The internet is increasingly seen as a threat in need of containment: a threat to public morality, to children, to privacy and even to knowledge itself. Lobby groups campaign for the removal of offensive pages, businesses worry about copyright piracy (while others worry about corporations monopolising the web), and, amid fears of terrorism, home secretary Jacqui Smith announced at the beginning of this year that the internet is ‘not a no go area for government’. The internet is fast becoming a place where different groups clamour for digital authority, and control. So how free should the internet be, and who gets to decide?
From the pragmatic self-censorship of Google in China to legal battles over copyright and music-sharing, it certainly seems there is more to the issue than overt state censorship. At the same time, the internet is heralded as a new democratic force, bringing people together to collaborate in novel ways. So does this require absolute internet freedom, or is censorship just another issue to be redefined by the netizens of Web 2.0, and made a collective enterprise? It is striking that, rather than being the outcome of public debates, decisions affecting us all tend to take the form of private deals between Internet Service Providers and various lobby groups. So are we seeing democratisation, or rather the ‘privatisation’ of internet censorship? Has the utopian ideal of unrestrained freedom on the internet given way to resignation in the face of inevitable regulation, or even an embrace of it? Or does this obscure the real question of who’s in control?-Institute of Ideas
Sarah Boyes is commissioning editor for books and a regular contributor to Culture Wars - the reviews website of the Institute of Ideas.
She recently developed feature review projects of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2007 and the Verso Radical Thinkers II series.
Jo Glanville was appointed editor of Index on Censorship in December 2006. Her first issue "What New Labour did for free speech" appeared in May 2007. She was previously a current affairs producer at the BBC for eight years. She has a particular interest in the Middle East and edited a well-received anthology of short stories by Palestinian women writers (Qissat, Telegram/Saqi Books 2006).
Her documentaries for the BBC on the region include Return to Sabra and Shatila (marking the 20th anniversary of the massacre), Inside the Foreign Office (a series made with Ed Stourton in 2003) and A Thousand and One (a series about the influence of The Arabian Nights on western culture presented by Robert Irwin). She has also made a number of history programmes including Drancy: story of a housing state (about the deportation of French Jews during the war) and presented a documentary exploring how a million young men vanished from the population in the last British census Where have all the young men gone?
She has worked as a news producer for the Today programme BBC Radio 4 and for the World Service. In 2006, she was co-producer on the highly acclaimed three-part BBC2 series Suez: a very British crisis which was broadcast last autumn.
She has contributed to many publications including the Guardian, New Statesman, Prospect, the Observer and the Independent. She was born in London and educated at Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Tim Jordan has researched and published about both the effects of the Internet and about social movements, however his work is now on the cultures and politics created in new communicative practices arising from the new complex of information technologies that have arisen around technologies like the Internet and mobile phones.
He recently worked on hacking communities to create an overview of hacking that includes cracking, free software/open source movement, hacktivism and the digital proletariat that was published in Hacking: digital media and technological determinism, Polity 2008. Jordan is currently exploring the world of massive multiplayer online games both as a player and analyst (Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft).
For social movement studies, he was a co-founder of the journal Social Movement Studies: journal of social, political and cultural protest, which is the only academic journal devoted to studying social movements that is housed with a major publisher (Taylor and Francis). Jordan also co-authored with Paul Taylor an extensive study of politically motivated hacking in Hacktivism: rebels with a cause, Routledge, 2004. Behind all these lurk interests in social theory, that occasionally see the light of day, and occasional other interests including a psychosocial reading of Pokemon.
Killick is the founder and CEO of cScape. cScape is a Microsoft Gold partner and a customer-centric digital agency, spearheading new research and practice in online engagement for the corporate, governmental and not-for-profit sectors. In 2006,
Killick helped cScape achieve a series of global break-throughs within e-marketing and IT, launching the world's first Online Customer Engagement Survey as well as the world's first live site on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.
Killick has 20 years of senior management experience, is a regular media commentator and has spoken at numerous public conferences. He has contributed to a range of Institute of Ideas events, including the Battle of Ideas and the Debating Matters Competition. Killick's writing has appeared in a wide range of publications ranging from economic think-tanks to marketing magazines and web publications in the UK and abroad.
These include the Social Science Research Network, Journal of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Executive Internet, spiked and Novo.
Cassandra Wilkinson worked for a decade as a senior political adviser culminating in a stint as chief of staff to the Treasurer of NSW.
She is the founder of Australia's only Australian music radio station which now attracts more than 400,000 listeners in Sydney. In 2007 she published Don't Panic: Nearly Everything is Better Than You Think. The book celebrated the victories of modernity and laughed in the face of pessimists and killjoys everywhere.