In The Observer this morning, Nick Cohen looks at web censorship in the context of playboy models, social networks, Tory MPs, Burma repression and Uzbek born oligarchs. Britains blunderbus libel laws must surely have a limited shelf life in light of recent events.
"Britain's ludicrous libel laws make supposedly independent bloggers equally vulnerable. This month, Boris Johnson found that threats of legal action had closed his website, one of Britain's most popular political blogs. Bullies are always threatening to sue bloggers; few have the resources to fight a libel action and bow to their demands.
Closing Johnson's website, however, took repression up a step. Corporate lawyers from Schillings acting for Alisher Usmanov, the Russian oligarch who wants to take over Arsenal, threatened any website that carried accusations from Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan. Maybe the host site could have handled things better, but the effect was not only to close Murray's blog, but other sites, including Johnson's, even though the MP had not mentioned Usmanov. 'This is London, not Uzbekistan,' fumed Johnson. 'It is unbelievable that a website can be wiped out on the say-so of some tycoon.'
I'm afraid it's all too believable. Usmanov went for Fasthosts, the company that hosts Murray's website. It had no knowledge of the accusations and under our stifling laws, the longer it kept the site up, the greater its punishment could be. Even though Murray said he'd happily see the plutocrat in court, it had to close him down or risk losing hundreds of thousands in an argument not of its making. Business logic made censorship inevitable."
The need for and requirements to make a re-write of the UK libel laws real is discussed in detail at the Ministry of Truth.