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July 25, 2013 | Jim Killock

Sleepwalking into censorship

After brief conversations with some of the Internet Service Providers that will be implementing the UK's "pornwall" we've established a little bit about what it will be doing. To be fair, the BBC were pretty close.


The essential detail is that they will assume you want filters enabled across a wide range of content, and unless you un-tick the option, network filters will be enabled. As we’ve said repeatedly, it’s not just about hardcore pornography.

You'll encounter something like this:

EDIT NOTE: the category examples are based on current mobile configurations and broad indications from ISPs

(1) Screen one

"Parental controls"
Do you want to install / enable parental controls
☑ yes
☐ no

[next]

(2) Screen two [if you have left the box ticked]

“Parental controls”

Do you want to block

☑ pornography
☑ violent material
☑ extremist and terrorist related content
☑ anorexia and eating disorder websites
☑ suicide related websites
☑ alcohol
☑ smoking
☑ web forums
☑ esoteric material
☑ web blocking circumvention tools

You can opt back in at any time

[continue]

The precise pre-ticked options may vary from service to service.

What's clear here is that David Cameron wants people to sleepwalk into censorship. We know that people stick with defaults: this is part of the idea behind 'nudge theory' and 'choice architecture' that is popular with Cameron.

The implication is that filtering is good, or at least harmless, for anyone, whether adult or child. Of course, this is not true; there's not just the question of false positives for web users, but the affect on a network economy of excluding a proportion of a legitimate website's audience.

There comes a point that it is simply better to place your sales through Amazon and ebay, and circulate your news and promotions exclusively through Facebook and Twitter, as you know none of these will ever be filtered.

Meanwhile ISPs face the unenviable customer relations threat of increased complaints as customers who hadn't paid much attention find websites unexpectedly blocked.

Just as bad, filters installed with no thought cannot be expected to set appropriately for children of different ages.

Of course, all of this could be easily avoided by simply having an 'active choice' as the ISPs originally suggested: with no preset defaults, forcing customers to specify whether they wanted filters, or not.

It's really very surprising that Cameron's campaign has spent six months insisting on a system designed to fail consumers, threatening ISPs with legislation if they didn't use the inaccurate, error prone method that Number 10 seem to believe in.

If it all seems to work badly, at what point is it ok for ISPs to start running their own businesses, and change the setup screens?

Update


We've launched a petition calling for David Cameron to drop his plans for default Internet filtering. Sign the petition here: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/cameron-stop-sleepwalking

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Comments (82)

  1. Antonio Negri:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 05:58 PM

    Can you provide anything to backup that list of tick boxes? Are you saying that the government guidelines will mean that all web forums, TOR and co., and "esoteric material" (lolwtf does that mean? I find maths pretty esoteric) will be blocked automatically?

  2. Chris Smith:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 06:16 PM

    Antonio, I think their source for the tick boxes is the ISPs they spoke, mentioned in the first line of the article. Regarding what is blocked, that is the problem. There is no oversight, this list will be created behind closed doors with no appeal mechanism. Anything potentially risqué could be added including TOR, web forums etc that promote bypassing these filters.

  3. Jim Killock:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 06:16 PM

    Hi Antonio,

    Based on conversations with ISPs, they will be pre-ticking some or all of the blocking categories they offer. The parental filters will cover whatever categories the ISP makes available. These categories are an example based on those used by mobile phone providers today, for instance. We can't say precisely what categories each ISP will provide – but they will be (as I say something like this above.

    The key is the first screen, with the pre-ticked "enable parental filters" box: you will be encouraged to walk through to enable filters across a range of content, not just porn.

  4. Aidan Mitchell:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 06:41 PM

    Is there any indication yet of how will they plan to separate filtered and unfiltered traffic? I mean, will it be as simple as individual address blocking for sites that include the terms porn or that have been specifically identified? Or are we more likely to see a keyword style system like that implemented on educational networks like JANET?

    It seems like either of those methods would be an admission that they are directly accessing our data in order to determine its destination or content. The only other option that seems possible would be two or more separate traffic streams which seems farcical since it would require a dramatic increase in infrastructure.

  5. Squall:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 07:26 PM

    Some of these "options" are ridiculous. "Extremist and terrorist related content" could easily extend to foreign news sources. "Web forums" is just quelling public discussion.
    "Esoteric Material" is particularly troubling. Such a broad and wide-reaching term that could cover absolutely any specialist material.

  6. anonymous:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 07:30 PM

    Doesn't this also imply that all ISPs will have to implement Deep Packet Inspection. The IWF exclusions can be managed through other means as, but for the 'complete' coverage needed for this you need to have a continuous transproxy or DPI. What if an ISP doesn't have that, and can't afford the capital to upgrade.

  7. Daniel:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 07:33 PM

    Most likely Deep Packet Inspection Aidan.

    not what a democratic country should be doing. they have a go at china for this tech. yet we do the same in the name of protecting children (which we all know is complete rubbish(

  8. System_One:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 09:12 PM

    I'd assume it wouldn't be DPI (as in hunting for words via DPI) as that would probably be illegal. So the only real ways are IP blocking on the network, protocol blocking, and DNS black holes. Though you'd have to block all the search engines as it's pretty easy to search for "delicious nudes" and click the image button on google after you've turned search safe off.

  9. Tom (AAV):
    Jul 25, 2013 at 09:16 PM

    Very interesting.

    I suspected suppression of dissent was the primary motivating force behind this ploy.

    Here's a satirical piece which might shed a little more light on how this kind of policy was devised.

    http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.com/2013/07/purely-hypothetical-conversation.html

  10. Rob:
    Jul 25, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    The main thing that jumps out at me is this: if I object to censorship and filtering, it means that I wish to be able to search the web which has not been applied with others' often cack-handed and badly designed filters. I may not mean that I wish to see, for example, esoteric material, but if I do, and there may be many reasons not involving my approval of or interest in esoterica, then I want to define it for myself, often by downloading it to my computer, perusing it, and determining whether it is nonsense, interesting nonsense, or whatever the case may be. My not wanting filters designed by others whose credentials I am unlikely to know, looks very different from my opting out of having a given filter. The requirement that I do so leads me to suspect that somebody will impute from my opting in to, for example, esoteric material (perhaps because I want to indulge my fondness for sneering at the Rudolf Steiner or David Ike types I have come across), as an interest in the same, and that my opting in will affect a notional security rating held on me and forever associated with me much in the same way as a credit rating. I do not wish to hand the government another facile way of rating their citizens in this fashion, and whether or not this policy is designed for this quality or not (I doubt it actually, it reads to me as emanating from the same kind of fruitcake Tory think tank as the bedroom tax), it's reason enough on its own to oppose it on grounds of negative liberty before any of the many other repercussions come into play. Crazy.

  11. David:
    Jul 26, 2013 at 08:31 AM

    I can't remember the "setting up a broadband connection" process including "clicking on things"...

    What is this referring to?

  12. Jim Killock:
    Jul 26, 2013 at 09:59 AM

    @David ISPs are saying this will be a compulsory step as part of their setup process, and that they will also be asking customers to take the same steps.

  13. Lee Maguire:
    Jul 26, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Just a note about "esoteric material": Esoteric practises were named as a blocking criteria for Orange's Safeguard system. (My assumption is that Orange, as a French company, is more used to restrictions being made for "Sects".)

    https://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/Orange_Safeguard

  14. bitter usa resident:
    Jul 26, 2013 at 05:53 PM

    "as you know none of these will ever be filtered" - wouldn't bet on that. You saw how US internet companies were right in bed with the US government already; they'll probably join in the UK censornet plan too (even if only for GeoIP results in the UK.) Americans really only care about *themselves* having free speech, AFAICT.

  15. Jed Bland:
    Jul 26, 2013 at 08:32 PM

    Off topic but "but the affect on a network economy"

    effect

    Grrr

  16. Kilravok:
    Jul 26, 2013 at 09:57 PM

    More important than telling us that it is coming is, tell us how to disable the filters on my computer before they block all information on how to.... And I don't care if I get labeled as terrorist and porn watcher and satanic or whatnot, just because I actually care about freedom and basic civic and human rights, and I will admit now and at any future time on the net and in public places, I strongly oppose any oppressive regime, especially if it tries to oppress my own country!!!!

  17. Spud Murphy:
    Jul 26, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    A classic 'thin end of the wedge'. I've managed perfectly well without filtering for the last 20 years; I've never clicked on any obscure link and found myself on a porn site or anything like it in all that time. This is nothing to do with "protecting the children" (it's ALWAYS about "protecting" something isn't it) and everything to do with turning the Net into a carbon copy of the msm with all the bland, meaningless content carefully vetted and prepared to ensure the sheep continue to sleep - and I for one ain't having it!

  18. Archiboldian:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 01:26 AM

    What a win for the VPN industry!

  19. Philip Walsh:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 09:40 AM

    With all the accusations about a paedophile ring at the heart of No.10 and the still unanswered questions over who appointed (Sir I don't believe his knighthood has been withdrawn) Jimmy Saville as head of Broad more and why someone with no professional qualifications for the post got it; one can't help but wonder if their isn't some photo's out there the government doesn't want on the net for all to see!

  20. Owain Baber:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    These filtering categories are pretty standard across most web filtering software and security appliances, in fact it's not much of a selection compared to most offerings available elsewhere including OpenDNS.

  21. NotListed:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    For those wondering how they'll do it, the BT Cleanfeed system works as follows:

    A list of URLs is maintained for "BadStuff(tm)"
    From this list of URLs, a list of IP addresses associated with the URLs is generated
    This list of IP addresses is used to populate a routing table on BTs routers which means that any request for the BadStuff gets routed differently to other traffic
    Because multiple URLs will exist on each IP address, traffic routed off to the BadStuff route gets directed to a large bank of web caches.
    These web caches have URL filtering enabled, and for a known bad URL they will return a blank page, but for other URLs on the same IP address they will simply proxy the request so you get your own content.

    Very simply, doesn't require DPI of the entire network, fairly easy to maintain.

    The way to extend this to opt-in/out is simply to have 2 sets of routing tables at the core for customers, with customers being allocated to either a "Filtered" or an "unfiltered" routing table.

    Not difficult at all.

  22. Shane:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    I like the article, but can you please stop writing "OK" in lowercase. It hurts my eyes.

  23. Gordon Rycroft:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    Where's the tickbox for "adverts"?

  24. Gio:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    re NotListed: Jul 27, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    That doesn't, however, cover a scenario where an adult wishes to view porn, whilst at the same time blocking others from accessing it. The days where there was just one internet-capable device in a household are long gone...

    The only way I can think of is to use the unique MAC address of the network card - so anyone who wishes to log access will be able to do so at an individual device level...

  25. NotListed:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Gio: Quite agree, but the ISP never gets to see the MAC address of the individual devices - all it sees is the router external interface. Maybe when IPv6 becomes widespread per-device filtering will be possible.

  26. Jas:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 02:30 PM

    I have to say I don't really see the point of this article. My belief is that content control of the web is well overdue. This is nothing but a filtering of harmful material to people that are at risk. Opt out is deffinetly the correct default option. The people who want an opt in system seem to be campaigning for those who don't really care. If you want to reach for the top shelf of the Internet then feel free, leave the rest of us to browse free in the knowledge that the vulnerable are protected.

  27. strongangel:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 02:45 PM

    hmm Esoteric Material! Will that include such dangerous corruptions as The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's website and those like it, currently promoting the production of an entirely separate species of Human?

  28. Gareth Hart:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 02:52 PM

    I've also seen options to block social networks, file sharing (including P2P) and dating websites.

    All of which can be used for legitimate reasons, such as P2P downloading used to download Linux distributions.

    I'm actually amazed the Government hasn't gone full out to block particular types of material, particularly with circumvention of web blocks, file sharing, criticism of Government and extremist content (the terms "extremists" and "trolls" being used by several Labour and Tory MPs to describe those who are critical of Government policy, such as disability welfare reform or opposition to workfare).

  29. Mike R:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 05:18 PM

    Ok - the slogan should be as per as previous post "No Cameron censornet!"
    Great for a car sticker etc.

  30. Kevin:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 07:57 PM

    "Esoteric material" would include stuff like wicca and other pagan religions. Apparently the only religions allowed are the ones of which the ISPs and the Government approve, namely predominantly Christianity, but also Islam and Judaism. You'll probably get away with Buddhism, though there is esoteric Buddhism, and you might get away with Taoism, though that's fairly esoteric. The rest, you're probably sunk. In short, religious discrimination.

    Then there's the question of whether the police will take notice if you don't want filtering. After all, you've just said OK to extremist and terrorist related material. That makes you of interest to the police, even if you are completely innocent of terrorist impulses, and even if you completely disapprove of terrorism. After all, they'd argue, they're not to know that, and any normal person would want such stuff screened out. they'll have to keep an eye on you to see if you are in fact a real risk. In the meantime, you're a risk simply for not having checked it.

  31. richard:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    Stupid question but if I chose to have my content unfiltered will that be known only to me or will I be put on a list of non conforming people, assuming I'm not already on such a list

  32. Andre:
    Jul 27, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    I am totally going to write a personal letter to Prime Minister David Cameron DEMANDING that this bill be thrown out, because as written forums like 4HV, most of the technology, IT and other forums AND repair sites will end up getting blocked because people aren't smart enough to read the fine print on their ISP setup page.
    Nice going Herr Cameron.

  33. Andre:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    This is why I use 3G internet rather than broadband, a lot of the filters aren't enabled.
    Phones, sure. 3G dongles don't even have it enabled at least for now.

    Expect "cleanfeed workaround" any day soon, via TOR etc.

  34. darknet:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    Best start a petition soon to stop them.

    Twat-eron ia doing exactly what thatcher would of done if the modern net was around.

    Expect anonymous and TOR/Darknet to take off rapidly

  35. Ummer:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 02:01 AM

    I'm having trouble even trying to search the terms 'uk non-porn internet block' with google that is.

  36. Gerry Dorrian:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 06:20 AM

    Who decides what "extremism" is? One person's extremism is another's legitimate content! And what on earth is "esoteric" material? Would this tag see meditations by Moses Maimonides or John of God banned?

  37. LionLady:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 09:34 AM

    I note it says that if you enable the various filters you can "opt back in at any time". So what would happen if you enable the filters, and then dis-enable them regularly, say once a week?

  38. gretagarbo:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 09:35 AM

    This has no possible way of working and anyone with an ounce of sense would realise that. What it WILL do is line the pockets of one of Dave's mates temporarily and give him a brief boost with paranoid technophobes. Best thing people can do is point out what an cynical move it is and how gullible people who buy into it are. Interesting to me is the fact that this comes out after the whole spying on the internet thing explodes. People in power will hate the internet because it undermines them. The good thing for humanity is that it can't be controlled.

  39. behindtext:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 09:51 AM

    like the comment from Spud Murphy, i think this is the beachhead to a vast increase in the filtering. i have been a regular visitor to the UK for the past several years, but with the advent of this filtering, i will not be returning unless absolutely necessary since i want no part in supporting a state that places such restrictions on freedom of expression.

    the UK has thrown its towel in with other repressive states, e.g. Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, by implementing this kind of filtering and i am not interested in supporting the economy of or visiting any of these states.

  40. Meep:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    There is already a petition online with over 25k signatures which can be found here http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/51746

  41. Eds:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    We've used K9 at the office, those check-off items look somewhat familiar. Well, except for the "Esoteric" stuff, lol. Sounds like a catch-all since many folks won't know what it means, or may think it refers to Erotic material.

  42. Mark:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    Jas: that "top shelf of the Internet" assumption is exactly the point of this article. Your Daily Mail opinions are what is allowing our government to start deciding what material is OK for adults to view on the web, just like the Chinese, North Korean and other totalitarian governments do.

    darknet: "would have", not "would of", FFS.

  43. angryJay:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 02:33 PM

    really so he's just being a gay cunt now, cameron you fucking prick

  44. Bob:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 03:56 PM

    'Esoteric', now that's scary. It's so ambiguous that it could lend itself to say, 'Anti government propoganda', 'scathing comments about politicians or corporate officials'.

    So far we're guessing that that blocking is going to be on IP but what if they enhance to rely on Keywords? What if they start redacting phrases from websites or, playing devils advocate, they change the context entirely?

    It's a very scary thought to think that the government is beginning to condition the populace.

    It's too risky for the government to point the fingers at Parents and say, 'it's your responsibility to supervise what your children do', for fear of losing voters. Instead they will use this for their own nefarious means. The recent phone hacking scandal has scared the government, it wants to control so there's no other 'leaks'

  45. Kilravok:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 04:25 PM

    @Bob
    The "anti-government" pages would be in the category of "Terrorism and extremist material", esoteric would be everything that is specialized knowledge, not only theological and neo-religous or occult, but also medical, technological, high-level science, everything that is not common public knowledge...

    The phone hacking scandal is only an excuse, politicians will always seek, or even artificially create, reasons that justify an increase in their control and power. Does not matter what party you vote for, they are all corrupt and treacherous. They like to say that only people who have something to hide would oppose laws that allow police forces to snoop in their privacy, but it goes the other way round, there is a reason they don't want anything about them to leak. If everything they did was truly in the interest of the people and there was no underhanded government level crimes going on, they would not mind having a fully transparent system. Every attempt of them to censor or control information is irrefutable evidence that they are doing things they don't want anybody to know.

    Every government in every country has always been conditioning their "subjects". Cultural and social education, political correctness, etc...all forms of indoctrination and socio-political brainwashing. It starts with dictating what schools are allowed to teach. My History teacher in Germany got regularly told off by the ministry for culture and education because he was old enough to remember the post-war time and knew people who were in the war, and he had no qualms about teaching what really went instead of what the books said. The social brainwashing then continues by sponsoring and blocking parental advise books and foren. Indoctrination and brainwashing starts the moment you are born and only independent education can free you from it....independent education like what you can get with autodidact studies on the internet....and educated society is dangerous to any political regime.

    At best, they are guilty of dangerous incompetence, but more likely it is criminal or even treacherous intent.
    And I don't care if my words get me red listed...I would not hesitate to openly oppose any oppressive and corrupt regime trying to put a stranglehold on the freedom of this country. More important than a war on terror is a war on government-level corruption!

    Freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of information...if the government was truly just and democratic, they would not have any reason to try and impede on these basic rights.

  46. Veetee:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 05:56 PM

    Andre, it's not a law. It's an agreement under threat of legislation.

    Darknet: there is a petition here http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/51746

  47. Bob:
    Jul 28, 2013 at 11:36 PM

    @Kilravok

    Well said. I couldn't agree more.

  48. stripe:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    another nail in the coffin for British peoples freedom
    as most blocks are carried out by dns servers. based on your ip country of origin (pirate bay for example was handled like this) funny how not much opposition to that censorship
    you have two choices
    1, use a vpn/vps with an ip location that is not covered by the censorship.
    2. use a dns server that does not implement censorship (eg opennic)
    but as all Internet traffic is now monitored they will know you visited said sites
    and with the nsa being outed asking for copy's of primary ssl keys (encryption ciphers) HTTPS can no longer be considered secure.

    NB the above is posted for information purposes only,

    Stripe

  49. RBII:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 08:49 AM

    Stripe: They have a choice between DNS blocking, or as someone else mentioned earlier, routing tables. DPI seems unlikely as it is still expensive on a large scale. They use DNS blocking for a lot of things, but even they must know how shit it is, and how easily circumvented it is. So I think they'll probably go for the routing tables option.

    p.s. Piratebay's banishment didn't have much of a backlash because it was done quietly, there are plenty of alternative sites, and also as soon as it went dark, about 50 proxy sites for it popped up. I believe pirateproxy.net, has now been taken down under threat of legal, but come.in still functions

    RBII

  50. PJH:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 08:49 AM

    Oh dear - seems my URL didn't get through - pornwall at work? It was this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2373871 (again - might not be SFW.)

  51. Zoe:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    (iv) content that creates feelings of fear, intimidation, horror, or psychological terror,
    (v) Incitement or depiction of harm against any individual or group based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, religious or national identity.
    Violence: Containing openly violent content and/or that promote violence or defend it.

    Bang goes the Beeb and any other news service then...,

  52. Zoe:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    Those quotes from 'Orange safeguards' linked above..

  53. El:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Eating disorder websites?!? Suicide related websites?!? They want to block access to mental health information and stop people from getting badly needed support?! Is this an attempt to further stigmatse those with such afflictions?

  54. Josh K:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    The thing is that nobody will look at most of those categories and necessarily think "yeah I'd like to spend my time looking at extremist websites and methods for suicide", which will encourage people to accept the censorship. But this is already one step over the line, and few steps away from active and open monitoring of internet access.

  55. Ian:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Points of interest for me:

    * There is something implicit in all these checkbox options that seems to have been missed by the article. Those who opt out of the orwellian defaults will be effectively a list of 'persons of interest' to the Stasi in GCHQ/Westminster. I will always uncheck everything out of protest. I hope others do the same.
    * Notice how also the options are meant to make you feel guilty and immoral for unchecking them.
    * The public debate comes after the policy decision by the ruling class, demonstrating what a sham democracy we live in.
    * The ISPs have been totaly spineless about this, if not actively complicit. Why would they give a damn about gov't threats of policy making? it makes no difference to them as it goes across the board ensuring zero competition change. They could easily organize a devastating public push back if they wanted to.

    Those who care about this issue should be making their voices heard to 38 Degrees (Facebook or website) and other people-power organizations. I will be anyway.

  56. Norman Tebbit:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 06:12 PM

    I once asked Sussex Police (notoriously anti-protest) what their definition of 'extremism' was, after reading their budgeting leaflet, which earmarked so many tens of thousands of pounds for combating it. The response was that an 'extremist' is anyone who is prepared to break the law for political reasons. This means, for example, that if the police decide to ban a particular protest because they have a grudge against the campaign group involved (a frequent occurrence in Brighton), then turning up to that protest would make you an 'extremist'. This is not conjecture, it is the current situation regarding the law and the culture of the police.

    From these facts it logically follows that anyone who promoted or commented sympathetically on such a protest or campaign group could be classified as promoting extremism and blocked by these filters.

  57. S. Weasel:
    Jul 29, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    Oh, dear. The last time we tried this, in the Eighties, poor Scunthorpe stopped getting email.

  58. Bernie:
    Jul 30, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Strikes me that easy way to unpick this move to censorship, is to en masse deselect all options and give that back to government as an indication of our disquiet with the decision to impinge on our freedom of choice. The basis of a 'democratic' society is to live and choose freely.

  59. Peter Alfred:
    Jul 30, 2013 at 11:42 AM

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  60. Steve Gill:
    Jul 30, 2013 at 07:57 PM

    I'm currently at a hotel in Ireland which has a 'safety filters' installed on its defaults - no porn, no possible nudity, no politics (e.g. 38 degrees, cats protection league, oxfam, etc), no downloads (pirate bay, microsoft update, etc).

    All filtered by IP address

    it's a wonderful life

  61. Lynda:
    Jul 30, 2013 at 08:44 PM

    What I am seeing in this (You may opt out of any of this) is going to be a permanent block. People, be aware of what you are signing up for. This could very well be the end of your freedoms as you know them to be. Extremists...christianistas!

  62. Craig Robb:
    Jul 30, 2013 at 09:32 PM

    I don't actually object to the principles of the banning of hardcore pornography but I do object to the direction of travel that this bill leads to. It paves the way for police to be able to prosecute anybody without having to prove intent and that is very worrying - it would lead to a case of being presumed guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. I believe there are enough safeguards in place at the moment to effectively police the internet and the number of successful prosecutions on internet child porn have shown this to be the case. It does not need any more legislation that will result in innocent people having wither their freedom curbed or people being found guilty of crimes they did not commit.

  63. Tony:
    Jul 31, 2013 at 03:05 AM

    This is standard operation procedure. If you want to attack free speech, pretend it's about fighting porn and saving the children. That way you can vilify those who object.

    It's sad that so many people don't see the dangers of a system like this being implemented.

  64. PJH:
    Jul 31, 2013 at 08:38 AM

    @Craig R: "I don't actually object to the principles of the banning of hardcore pornography ...."

    I do. Most strenuously.

    If it's illegal, let the IWF/existing laws deal with it. If it's not, then leave it the fuck alone and stop imposing your morals on others.

  65. Alex Bowyer:
    Jul 31, 2013 at 04:22 PM

    This is really important information. Please can you do a press release or something so that the mainstream press pick it up!!

  66. Anthony:
    Jul 31, 2013 at 04:34 PM

    "You can opt back in at any time" no surpise this article neglects this piece of information

  67. anony mouse:
    Jul 31, 2013 at 06:08 PM

    when i first found out about the blocking...
    i thought that there was a dedicated team clearly identifying any image they found that was to do with CP (sorry dont want to type those words directly :)

    if they identified each image by it's unique hash, and simply block that image so that you dont risk bringing it up on your computer, then it's a good thing imho.

    (that would of course mean that they need to "expose" dedicated teams to viewing that type of material, in order to confirm the content, but what would be very good would be for them to release a text file (like a mini database) of bad hashes and allow users to run a program on the user side, to replace any images matching those hashes with a bad image icon instead of it being displayed.

    eg microsoft ie browser has a compatibility mode list of websites that need to be run with compatibility mode so that they display correctly... so why not make a bad hash table available for users.

    it would also be very useful for IT companies who provide server space or image hosting etc, to be able to simply run a scan against the hash table for any new images being uploaded, to stop those being hosted.

    (the bad thing is that those teams will need to be "potentially corrupted" by exposure in the first place, (maybe for the greater good?) but also you would need other teams to be able to verify that the content was correctly identified, and not falsley blocked... but dont think anyones willing to put themselves up for cp verification duties.

    as for all the other categories,
    it's wrong to put a mass block on all other topics, especially by default.
    you might know someone going on holiday to a particular country, and hear on the news about some bad people and hostages etc, so if you search for more info about it, including the name or group of those bad people, then you want to be able to find it and not be blocked in case your friend is in trouble or was hurt in that event etc.

    there are lots of web forums out there - support ones, hardware manufacturures, infomation ones, public help ones, tutorials, gaming ones, etc.

    the only bad thing about web forums is that some php ones or others allow html source code as part of comments, and that means that some spammers can insert/inject an offsite image so that it displays in your browser automatically as part of the comment. but if you had that bad hash table, you could block them - hopefully viagra and louis vuton images will be included in the bad hash table :)

    serously though, all of this is probably just coming into effect, to give them an excuse (or better excuse) to capture and investigate net usage if needed, for anyone who doesnt use the filters.... and by making the filters include a huge ridiculous amount of normal content, most people will choose to not block at the isp level by these filters (as long as they pay attention and think about what they are doing at the time of the options). and thats just sad.

    what is not clear is how those options will be presented to you by the isp...
    maybe they will one day suddenly redirect all your net access to a Filter Choice webpage.... until you click and select the options.....and maybe have a 10 second countdown to select, or it auto accepts the defaults and restarts your computer ROFL :)

  68. Sheogorath:
    Jul 31, 2013 at 08:10 PM

    OK, imagine the following scenario: Parent buys their twelve-year-old child an Android with a T-Mobile sim card and doesn't have Content Lock removed because, we'll, it is for a child. Child is frustrated that they can't access FFN, so googles other things, soon coming across Kristen's Archives, which Content Lock fails to block. Some months later, child discovers a proxy that allows them to route around Content Lock to access FFN, and they can also access erotic fiction as a result of bad blocking methods when not having the filter and allowing the parent to download one from Google Play would have kept the child safer.
    The moral of my story is: Don't take the job of parenting children away from the parents, or those children will quickly find themselves in danger.

  69. Jared in Britain:
    Aug 01, 2013 at 01:31 PM

    This article is so misleading. On first inspection it seems to suggest all forums will be blocked when this filter is applied. THEN, when the author eventually clarified what he was saying in the comments it turns out it's an opt in option for some ISPs. Gosh, ORG just lost my respect. This debate needs honest, clear discussion. Then other websites (like wired) have taken this article and abbreviated the content to make it even more misleading. All to get some petition signed. Frankly, I find it misleading.

  70. S. Weasel:
    Aug 01, 2013 at 02:04 PM

    You're missing the point, Jared. At the root, it doesn't really matter if you opt in or opt out. This legislation means a mechanism will be put in place -- whether automated or human -- to examine vast amounts of content and sort it into buckets. Sites will be cataloged. Ideas will be judged. Errors will be made. Tabs will be kept.

    Although I wouldn't be surprised to see the whole enterprise fail at the outset. Politicians routinely misunderstand how big and uncontrollable the 'net is, short of diverting the whole thing into something like the Great Firewall of China.

  71. Jim Killock:
    Aug 02, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    @Jared in Britain This is a complicated area to explain. That is why I outlined splash screens, where it is hopefully obvious that this is a "preselected" sign up mechanism. I've also tried to illustrate this with the terms "sleepwalking (people) into censorship" and "nudge censorship". I'm sorry if this wasn't obvious enough but we really didn't intend to mislead anyone.

    That said, people will enable this without thinking and wide categories of content will be blocked. We also need to think about the effect of 30% of adults living with filters when they have children: not a reason to abandon filters, but a reason to be very cautious about how they are implemented (and this whole household set up isn't fine grained or necessarily easy to opt devices out of its' reach).

  72. Andy Eyles:
    Aug 02, 2013 at 03:20 PM

    Does anyone know if 38 degrees have a petition about this yet and a link to it? Cheers ;-)

  73. knetghsoln:
    Aug 03, 2013 at 01:28 PM

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  74. Julian Kingman:
    Aug 06, 2013 at 07:37 PM

    Here's another petition, specifically calling into question the inclusion of 'esoteric material' and 'web forums'
    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/uk-prime-minister-david-cameron-stop-the-unnecessary-censor-of-esoteric-websites-and-web-forums

  75. PJH:
    Aug 07, 2013 at 09:34 AM

    "Here's another petition..."

    Hmm..

    "Recently the Prime Minister has announced the move to introduce legislation that will stop pornographic [material] [...]. This can only be a good thing, and something that is long overdue."

    The fact that they seem to think it's perfectly alright to censor pornography makes me doubt their motives.


    In fact their whole attitude seems to resemble that of the bloke on the gibbet complaining that his neighbours' nooses are not tight enough, instead of conspiring with his fellow prisoners in finding a way out of their situation.

  76. Kilravok:
    Aug 07, 2013 at 01:13 PM

    "Recently the Prime Minister has announced the move to introduce legislation that will stop pornographic [material] [...]. This can only be a good thing, and something that is long overdue."

    This might be a good thing in the opinion of some people, in the opinion of others, people who have just the same right to choose how lewd or moral their lives are, banning porn is not a good thing. The ban/filter on porn is not, as the Prime Minister would like us to believe, only on child porn and bestiality (not even just limited to hardcore or BDSM), but on all forms of porn, starting at mild erotica and going through the whole range of everything some other person, who is most definitely not you nor me, decides to be amoral or offensive.
    This entire filter scheme serves no other purpose than to take away the rights of mature and consenting adults to make their own decisions. Yes, there is an option to opt out of those filters, if you accept that your neighbors can find your name on a list of people watching porn and reading "esoteric" or "extremist" material, not for accessing such sites but just merely for deactivating those filters (aside from automatically being on a list of "people of interest" aka known and suspected terrorists, rapists, traitors, etc....
    And just to clarify, "extremist" will include news channels of other countries, independent (uncensored) news channels and election propaganda of any party that is not in coalition with the ruling party and anything else along those lines.
    "Esoteric" by definition is everything outside the general knowledge, not just spiritual or alternative religious. It includes even simple secrets of the crafts, industries and professions, advanced medical web pages and science pages will be blocked.
    The filtering of Web Forums (plural of forum actually is foren, not forums) will put the greatest restrictions of our basic freedoms since it directly affects our rights to express our opinions and the flow of information. This part of the filter might later be used as a fore runner to laws banning the private assembling of groups for whatever reason under the fake suspicion of meeting to conspire...
    Banning sites related to Suicide, Anorexia, Alcohol and Smoking includes all self-help web sides and foren where people can find information on how to get professional help and other kinds of aid to cope.
    Violent material will include the newest Die Hard movie and Downloadable Content of the newest Medal of Honour video game.
    Web Blocking Circumvention Tools includes the ISP webpage that contains the opt-out mechanics to this filter scheme.

    This entire filter system as mentioned so far will only be the beginning, once passed there will be nothing to stop the government from blocking access to music and movies for whatever arbitrary reason (too much violence, not enough violence, made in a country where the decision maker once had an unpleasant vacation twenty years ago, used computer imaging software of a company the decision maker owns no shares in, .....).

  77. Julian Kingman:
    Aug 07, 2013 at 05:31 PM

    In my opinion, pornography is very harmful to society. I agree, people should be free to make their own choices, but I think placing filters for adult content is logical. There are filters in society (such as age limits) for adult content, so I don't see a difference between that and online pornography. Harmless websites that can benefit people, however, are something else. Even by putting them together in the filter, it insinuates that 'esoteric information' and 'web forums' may be similarly harmful or looked down on as pornography.

    I believe the other petition is worded in that way because many (most?) people don't want to be seen as supporters of pornography, but still want to be able to speak out against broader free speech issues (really, human rights issues). In fact, I just talked to someone yesterday who wouldn't sign for that reason. Web forums and esoteric information: those are pretty broad, as Kilravok mentioned, and much helpful information may be denied to people, including information regarding anorexia and suicide prevention.

  78. PJH:
    Aug 08, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    "In my opinion, pornography is very harmful to society."

    In my opinion there are far too many prodnoses in society that seem to think they can dictate to others what sort of legal behaviour they may participate in.

    "I agree, people should be free to make their own choices, but [...]"

    No, you don't agree. The words after that 'but' show that. It's like when people say "I'm not a racist, but [racist comment]"

    "There are filters in society (such as age limits) for adult content, so I don't see a difference between that and online pornography."

    That's what the parents are for. Offer the filters so the parents may choose them if they want them, but don't make them a mandatory requirement which has to be opted out of.

    Out of the 26.4 million households in the UK, only 8.43 million[1] have children. Why should a policy ostensibly aimed at only a third of households make a requirement on the other two thirds? Shouldn't it be the other way round? i.e. Have a default policy of 'no change' but offer something to the minority 31% if they want the change?


    [1] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-demography/families-and-households/2012/stb-families-households.html
    26.4M households, 4.63M (38% of 12.2M) married with children, 1.8M cohabiting with children, 2.0M single parent.

  79. Julian Kingman:
    Aug 08, 2013 at 03:14 PM

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    In the US, free speech is given to sexual material only when that material that has literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. See the Miller Test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller_test). Pornography doesn't fit into that, so you can't just parade around with pornographic images in public, and claim it's free speech. I happen to agree with this interpretation of the first amendment. The way I see that applying to this issue is that underage persons, or people not wanting to view pornography, should not have to be exposed to it on the internet.

    That said, I believe this approach to blocking pornography is not the way to deal with pornography. For one, if someone wants to watch it, child or not, they will uncheck that box, so it's not effective. For another, much of pornography on the internet flies under the radar, not even detected by search engines, ISPs, or anything, and it's that stuff that I'd like to see stopped, because I don't want to see it! I think people should need to seek it out, and actually be old enough, to view it. I don't know how that would work, without taking away privacy or freedom, neither of which I would sacrifice for that outcome. I guess that's a point where my argument is weak.

    My feeling about this issue is that the approach of the UK government here is going to be ineffective at blocking most pornography access, and very effective at blocking the other categories. People will know very clearly that porn is blocked (and thus would do something about it), but would they suspect that an anorexia awareness site would be blocked? Would people miss it enough to find out that it's being blocked? Same goes for esoteric information, suicide-related sites, etc... Perhaps people would know about web forums, but would people find out about them when they don't show up in search results? There are sites in these categories that could seriously benefit people, and people may not even know they're gone, particularly with how the media mostly exclusively mentions the pornography issue. Pornography is a charged issue, and its benefits on society are questionable (it's a fact that the benefits of pornography are in question, there are dozens of books and research studies for and against it).

    In any case, I stand with anyone fighting this issue right now, whether we see eye to eye about pornography or not, because there is a serious free speech issue in this that has broader implications than how easy it is to access adult content.

  80. pjh:
    Aug 08, 2013 at 03:37 PM

    "For another, much of pornography on the internet flies under the radar, not even detected by search engines, ISPs, or anything, and it's that stuff that I'd like to see stopped, because I don't want to see it!"

    I can't remember the last time I saw pornography when I *wasn't* looking for it - how often is it happening to you? That's a serious question, because I've been given the impression over the years from various commentary on the 'net that it doesn't really happen to the vast majority of people (shock-sites excepted of course.)

    For example I have Safe-search set to on on Google at work, Adblock installed in my browsers etc.

  81. Oli Wright:
    Aug 09, 2013 at 01:02 PM

    "I think people should need to seek it out"

    As pjh said, I'm pretty sure they *do* need to actively seek it out. In almost two decades of internet use I've never accidentally come across porn (stop giggling at the back).

    "because I don't want to see it"

    I don't particularly like kittens. Unfortunately they're not illegal and there's a lot of kitten content on the internet. The solution is that I don't go looking for it and lo and behold I don't encounter them. Wait. That's a bad example...

    Anyhow, all of these claims about "pornography flying under the radar" and people being "exposed" to pornography are, from what I can tell, exaggerations and FUD. "Exposed" implies that these things are being thrust upon you - it's simply not the case unless you actively go seeking such material.

  82. Uncensored:
    Aug 11, 2013 at 07:41 PM

    As has been mentioned it is worrying that the terms esoteric and web forums are about to be put in the same list with terms like porn, terrorism, violence etc. I think this creates a false impression of esoteric and alternative spiritual websites as well as forums being harmful to society.

    Mainstream religious authorities have a tradition of censoring alternative spirituality and putting labels like ''cults'', ''sects'', ''brainwashing'' and other bigoted terms in an effort to invoke fear and suppress in people's minds anything that goes against the ''official'' beliefs. The vast majority of people like to conform with what is presented as ''good'' and quickly reject whatever might appear that is going against it.

    If the term esoteric manages to sneak into this list it may eventually become a bigoted term itself. Then esotericists will have to hide the fact that they are practicing meditation, relaxation,astral projection or other spiritual practices because they will be regarded as similar to how people currently see organized alternative spiritual groups. It will stop people from investigating further than what is presented to them as safe.
    This is like a modern form of the inquisition but very cleverly crafted.

    There is a very interesting petition against the term esoteric being censored. Anyone can find some information here: https://www.facebook.com/esotericmaterialcensorship





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