October 29, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Bring on the fight for free expression

Yesterday the Prime Minister said that whilst "sputtering over his cornflakes" he decided to legislate to implement filters for adult content.


A chance at last for a full debate about free expression in this country? Bring it on!

This follows the European Parliament vote on net-neutrality regulations, which will ban the current voluntary agreement that the Government pressured Internet Service Providers into accepting, where they provide filters for the Internet and encourage customers to use them. Some of these filters are now switched on by default.

We’ve said it before, and we will keep saying it: filters are flawed. They block lots of "good" websites and let through many "bad" ones (and anyway, who gets to decide the difference?) They apply equally to your seven-year old and your 17 year-old despite their different needs. They affect many more people than just children, and most housholds switch them off, as they just get in the way.

However, we welcome Cameron's call for legislation so that we can challenge this idea in a proper, public debate.

Here’s just one story of how filters fail:

Rebecca and Craig Struthers run an award-winning craft watchmaking-business called Struthers London. Unknown to them, their site was being blocked by BT and Virgin. It wasn't until Rebecca was contacted by a customer on Twitter that she found out.

When Rebecca contacted Virgin, their customer-services operative refused to believe that there wasn't any porn or violent content on her site. She was told to "tell her customers to turn off the filters", even though they can't reach her site so couldn't read that message!

Rebecca said to us, "customers... will assume there is something wrong with our website, not the filters – they are more likely to trust BT or Virgin than a small business like ours."

We’ve been campaigning against online censorship for the past decade; challenging filtering since it was first introduced for mobiles, and we have heard hundreds of stories just like Rebecca and Craig's. That’s why we built Blocked - a tool that lets anyone check whether any site has been blocked - and created a satirical film about filters called the Department of Dirty.

The Blocked tool is free, but we need your support to keep the project going, and to challenge this legislation effectively. Can you help fight censorship by donating to our work today?

To fight censorship we have:

  • Forced the Government to accept over-blocking is a problem.

  • Encouraged several ISPs to present customers with a real choice about filters instead of as a demand.

  • Shown Parliament and the public the negative effects of filtering.

  • Helped lots of people get their sites unblocked.

There’s more work we can do though! With your support we can:

  • Challenge everything dreadful about this new law.

  • Force the Government to do something about the over-blocking problem.

  • Get ISPs to explain the downsides of filters to customers, not just their advantages, so they can make an informed choice.

  • Improve the Blocked tool to expose more censored sites.

  • Give people like Rebecca and Craig better tools to get problems fixed.

  • Encourage ISPs to install better processes for identifying and unblocking sites.

  • Campaign to stop filters being imposed on everyone by default.

If you want to help us do this and more, please donate today.


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