Meme by Eli Aloisi.
As some of you may already know, the UK government has implemented a new policy against pornographic sites and has already started to automatically filter and block users from visiting such sites. According to the news surrounding this new policy, the UK government plans to block all pornographic sites by the end of the year, and customers will only be able to gain access through opting in. With the recent news regarding the UK blocking porn, Gmail filtering marketing messages to a promotions box, and the CIA monitoring your social networks, all we can wonder is—where does the Internet censorship end?
It’s even been reported that the powers that be—the UK and US governments—are behind some social media profiles of people in Arab countries who are publicly proclaiming their freedom. In fact, it was a Google employee who allegedly started the Egyptian revolution via Twitter.
With all of this fresh in our minds, we’re reminded of the centuries-old German quote “Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen,” which is translated as “Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people.” This quote is from 1823 and was penned by the famous German poet Heinrich Heine—a statement that also served as a frighteningly accurate forecast of the Holocaust.
The message here—beware of all censorship, in all of its forms. When Heine penned his now infamous statement, books where the main vehicle for sharing information—they were essentially the Internet of their day.
So, while it may be easy for the UK government to start censoring porn, we’re left wondering what else will be filtered out in the years to come. BBC’s own technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, said, “civil liberties campaigners fear that blocking certain searches in one country could set a precedent elsewhere, making other governments more confident in applying censorship.”
So how does the new Gmail promotions folder tie into all of this? Well for one, it would be easy for political messages to be placed in this box and suppress their vitality—an easy way to make sure that no one reads them. Right now this only effects porn and Email marketing but it is part of a worrying trend for marketers and more importantly, civil liberties.
Murray Newlands is an online marketing industry veteran, and the founder of TheMail.