Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Not a credible solution

New Zealand has a problem: multinational corporations like FaceBook are cheating on their taxes. But Labour's David Clark has a solution: ban them:

The Labour Party has put forward a possible solution to force multi-national corporations to pay more tax – ban them from the internet.

It says the Government should first talk with companies like Facebook, but if that doesn't work it is important to have a backup, something Labour is describing as a credible threat.

Facebook is the world's largest social network by far, but pays little tax here in New Zealand.

"The Government should always have in its back pocket the ability to ban websites," says Labour revenue spokesman David Clark.


"Paedophile websites are banned the world around," says Mr Clark.

I am no fan of tax cheats, but comparing them to peaedophiles is a bit over the top. As for the "solution", firstly, we have this little thing called the Bill of Rights Act here, which protects freedom of expression. While that's subject to "such reasonable limits... as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society", I don't think punishing someone for tax evasion justifies the digital equivalent of tearing out their tongue. And secondly, the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. People still access those paedophile websites, despite them being banned; how does Clark think it will work with one of the world's most popular websites, which according to his own press releases has 2.2 million users in New Zealand? And does he think that people will vote for a party which threatens to turn off their web-crack?

OTOH, if Clark does get elected and follows through with this insanity, it'll mean half of New Zealand suddenly gets a strong reason to learn basic anti-surveillance techniques. And in the current digital environment, that's probably a good thing.