen, I have been on lots of protest marches and things, but the vast majority of the populace don’t do that sort of thing. However, there are lots of laws which are disobeyed by lots of people every day, which the police don’t bother prosecuting people for, etc.

    Charlotte, yes, you’re prob’ly right. Worryingly.

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