Right of Reply: John Carr

The Internet consultant and DTI adviser replies to a leading article on censoring the Web
YOUR COMMENT that "authoritarians and libertarians alike must agree that the whole issue of freedom on the Net needs to be examined immediately" is a little beside the point. Such an examination has been going on for some time. The problem is, it has been getting nowhere.

The Internet started as an essentially chaotic medium. As its technical infrastructure has developed and become better understood, so the possibilities of exercising greater control have emerged.

Yet the self-proclaimed libertarians have resisted every attempt to regulate the Internet, even where the primary purpose of the proposed regulation or control has been to deal with plainly illegal activity. Every battle has been fought as if democracy and civilisation depended entirely on preserving the status quo.

Regrettably, in the United States, where most decisions about the Internet are taken, the courts seem largely to be on the side of the so-called libertarians. I say "regrettably" because what I see being labelled "libertarianism" is no more than nihilistic licence, laced with poisonous cynicism about the intentions behind any governmental move to introduce reforms.

I am utterly uninterested in preventing consenting adults from doing or looking at whatever they like. However, I am extremely anxious that, whether by accident or as a result of youthful curiosity, children, my own included, should not be precipitated into parts of the adult world and aspects of the human psyche that are entirely inappropriate for them in their tender years.

We already have laws which, for good reasons, ban or control such material and activities in the real world. Are we to be denied the opportunity of doing the same in the virtual world?