TJ McIntyre is chair of Digital Rights Ireland and a lecturer in law at University College Dublin. He spoke to the title above at a session on regulation this afternoon.

TJ spoke about the shift from cyberlibertarianism to cyberpaternalism. We didn’t really get what the libertarians suggested; they looked at disintermediation, practicalities (jurisdiction, geography), out-of-date law, etc. So why didn’t that happen? The intermediary became a target of regulation – and ultimately the ‘new intermediaries’ can have a greater ability to control the users (compare the post office with an ISP, for example); also, ‘code as law’ (as in Lawrence Lessig‘s work). This is good in that it retains ‘democratic control’, but there’s also a potential loss of transparency and the avoidance of normal checks and balances. In particular, is there transparency in the introduction of regulation? It should be by primary legislation after public debate; but in famous cases (Spitzer’s crusade against gambling and music industry litigation against ISPs), this didn’t happen; thus such actions can can undermine existing democratic compromises, evade public law norms (outsourcing), ignore fair procedures, lack proportionality etc.

Cleanfeed was the main case study in the talk; the system, which originated with the Internet Watch Foundation, blocks around 1000 URLs (for websites, not other Internet functions), and has a limited appeal procedure. Political pressure and the threat of legislation saw Cleanfeed or other mechanisms extended to all broadband ISPs by the end of 2007. TJ offered detailed criticism of Cleanfeed in the context of the issues raised above (public law, fair procedures etc).

He concluded with questions about whether these solutions are necessary, appropriate, or otherwise? All comments welcome on this thread too. My own presentation is covering some similar ground so it was a very useful talk and the issues raised in the discussions were important including useful information from an audience member associated with UK academic network provider Janet.