Knock on the ISP door

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Oliver Spencer

03 May 2012

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Imagine a geek sitting in a dark room at a desk covered in dirty coffee cups typing gobbledygook on a stained keyboard linked to a bank of computers.

Then imagine the knock at the door. They say they’re cops.

“We don’t have a warrant. We don’t need one. Block this website and tell us who this username is. If you don’t…”

What, no judge? No case before the court? No balancing of human rights against allegedly criminal actions? No idea whether these guys are even for real?

But this is for real. Across the world, this is increasingly happening every day. Governments hate facing alternative voices and opinions. They love creating laws and institutions to force us to shut up. The state’s monopoly on violence can be seen everywhere in the way that governments are trying to ‘deal’ with the internet service providers (ISPs).

ISP owners will not go public. When it comes down to it, their bottom line is more important than their ethics. To be fair, many we talk to are just geeks or business people. When faced with the full might of the state, they buckle. They don’t ring the press. They don’t contact an NGO. They don’t shout “But where’s our right to privacy, to due process, to freedom of speech?” 

Instead, they sink further into their fake leather chairs, block the website, hand over the data, and hope that the user who is about to get a visit from the police does not come to too much harm.

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