Guest post by Nick Pickles
The argument has mainly been made around file-sharing sites, and to a lesser extent child pornography, and of course the Government insists that it would never be used for political reasons.
Yet the example of the Arab Spring and the subsequent activities of Governments in shutting down social networking sites (or more disturbingly, setting up spoof sites to entrap potential trouble makers) should not be forgotten.
It is entirely possible that as part of the super-injunction/privacy debate that website blocking could potentially be on the cards - neatly demonstrated by the High Court judge who warned “the internet is out of control.”
The internet is beyond the reach of Governments. So the natural response of Governments is to seek to bring it back under their control. The first step is to block sites sharing illegal music. That path leads to not being able to read about Tienanmen Square or organise demonstrations - it is not one that a civil society should permit.
However, there is a further option - for social networks to become ISPs.
The power of a shared satellite network, providing internet access to users without reliance on physical cable under the control of Governments, would have the potential to topple the Great Firewall of China, free protestors to organise demonstrations and globalise free speech beyond the reach of overactive judiciaries.
Eventually, universal internet access will be a humanitarian cause. What it needs is someone to take the first step, and aim for the stars.