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June 18, 2012 | Jim Killock

Board election result

Owen Blacker, John Elliott, and Milena Popova have been duly elected to the Open Rights Group Board.

Thank you everyone for participating and helping with the election, but especially Rob Myers and David Gerard for conducting the count and Lee Maguire for preparing OpenSTV to process the data; Terence Eden for helping on the elections committee and Francis Davey for his help and advice.

The result of the election is that

Owen Blacker
John Elliott
Milena Popova

have been duly elected to the Open Rights Group Board. They will be formally appointed shortly.

The data from the election is available, if you wish to check. The process was that:

  1. The ballots were numbered 2-266  
  2. They were entered into two spreadsheets with each ballot being on the numbered row
  3. Five ballots had to be interpreted or problems noted (see below)
  4. The spreadshets were exported as CSV files and compared via diff
  5. One data entry difference was detected and corrected
  6. A python script was used to transform the CSV file into a BLT ("ballot") file for OpenSTV
  7. The data was processed by OpenSTV using a modified version of the MeekSTV algorithm that protects the RON candidate
  8. The data was processed by OpenSTV using the standard version of the MeekSTV algorithm as a sanity check; the dubious double votes were also removed and run for a sanity check9 This data will be provided to candidates with a provisional result
  9. Candidates had until the end of Sunday to check for errors or to ask to examine the ballot papers

The code used is available at Debian and Github

The lines run were:

python ./ -n 3 org-board-2012.csv > org-board-2012.blt
openstv-run-election -r TextReport MeekSTV org-board-2012.blt >org-board-2012-ifstv.txt
openstv-run-election -r TextReport MeekSTVRon org-board-2012.blt > org-board-2012-result.txt

Note on ballot queries

  • Paper 050 included double votes
  • Paper 063 tick in "RON" interpreted as 7 (final choice)
  • Paper 089 included double vote
  • Paper 209 included double votes
  • Paper 228 "0" in RON interpreted as NULL

Double votes were entered and interpreted according to the software at conversion to a BLT file

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June 13, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

Update on reported BT block of Black Triangle campaign website

Earlier this week TechWeekly reported the campaign group Black Triangle had complained that their site was being blocked by BT. From the TechWeekly piece:

"...for almost six months now the website has been blocked by BT alongside extreme pornography and political extremism.

The only way for BT customers to access the website is through TOR or proxy servers. The group claims this has been extremely damaging to its campaigning and fundraising efforts."

We asked BT about this and having looked into it, they have told us they can't find any evidence of a block or issue. Here's their statement:

"BT has never placed any block on this site.

In fact, when the issue was raised we found it difficult to find any BT customer that could not access it.

After significant discussion with the Black Triangle Campaign's representative and extensive technical analysis we have as yet been unable to find any technical issue on the BT network preventing access to this site.

We have asked Black Triangle for permission to speak its site hosts in Iceland to establish the cause of this issue."

We've asked Black Triangle whether they're still experiencing the problem and their take on what's happening.

It can be difficult to work out exactly what is happening and why with reports of website blocking. If you're on BT, drop us a note below to let us know if you are experiencing a problem.

You can read our report on mobile Internet censorship, where we write about evidence of a lot of mistaken blocking on mobile networks' child protection filters, here.

Update 14:50 June 13: We asked on Twitter for BT broadband users to check if they could access the site. It certainly seems like there are plenty of people who are struggling to access it. Here are some of the replies:

  • "@leydon @PatrickSocha @OpenRightsGroup Not working here and we're with Exponential E."
  • "@PatrickSocha: Anyone on BT able to access ? @OpenRightsGroup claiming it's down and it's not working for me.
  • "@MrLadoodle:  @PatrickSocha @openrightsgroup Not working here."
  • "@hatross: @OpenRightsGroup no. Can't connect"
  • "@techypaul: @OpenRightsGroup BT is blocking (no message, just hangs). IDNET is fine (we have fail over so tried both)."
  • "@smiggers: @OpenRightsGroup I too get a timeout. On BT Broadband not Infinity. Ping seems to work though."
  • "@andrew2186: @OpenRightsGroup I get the same timing out error as the one you RT'ed, and yet the website seems to be working fine:"
  • "@mobilizingmouse: @OpenRightsGroup Can't access via Bt broadband here in Herts."
  • "@aliguana: @OpenRightsGroup nope "Chrome could not connect to" -try loading cached copy gives 404 #bt"
  • "@guy_herbert: @OpenRightsGroup I'm on @BT and get "Error 118 (net::ERR_CONNECTION_TIMED_OUT): The operation timed out."

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May 29, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

Your MEPs can help stop ACTA this week

There are three crucial votes this week in the battle over ACTA. If you care about the treaty, this is a week to do something about it.

*UPDATE* May 31st 2012: All three committees (JURI, ITRE and LIBE) today voted against ACTA. A huge thank you to everyone who contacted their MEPs to express their concerns. You can read our reaction here

A number of MEPs are involved in some key votes in the European Parliament this Thursday, May 31st about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Whilst we have made great headway with MEPs in explaining why we believe ACTA is so flawed, it is by no means certain that ACTA has been defeated.

The votes this Thursday, in three of the Committees responsible for offering 'Opinions' on the treaty, will really affect whether the European Parliament ultimately rejects ACTA or not. It is important that your MEP understand people's concerns. And calling your MEP will help make this happen.

If you care about ACTA this really is an excellent, and relatively easy, way to do something about it.

It would really help if you could call the MEPs we have listed below.

We have split the MEPs by region – it is especially useful if to call them if you are a constituent of theirs. We have made it clear which committees they are members of, and outlined the key points for each committee, so you have an idea of what to talk to them about.

There are two really important things to say to them:

  1. Tell them why you care about ACTA. We have set out why we are concerned in a briefing note, which may help.
  2. Ask them to help oppose the treaty by rejecting ACTA through their committees' opinions.
You don't have to call them all of course. Although the more, the better. Oh, and remember to be polite - they're considering ACTA, not responsible for it!

Why are these votes important?

Each of these Committees will have to agree an opinion about ACTA, which will essentially set out whether they think it is an acceptable treaty from their perspective. These opinions will, in turn, be taken into account by the lead Committee, 'INTA' (which is the Committee on International Trade). And then the European Parliament will be influenced by this in the final 'plenary' vote in early July.

So that means the more these Committees say they are unhappy about ACTA, the more likely it becomes that the European Parliament will reject ACTA when it comes to vote in early July.

So what's happening this Thursday?

Three Committees will be voting this Thursday:

  1. Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) will vote on MEP Gallo's Opinion on ACTA
  2. The Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) will vote on MEP Droutsas' Opinion
  3. The Industry Committee (ITRE) will vote on MEP Andersdotter's Opinion.

1. The Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) and MEP Gallo's Opinion.

The JURI Committee will be voting on MEP Gallo's draft report. We believe this report should be rejected by the Committee. Here are three of the key reasons:

  1. MEP Gallo's report fails to acknowledge the dangers of private policing of the Internet, which is encouraged by ACTA.
  2. ACTA may not create new laws in the EU, but it does bind the EU to existing law and limits possibility of revision in the future. 
  3. MEP Gallo's report cites the European Parliament's legal services' opinions on ACTA. But some key elements of the legal services' opinions on ACTA have not been made public. The EU Parliament refused to publish them in full, unredacted form, saying that it would “seriously interfere with the complex ratification process”.

La Quadrature du Net have some more analysis of this over at their website.

2. The Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) will vote on MEP Droutsas' Opinion.

We believe the LIBE Committee report from Rapporteur Dimitrios Droutsas should be supported. Rapporteur Droutsas' Opinion says:

"an adoption of ACTA would prematurely strangle the debate and tip the balance on one side, would allow for Member States to experiment on laws that could potentially harm fundamental freedoms and set precedents that could be undesirable for future societies."

The Rapporteur also highlights:

  • The legal uncertainty that ACTA would create
  • The lack of limitations and safeguards in the treaty
  • Concerns about the monitoring that may be involved in the identification of alleged copyright infringers.

3. The Industry Committee (ITRE) and MEP Andersdotter's Opinion.

The ITRE Committee will be voting on their Rapporteur MEP Andersdotter's report. We believe this should be supported, without the amendments some have proposed to water this down. The original report expresses concern that:

"the ACTA text does not ensure a fair balance between the right to intellectual property and the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information"


"creates legal uncertainty for European companies and in particular SMEs, technology users, online platform and internet service providers."

We believe the proposed amendments to MEP Andersdotter's report, particularly calling to postpone the debate and votes, should be rejected. For more on the proposed amendments, see La Quadrature du Net's update

Which MEPs are involved?

These MEPs will be voting this Thursday – we've split them by region, and noted which Committees they are members of. Please call these MEPs - especially if you are constituents of theirs. 

North West

Arlene McCARTHY, Labour
Committee: JURI
Group: SD
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45501

Sajjad KARIM, Conservative
Committee: The LIBE,  ITRE and JURI
Group: ECR
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45640 - +322 28 47640

Nick GRIFFIN, British National Party
Committee: The Industry Committee (ITRE)

Group: N/A
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45772 - +322 28 47772

North East England

Fiona HALL, Liberal Democrat 
Committee: ITRE
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45561 - +322 28 47561 

Yorkshire and the Humber

Andrew Henry William BRONS, British National Party
Group: N/A
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45773 - +322 28 47773

Timothy KIRKHOPE, Conservatives
Committee: LIBE
Group: ECR 
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45321 - +322 28 47321

Rebecca TAYLOR, Liberal Democrats 
Committee: JURI
Group: ALDE
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45201 - +322 28 47201 

West Midlands

Anthea McINTYRE, Conservative 
Committee: LIBE 
Group: ECR
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45106 - +322 28 47106 

Michael CASHMAN, Labour 
Committee: LIBE
Group: SD 
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45759 - +322 28 47759 

East Midlands

Glenis WILLMOTT, Labour
Committee: LIBE
Group: SD
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45459 - +322 28 47459 

Committee: ITRE
Group: EFD
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45764 - +322 28 47764 

East of England

Vicky FORD, Conservative
Committee: ITRE
Group: ECR 
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45672 - +322 28 47672 


Committee: LIBE and JURI
Group: EFD
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45920 - +322 28 47920

Mary HONEYBALL, Labour
Committee: JURI
Group: SD
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45209 - +322 28 47209

Jean LAMBERT, Green
Committee: LIBE
Group: Greens/EFA
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45507 - +322 28 47507

Baroness Sarah LUDFORD, Liberal Democrat
Committee: LIBE
Group: ALDE
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45104 - +322 28 47104

Claude MORAES, Labour
Committee: LIBE
Group: SD
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45553 - +322 28 47553

South East of England

Sharon BOWLES, Liberal Democrat
Committee: JURI
Group: ALDE
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45221 - +322 28 47221

Peter SKINNER, Labour
Committee: ITRE
Group: SD
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45458 - +322 28 47458

South West of England

Sir Graham WATSON, Liberal Democrats
Committee: LIBE
Group: ALDE
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45626 - +322 28 47626

Giles CHICHESTER, Conservative
Committee: ITRE
Group: ECR
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45296 - +322 28 47296


Committee: ITRE
Group: Greens/EFA
Brussels Tel.: +322 28 45187 - +322 28 47187


Get calling!

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May 28, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

Reporting 'over-blocking' to mobile operators

A quick update on what mobile networks have done so far to help people report cases of over-blocking.

Since we published our report 'Mobile Internet censorship: what's happening and what to do about it', jointly with LSE Media Policy project, a number of people have been in touch with us asking what to do if they discover their site is blocked incorrectly by mobile networks' child protection filters. 

The first thing to do - of course...! - is to submit the site to, which we are using to keep track of how much 'over-blocking' is happening on UK mobile networks.

But if you are responsible for a site and have found it is blocked, you will also want to get in touch with the mobile networks concerned to check that it is blocked on their network and to get the site removed from the filters so everybody can access it again.

One of the points in our report was that it can be too difficult to do this - you can read about Coadec's problems trying to get their site removed from Orange's Safeguard on their blog.

The mobile networks have told us they are working on improving the way that these reports can be made, which is great. I wanted to do a quick update on progress so far. So I asked the networks what the best way to get in touch with them about this would be. If you are trying to contact the operators to get your site unblocked, here's what the networks offer at the moment:

We really want to keep track on how you get on reporting mistakes and misclassifications, and how the networks deal with them. So please let us know your experiences, either in the comments below or by emailing me.


For the moment, Vodafone have asked that these requests go to this email address:

They are planning to have a more specific address available soon.

Orange and T-Mobile

Everything Everywhere have set up an email address that will be directed to the 'Safeguard Product Manager', who will handle reports of misclassification. The email address to use is and can be used for reports relating to both Orange and T-Mobile. 


O2 have a useful URL checker, which also allows people to check sites' classification - which says whether and why a site is blocked - and to report if they consider the site to be classified incorrectly.

They also suggest letting them know via Twitter (@O2) or through their online forums (


Three told us their official position at the moment is: "if a Three customer believes a website is being incorrectly blocked then they should call our Customer Services team. We are currently reviewing how best customers can contact us to report these concerns."

They are working on improving the reporting mechanism, and I'll be asking them today how a non-Three customer can notify them of a block. I'll update this post when I've heard back.


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May 23, 2012 | Jim Killock

Is the government’s transparency agenda hitting the rocks?

Are the big opportunities for citizen engagement, creating accountability and economic growth being missed?

Is the government’s transparency agenda hitting the rocks? Are the big opportunities for citizen engagement, creating accountability and economic growth being missed?

For the last 18 months, ORG has been watching the coalition’s Open Data policy. It has morphed from being an extremely ambitious project, with huge potential to revitalize democracy and drive innovation, to something rather confused. It has failed to address the big questions around data that is vital as infrastructure, like maps and post codes, but is currently sold rather than freely released.

Worse, the Open Data agenda has been used to promote the release of access to psuedonymised data, like health or benefits records, on commercial terms. This carries considerable risks and has nothing to do with (freely released) Open Data.

Today, we are presenting evidence to the Public Accounts Committee about the state of government Open Data policy. They are examining the National Audit Office’s report, which is critical of the government’s Open Data Strategy.

We will be highlighting two major problems. Firstly, the lack of a way of assessing the impact of releasing public data, especially data currently sold. This has led to essentially the status quo being kept in relation to the Public Data Group (Ordnance Survey, Met Office, HM Land Registry and Companies House).run by BIS.

These companies want to keep selling data, because it works for them. But is it the way to get the best value for the economy? The fact is that the government does not seem to know and has not published any methodology for assessing this problem.

The second question we will be talking about is privacy. A debate about commercial use of personal datasets, through ‘anonymisation’ techniques, has been thrown into the Open Data debate. It has nothing to do with Open Data, and raises serious questions. We want this placed in the open, and debated separately. We also want to know why the O’Hara report into privacy that the Cabinet Office commissioned has been demoted to a ‘consultation submission, needing no official response.

Read our full submission

[Read more]

May 21, 2012 | Jim Killock

Board elections and Supporter Council

Board elections: ballots in the post

Ballot papers and booklets with the candidates' statements are now in the post and you should receive yours shortly. Please make sure you vote and return the papers so that they reach us before 12 June - post them by Thursday 7 June to be safe. The ballot count will take place on 16 June at ORG's offices. If you wish to observe, please let me know.  

All the candidate statements are online here.

If you want to ask the candidates questions, please send them to Please send your questions by midday Wednesday this week (23 May).

We will send you all the answers via this list - you won't get more than three emails.

Nominations for our new Supporter Council

We are also asking for nominations for our new Supporter Council, to help build ORG's community and local networks. Would you like to help lead our local groups and national projects? Or do you know someone who should?

We are asking for nominations by 11 June 2012. We will announce the first appointees to the Council after the 18 June, and get the Committee running straight after.

[Read more]

May 18, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

New reports of overblocking on mobile networks

Since we launched our new research about Mobile Internet censorship on Monday, there's been a rise in the number of reports to our website of what people consider to be incorrectly blocked sites. The 19 new reports include technology news sites such as GigaOM, a style and fashion magazine, the website of political party the BNP, and a local community discussion forum.

Since we launched our new research about Mobile Internet censorship on Monday, there's been a rise in the number of reports to our website of what people consider to be incorrectly blocked sites. The 19 new reports include technology news sites such as GigaOM, a style and fashion magazine, the website of political party the BNP, and a local community discussion forum. To clarify, we are talking about blocking that happens under mobile operators' child protection filters. These are in many cases 'on' by default. And they can, usually through mistaken categorisations, block too much content. 

These new reports help underscore two important points. First, that the 60-odd reports we noted in our report do not represent the sum total of inaccurately blocked sites - they are the sites that we had reported to us through January to March this year by the group of volunteers who were helping us monitor mobile filtering. The publicity this week has led to an upturn in reports of overblocking.

Second, the sites blocked fall into a far broader set of categories than adult sexual content. As with all the reports we receive, we aren't suggesting all are categorically suitable for all young people. But for many of the sites, mobile networks are making decisions that should best be made by parents - in discussion with their children - about the scope of content that young people may have blocked on their phones. This is especially problematic when the debate is so focused on the blocking of adult sexual content. Much broader judgements are being made about what people under 18 should be accessing.

So here is a quick update on what's been reported this week. 

New reports of blocked sites

We had a couple of, for want of a better word, lifestyle sites reported, too:

  • - A magazine of style, fashion and celebrity. Content appears at first glance no racier than many daily newspaper websites. Blocked on Orange
  • The wine societies aim is 'to introduce members to the best of the world’s vineyards at a fair price.' Blocked on Vodafone / Orange

The blog of author Dr Brooke Magnanti, better known as Belle du Jour.

We were also told about a group of forums that do not offer adult content. Orange do state that they block forums under Safeguard (see their list of categories

We also received as number of reports about sites that are likely blocked as they are considered 'hate sites'. For example, O2 classifies the BNP website as a hate site. You can argue that hate sites should be blocked, or that the BNP should be blocked. And some parents may wish to block hate sites. But the blocking of 'hate sites' does not tend to be part of the debate - which usually focuses on adult sexual content. Should ISPs be blocking, for example, a political party's website at all? At the very least, ISPs need to be absolutely clear that under child protection filters, political content may be blocked under their filters.

Whatever you think about the BNP's politics, political speech is at the core of the activities protected by freedom of expression rights. So long as they remain within the law, political parties' websites should never be blocked by ISPs. Schools and families are of course able to install their own blocking software if they want to make this choice.

In addition to the BNP site, we've had four reports of sites that may broadly be described as being, in some sense, 'anti-feminist' - and apologies to the sites if that description is inaccurate.

We also received seven reports this week of technology related news or discussion sites. Coadec have this week been attempting to get their site unblocked from Orange's filters - and I wold strongly recommend reading their blog about the experience they've had trying. It emphasises the point that mobile networks do not offer an easy enough way for sites to get themselves unblocked.

We haven't comprehensively tested these reports across all networks yet, so the may be blocked on more networks than those noted here. Please do let us know in the comments if you find these sites to be blocked or not blocks on your child protection filter enabled account.

We'll be posting the list of reports sent to between April and May next week. Please do continue to send reports of inappropriate blocks you come across to us through

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May 14, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

Mobile Internet censorship: what's happening and what to do

A new report from Open Rights Group and LSE Media Policy Project reveals widespread over-blocking on mobile networks, helping to demonstrate why we shouldn't accept default-on adult Internet filtering

Today we're launching a new report called "Mobile internet censorship: what's happening and what we can do about it", which is a joint publication with LSE Media Policy Project. You can download a pdf of the report and LSE Media Policy Project will be posting responses on their blog, which we'll also be cross-posting these on ORGZine today.

The report is about how mobile operators' child protection filters work. It shows how systems designed to help parents manage their childrens' access to the Internet can actually affect many more users than intended and block many more sites than they should. It reveals widespread overblocking, problems with transparency and difficulties correcting mistakes. 

We argue that mobile operators need to offer an 'active choice', be far more transparent and open, and provide easier ways to address errors.

More broadly, the report helps emphasise that the 'neo Mary Whitehouse' campaign for default blocks, led by Claire Perry MP is calling for the wrong solution in looking to 'default on' filtering. The lessons from mobile filtering suggest fixed-line Internet filtering should concentrate on users and devices rather than networks, be properly described as 'parental controls' (because the content blocked is far broader than adult sexual material) and above all involve an 'active choice', not be set by default.

Without that guarded approach, seemingly simple, laudable goals such as protecting children through technical intervention may have significant harmful and unintended consequences for everybody’s access to information.

The report is based on reports of inappropriate blocks provided to our website through January to March. These were cases where sites or services were blocked that should not have been. Working with a small group of volunteers, we received over 60 reports, including personal and political blogs, sites for restaurants, and community sites. Here are some examples:

  • Biased-BBC ( is a site that challenges the BBC’s impartiality. We established it was blocked on O2 and T-Mobile on 5th March.
  • St Margarets Community Website (, is a community information site ‘created by a group of local residents of St Margarets, Middlesex.’ Their ‘mission is simple - help foster a stronger community identity.’ We established it was blocked on Orange and T-Mobile on 8th March.
  • The Vault Bar ( in London. We established that the home page of this bar was blocked on Vodafone, Orange, and T-Mobile on 6th February.
  • was reported blocked on 15th February 2012 on Orange. This is a blog that features items that can be placed on a shelf.
  • ‘Tor’ ( We established that the primary website of this privacy tool (meaning the HTTP version of the Tor Project website, rather than connections to the Tor network) was blocked on at least Vodafone, O2 and Three in January.
  • La Quadrature du Net ( The website of this French ‘digital rights’ advocacy group was reported blocked on Orange’s ‘Safeguard’ system on 2nd February. La Quadrature du Net has become one of the focal points for European civil society’s political engagement with an important international treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The block was removed shortly after we publicised the blocking.

Last week - too late to be included in this report - we wrote about how the site of peace advocates Conciliation Resources was blocked on Orange, O2 and Vodafone. O2's URL checker classified the site as pornography (the mistake now seems to have been corrected).

Our mystery shopper exercise also helped show that the mobile operators find it difficult to respond to reports of mistakes, especially when a site is stuck behind a filter for no good reason.

There are serious consequences to badly implemented, default child protection blocking systems. They include restrictions on markets, censorship, a failure to address young people's diverse needs and a false sense of security for parents. 

Some simple changes to how mobile operators run their filtering services would help address many of the problems with mobile filtering - including better ways to choose to activate filtering on an account, more transparency about how the filtering works and simpler more effective ways of addressing mistakes. 

In the longer term there should be an effort to move away from filtering at the ‘ISP level’ towards device-based filtering.

You can read the full report for more. We hope it helps contribute to a sensible child protection strategy, rather than one based on the overly-simplistic, albeit emotionally appealing, proposition that children need to be protected from seeing things parents don't want them to see. We need tools for parents that help them manage, through responsible and engaged parenting, their childrens' access to the Internet - that does not have to mean unresponsive and broad network-level filtering. 

Update: responses to the report

As part of encouraging debate around the report we've been inviting responses from a variety of organisations. The first of these are now live.


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