The Danish government's putative plans to censor the Internet by asking ISPs to block specified websites that reportedly include online gambling enterprises has come in for some stiff criticism this week in the Danish newspaper The Copenhagen Post.
The newspaper reports that Denmark is being compared with North Korea and China for its proposal to block internet users from accessing certain websites, which have been labelled as ‘hypocritical’ by a group of executives claiming that a proposal to prevent Danish internet connections from accessing foreign gambling websites spells ‘the beginning of the end of the free internet as Danes know it’.
In an opinion piece titled ‘STOP! You are not allowed to use this website’, published in Berlingske Tidende, executives from the Danish Energy Association, the Confederation of Danish Industries, the Bar and Law Society, Telecommunications Industry Association and FDIM (the lobby organisation for internet media), compare Denmark with China and North Korea when it comes to blocking access to certain internet websites.
The group accepted that blocking some sites, such as those with child pornography, made sense, but called the proposal to block access to gambling sites and sites with pirated content ‘a slippery slope’.
The state maintains a monopoly on gambling services through its Danske Spil venture, but with the likelihood that a liberalisation of the market in conformance with general European trends will be approved, a proposal to deny access to foreign gambling sites could be interpreted as a way to protect the state gaming agency from foreign competition – to the detriment of Danish punters.
Blocking certain sites, the group said, would mean ‘we could no longer be outraged when the Chinese and North Korean government’s block access to foreign websites’.
It asks whether blocked sites would also include Iran’s official website for ‘thundering against Western values’, video sharing site YouTube, which ‘gives access to large amounts of illegal content’ or search engine Google, which ‘no doubt is used by some to find and download illegal information’.
Clement Salung Petersen, of University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, called it ‘worrisome’ that the government would rather ‘restrict access to the internet than increase efforts to prosecute those who commit internet crimes’.
Helge Sander, the science minister, said that regulating gambling by blocking foreign websites ‘did not conflict’ with its efforts to protect the freedom of speech.
Responses to the article were universally against the idea:
"I suspect this clampdown has everything to do with the Danish government being unable to collect taxes from gambling on foreign sites," wrote one poster.
Another posted: "Control and taxes. Says it all – only one reason for the ban- NON TAXABLE WINNINGS…and the goverment scared to death that someone might be a little happy for once,instead of being brainwashed and made to be so miserable all the time and act like the puppets they want us to be…. MOVE WITH THE TIMES DK GOVERNMENT….give the danes a choice for once."
A third wrote: "Even though taxation is not mentioned directly in the article, that is at the heart of the government's proposal to block these sites because the governement cannot generate tax income on foreign sites and will have a difficult time collecting taxes on winnings. Note that through DanskeSpil, they do not have either of these problems. This story is a great example of taxation taking away personal freedoms."