The Conservative party’s attempts to paint itself as the party of tech innovation through ties with Google could be upset by ongoing controversy around cutting off file-sharers
A Conservative government may have an even more draconion approach to cutting off potential internet file-sharers than Labour, according to a consumer rights blogger.
Philip Hunt – a founder member of digital freedom group Pirate Party UK – said in a posting this week that, despite widespread criticism of Labour’s policy on cutting off the Internet connection of alleged file-sharers, the Conservative opposition appears to have at least as strong a stance on the issue and could even go further if they are elected to government next year.
“Labour’s Digital Economy Bill is bad enough. But what is the Conservatives’ position? This extract from a parliamentary debate which occurred a fortnight ago makes clear that they’re worse,” posted Hunt.
Hunt’s comments refer to Parliamentary debates over the Internet cut-off plan involving shadow secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt, who appeared to suggest that the government’s net cut-off plan – published as part of the Digital Economy Bill in the Queen’s speech earlier this month – doesn’t go far enough.
“I am happy to confirm that the Conservatives support the proposals. We just do not think that they, on their own, will do the job,” Jeremy Hunt is reported to have said.
According to Pirate Party’s Hunt, the Conservatives and Labour have both sided with big business to the detriment of the rights of UK internet users.
“So there we have it, the Labservative duopoly at its finest: pro big media corporations, anti the British public,” he stated.
The Digital Economy Bill, announced by Minister for Digital Britain Stephen Timms and published by the Departments of Business and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in November fleshes out plans announced by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson in October. Anyone downloading copyright material intending to resell it could face a £50,000 fine, and ISPs failing to act against any offenders amongst their customers, could be fined £250,000.
The Conservatives apparent support for the plan could be seen to be at odds with the party’s plan to cut government spending on public services through more widespread use of the Internet. In August, Tory leader David Cameron said that the technology could be used to revitalise the NHS and improve care. “As patients, we want to know we’re getting the best possible care; as taxpayers we want to know we’re getting value for money: technology, well-applied, can create opportunities for both in a decentralised NHS,” he said.
The Conservatives’ NHS plan involves using technologies such as Google Health to allow patient’s to manage their own records which the party claims would be a cheaper and more efficient alternative to large-scale government-backed IT projects. However the Tories have been criticised by some commentators for backing the search giant due to the fact that Tory advisor Steve Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone, Google’s vice president of global communications and public affairs.