Michael Geist has a worthwhile article on The dangers of “locking down” the Internet. Attention is shifting away from locking content through digital rights management and towards imposing filters and other technological controls on ISPs. Geist notes “[t]his movement has been most prominent in Europe, where last summer a Belgian court ordered an ISP to block access to a site alleged to contain copyright infringing materials.” The danger is that as ISPs evolve from conduits to gatekeepers the essence that made the Internet the greatest medium for unfettered speech in history will be destroyed.
The idea of using ISPs to regulate content is not new. The first time I heard someone articulate a sophisticated vision of how to implement such control was in 2001. The speaker was a then-student with an unusually keen understanding of the possibilities of Internet regulation. He was ahead of his time, but maybe not by too many years.