Skip Navigation

Culture Secretary talks of Internet benefits to Oxford Media Conference
Wednesday 26 February 2014 16:17:18 by Andrew Ferguson

The Internet has helped to put masses of information into the hands of the masses and that is its real disruptive effect, i.e. allowing people to find out and share information in a way that was previously impossible with traditional media.

Maria Miller MP, the current Culture Secretary has been speaking to the Oxford Media Conference on the topic of openness, innovation and security with respect to the Internet. The Guardian has a copy of the speech in full, but we feel there are a few key parts worth comment.

While for many people the Internet is actually the world as presented via the HTTP protocol which existed as a web server and browser for the first time in November 1989, the Internet as such pre-dates this and for example Usenet (newsgroups) started in 1980 and are how many people first interacted with others online before the explosion of web browsers in the early 1990's. It is worth remembering this when discussing online behaviour, since a great of online etiquette originates from the ground breaking days well before Facebook.

"To put it simply, the rules that apply offline are the same rules that apply online.

This is at its most clear when it comes to the law. If something is illegal offline, it is illegal online. We have laws in this country to protect our freedom … it is no different online.

Whether it is images of child abuse or terrorist material, we will use the full force of the law, national and international, to take down that content and pursue the perpetrators.

If you vilely insulted, or threatened to attack someone in person on the street, you do so expecting to be arrested and charged. The same already applies on social media.

Extract from speech by Maria Miller, MP to Oxford Media Conference

This part of the speech is what will pique many peoples interest in how the Government is involved in our online life and other aspects of day to day life. Which is fairly reasonable, since you libel someone online it should have the same penalties available as offline, but once extended to online trolling the issue becomes much more unclear. There has been plenty of high profile cases of online threats and behaviour landing people in real life courts, and over the years we have received the odd various threat when people disagree with moderating decisions in our forums, should we have reported that person to the police? Or just accept the threat as someone lashing out for a few seconds online, in much the same way someone might throw the most disgusting insults at you on the street if they believe you have wronged them?

A lot of the time people view the Internet through idealistic glasses, seeing it as an opportunity to correct what they see as the ills of society, but when what would appear to be naive comments like the following are made by a Culture Secretary one has to question how aware of real life our political masters are.

"You wouldn't leave your front door unlocked with a handy map pinned to it, showing where you kept your valuables. So why use the word "password123" as your online banking password?

If you wanted to see a film or listen to a CD, you wouldn't sneak into a shop and steal it off the shelf, so why do the online equivalent and download it illegally?

It's about good citizenship … as well as what's legal and what's not.

Extract from speech by Maria Miller, MP to Oxford Media Conference

Why naive? Well because in the real world, there are people who do leave their door unlocked, or a key hidden under a plant pot. Also talk to any shop owner and they will tell you that plenty of people shoplift goods to either obtain the item for themselves or sell on the blackmarket. Thus it should be no surprise to find that human nature to get things for free if at all possible is also exhibited online.

The big difference between comments made to four or five friends in a pub that could be construed as a vile insult towards someone who is not present and the online world is that in a drunken moment 144 characters of insult can be sent which are visible to millions and this can act as a viral trigger, escalating something within minutes or hours.


Posted by zhango over 3 years ago
I read the whole article in The Guardian and Maria did make one good point:
"Parents have – and understand that they have – a responsibility to know what our kids are up to, and help guide those choices."
Posted by mervl over 3 years ago
Just have to love the way that the politicians preach morality sermons and the churchmen give political speeches. We ignore both of them.
Posted by Saurus over 3 years ago
It's about good citizenship … as well as what's legal and what's not.

Really how about this one: You wouldn't steal from your employer repeatedly, get caught, expect to just be able to say 'it's ok I'll pay it back no harm done' and carry on as usual would you? So how come MP's did?
Posted by FTTH over 3 years ago
I saw Maria Miller speak at a broadband meeting, she seems like a nice enough lady but I doubt that she could find alt-ctrl-del.

Those fortunate enough to see Anna-Karin Hatt at the FTTH conference will have seen what a void we have between those countries that 'have a clue' about IT and those that rely on being advised and directed by private companies.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Anna-Karin speaks well, but it shouldn't be a surprise for a minister whose portfolio is primarily IT. We have given broadband to a minister whose portfolio consists of culture & sport.

But don't be fooled that Sweden magically has better ministers who aren't advised by private companies. The fact is that telecoms is a huge industry in Sweden, by which I mean the vendors rather than the incumbent telco. Ericsson is the country's largest exporter.

I wish our government had treated our telecom industry as importantly 20 years ago. We'd probably still have one.
Posted by c_j_ over 3 years ago
"I wish our government had treated our telecom industry as importantly 20 years ago."

20 years ago BT had already been privatised.

Over 15 years ago, GEC's ongoing lack of investment in telco left them so far behind that they had to buy Fore and Raltec at the peak of the dot con boom in a vain attempt to catch up.

Not long after, GEC/GPT/Marconi failed to make the list of approved suppliers for BT's 21CN rollout for voice or broadband.

It'd be nice to still have a UK telecom sector, but a lot of things would have needed to be different.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
One reason that telecom industry companies got caught up with the dot-com boom/crash is because of the windfall tax (UK-only) and the excess amounts paid by the retail telecom companies for 3G licences.

Because the retail companies curtailed equipment spending, the vendors income dried up almost overnight. Some very big names failed to survive that onslaught, and GEC/Marconi was not in a position to do so.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
The final nail in GEC/Marconi came through the rise of the likes of Huawei from China.

And how has Huawei managed to rise to competitiveness so quickly? Well, they hoovered up some of the top western technical talent laid off as a result of that bust after the 3G licenses. Combine a sudden import of know-how with low-paid Chinese coders, and hey presto...
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago

The entire telecoms industry crashed because of the emotions surrounding the dot-com crash. They were seen as equally high-tech, but failed to be seen rationally as having a real business.

Telecoms would have survived that emotional outburst, except for the fact that, at the same time, it had just taken on debts for stupidly high-priced 3G licences. Thanks Gordon Brown.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Huawei, by the way, are obsessed with doing things "just like Ericsson". Sweden's biggest exporter is under direct threat from their Chinese counterpart - so we shouldn't be surprised that the Swedish Government see it in a political way.
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.