For years I have argued that the internet should accept some form of regulation to the extent only that everything posted ought to be identifiable to a source thus imposing the constraints of normal decency on people and curbing the criminal activity the world wide web has spawned.
You should have heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth from lefties and "yooman rights" campaigners about how this would curtail freedom. if you are familiar with how the left operates and how control freakery comes as naturally to them as sucking on a tit comes to a mammilian baby you might have found this commitment to freedom a bit suspect. After all the only freedom the left have ever been concerned with is their own freedom to Impose their ideals and values on the rest of us (by force if necessary).
It should come as no surprise then that the left's commitment to internet freedom lasted only as long as it took them to come up with a way to get independent websites and blogs off the cybersphere and ensure that we could see ONLY officially approved propaganda. Hat tip to Anna Raccoon for bringing this to my attention.
Last month in a little noticed case in the US, a Federal Judge made a ruling that has implications for us all. We may think that the truly sensitive and the terminally offended have been making inroads into the freedom of the Internet, but they are piffling flea bites compared to the implications of this case.
What the ruling – that the Internet is ‘a place of public accommodation’ – boils down to in plain English is that the Internet has the same status as a Public House, your local council offices, Disneyland, the O2 Arena, and anywhere else you can think of that has to comply with disabled accessibility legislation. It will be your responsibility to ensure that the blind reader has a voice over of your hastily crafted howl of anger at the latest government outrage, that the deaf have suitable sub-titles on your YouTube efforts, and one can only presume, that the terminally stupid have a simplified version in words of one syllable, to ensure that everyone has an ‘enjoyable and enriching experience’ when they land on your blog.
The lawyers are sharpening their quills already, for it matters not that you are penning your anguished prose from a bed sit in Bridlington – your reader may well be a one eyed Albanian asylum seeker in the US, libel law has long since established precedent that if he can access your words in the US, then you are publishing in the US, regardless of where your ‘server’ is.
Could YouTube be obligated to close-caption videos on the site? (This case seems to leave that door open.) Could every website using Flash have to redesign their sites for browsers that read the screen? I’m not creative enough to think of all the implications, but I can assure you that ADA plaintiffs’ lawyers will have a long check list of items worth suing over. Big companies may be able to afford the compliance and litigation costs, but the entry costs for new market participants could easily reach prohibitive levels.
One common argument for imposing accessibility obligations on physical businesses is that it is unrealistic to expect the disabled to simply ‘go somewhere else’ if the nearest business can’t accommodate their needs. The Internet doesn’t have territorial limitations – by extending this ruling to the Internet, the lawyers are in effect saying that everyone must make every part of their ‘public life’ accessible to anyone who wishes, worLd wide, to partake of the opportunity.
Now I don’t expect this to affect Joe Bloggs blogging from his back room in Bridlington overnight – but it doesn’t require too much imagination to realise that if Google get sued for failing to provide a voice over on their political blogs, they will immediately refuse to host any blog that doesn’t comply. Netfix, the company which the American Association for the Deaf successfully sued for failing to provide sub-titles on the videos which they streamed, may be able to afford the costly technology to comply with this ruling, individual bloggers won’t. Netfix may respond by not hosting movies which don’t carry sub-titles, I would expect Google to take the same route.
Read the full post: Wheelchair access to the blogosphere
Now as Anna says this law willl not be enforced right away to make sure we bloggers, contributors and site owners provide access to a braille translator or a text to voice converter so that your partially sighted visitors can have access to our rants, pithy observations, homilies, philosiphizing, self indulgent rambles and scintillating prose. but once the "yooman rights" brigade find a site that challenges their prejudices and does not conform to these requirements there is not much doubt about which way a court verdict will go.
The answer of course is we can all ignore the law and work on the prinbiciple that they can't put us all in prison. "OK, but what if they decide to put me in prison to make an example of somebody?" you might well ask.
Simples. At the first sign of trouble take your stuff offline. Back it all up and find yourself a host that operates its servers from Andorra, Costa Rica or some such place that does not have any serious libel laws. Pay with your paypal account. Use a proxy server such as Anonymouse and rebuild your website using a pseudonym to disguisE your authorship (something like Aethelred-Naggernunk is good)
Then the "yooman rights" lawyers can spend their time chasing shadows while you concentrte on building links to your site and getting your ideas out to the widest possible audience and promote the cause of free thinking against the dark forces of "progressiveism".
And it is not just the politically correct Thought Police who don't want you on the web ...
Latest Google update favours their own products and sites that pay for traffic