Pseudo-Democracy #debill

Most people will have heard or read this morning about the passing of the Digital Economy Bill yesterday night.

The bill was passed 189 for and 47 against. That’s 236 MPs that could actually be bothered to drag themselves to parliament for the last day before the general election and represent their constituents. 236 out of 646.

I say “represent their constituents” but did they? I wrote to my MP raising my concerns at the bill. Not only didn’t she respond to the issues I raised but she is listed as one of the 189 MPs who voted “Aye”! I know she got my letter as I received confirmation of receipt in the post.

I’ve since wrote to her again, expressing my disappointment at her choice to rush the bill through without reasoned debate. I wasn’t going to vote for her replacement anyway but had I been a Labour supporter, I certainly wouldn’t be now.

In the aftermath of the bill’s passing, many people have commented on the potential problems the bill causes but there are positives to be claimed from all of this:

Jim Killock from The Open Rights Group have stated:

this is a huge victory for transparency

He has a very good point. In rushing through this bill, not only has the UK government highlighted that the system is broken in our pseudo-democratic state; but also we find that thousands of influential voters are now aware of the flaws. Jim Killock also says:

Thousands of people watched and commented on what would have, a few years ago, been a quiet, barely public event.

The entire third reading of the bill was documented and blogged; it makes for harrowing reading. Such an important bill rushed through by only a third of parliament; and it is there for all to see. This is what democracy means in the United Kingdom. An estimated 61 million people represented under pressure by 236 individuals, a quarter of whom will have been aware of the issues surrounding the bill, the rest just happily following the party whip.

So what does this mean for the future?

You can take part in online discussions as to what to do if you’re erroneously accused of copyright infringement.

With the general election looming you can find out if your MP actually cares enough to represent you. Mine did, although she didn’t represent my point of view. (The site linked to actually says she couldn’t bothered – but I have seen the list of MPs who voted for and against, and she is listed).  If your MP didn’t turn up then maybe you could ask them why?

You may not believe it but your vote counts. I strongly believe that our country needs political reform and at present there only seems to be the Liberal Democrats willing to push for that reform. The recent US elections were won on the basis of change and I feel that we could see real change in this country, if only people would get up and vote.

Take a look at online polls and register your own opinions, see how they compare to those of others.

Have a read of some of the more eloquent articles on the bill’s passing:

The Digital Economy Bill passed: The internet watched live as a handful of MPs ignored democracy in their attempts to control that they don’t understand.

The Digital Economy Bill: a nightmare of unintended consequences

And remember, the bill can still be passed back to parliament by the House of Lords.  It’s unlikely to happen but there is still a chance that whatever parliament we have after May 6th will have the opportunity to debate this properly.  The state the bill is in at present is a travesty; on so many levels is the bill flawed that it will need to be addressed by whoever takes power.

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Digital Economy Bill #debill

A while ago I was sent a link to a site promoting action against the proposed Digital Economy Bill.

Whilst I appreciate that the government feel the need to act on issues such as copyright infringement and Internet safety, I honestly feel that the current proposal is poorly prepared. I get the feeling that our current government are trying to rush the bill through without a thought for the damaging effects the bill could have on society.

I have a few major issues with the bill.

Firstly, allowing ISPs to penalise Internet users who third parties have linked to illegal file sharing and copyright infringement is wrong. ISPs are not a court of law and the tools used by third parties to pinpoint alleged file sharers are inaccurate at best. A lack of consistency across the world’s Internet relays means that innocent web browsers could be fingered with somebody else’s nefarious online activity.

We are already seeing cases coming to light where Internet users are being contacted by third parties demanding moneys for supposed transgressions.

Secondly, censorship of the Internet could very easily get out of hand. Courts forcing ISPs to block websites just smacks of book burning to my mind.

Finally, why should I pay 50p per month to allow greater access to people who currently don’t have access to the Internet? This and bureaucratic monitoring measures actually prevent free access to the Internet. Small businesses will be deterred from offering free wi-fi access; I have no idea how the towns and councils, who have already invested in wide ranging wi-fi infrastructure, will be effected.

So I have written to my MP, for all the difference it will make; her catch line of “working for you and the Colne Valley” really is nonsense.

Dear Kali Mountford,

I’m writing to you today because I’m growing increasingly worried that the present Government is planning to rush the Digital Economy Bill into law without a full Parliamentary debate.

This controversial law contains many measures that concern me. Controversy aside, I believe the Bill deserves proper scrutiny; please don’t let the government rush it through. Many people think it will damage schools and businesses as well as innocent people who rely on the Internet because it will allow the Government to disconnect people it suspects of copyright infringement.

Industry experts, Internet service providers (like Talk Talk and BT) and huge Internet companies like Google and Yahoo are all opposing the bill – yet the Government seems intent on forcing it through without a real debate.

As a specialist in information and communication technologies I am aware of many potential pitfalls and flaws in the current methods used by copyright infringement investigators.  I feel that should the proposed bill be passed, many innocent parties will be wrongly targeted.  Furthermore, many of these innocent parties will come from non-technical backgrounds and as such will struggle to defend themselves.

As a constituent and employee within the telecommunications sector I am writing to you today to ask you to do all you can to ensure the Government doesn’t just rush the bill through and deny us our democratic right to scrutiny and debate.

Yours Sincerely,

Ben Sugden…

i sent the letter a week ago and have so far received a response completely unrelated to the letter. Showing the lack of confidence that Kali Mountford has of being an MP in a few months, her office has written to me to let me know that my details will be destroyed when she leaves office. I have the option to write and ask her to pass these onto her replacement but by then the bill will likely have been passed.

Maybe she won’t be standing this time around, I hope not because even though I won’t be voting for her party I really wouldn’t like her to be voted in again.

If you feel as strongly as I do then why not write to your own MP?  The 38 degrees site is an easy way of doing that. You can also follow comments on the bill through the hashtag #debill on Twitter.