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OPLIN 4cast #373: National Internet filtering

Posted in 4cast

UK flagIn last week’s 4cast, there was mention of network filters implemented by Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK. There’s actually quite a bit happening with filtering in the UK, and it has been interesting to watch as the government there tries to get ISPs to implement nationwide filtering systems that will block bad stuff and still allow people to access good stuff on the Internet. The results so far have been mixed. And, of course, who’s to say what is “bad stuff” and “good stuff.”

  • How UK web filtering could affect web hosts (The WHIR/David Hamilton)  “The filtering, which households can opt-out of, will be done at the ISP-level, and be rolled out voluntarily by ISPs without the need for new government legislation or regulations. Initially, it will be up to new Internet subscribers in the UK to opt-out of this filtering, but eventually all UK Internet subscribers will have to let their ISP know they want access to filtered material.”
  • Online porn filters also block sexual health advice (The Telegraph/Matthew Sparkes)  “Among websites blocked by TalkTalk was, a sexual advice website written by a qualified youth worker, and the Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre website. The websites for Sexual Abuse Scotland and the Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline were also blocked. The [BBC] investigation also found that the filter failed to block 7 per cent of 68 pornographic websites tested.”
  • Ministers bid to block extremist videos posted on foreign websites (BBC News/Chris Mason)  “If the CTIRU [Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit] and prosecutors deem material to be illegal it can be blocked from parts of the public sector, including schools and hospitals. But this does not extend to domestic users – and filters can be turned off. The BBC has also been told it has proved difficult for the government to act against sites hosted abroad, both in the Middle East and in the US, where freedom of speech is protected by the constitution.”
  • UK’s new mandatory porn filter already defeated by a single Chrome extension (TechDirt/Tim Cushing)  “According to the creator, Go Away Cameron is a private, smart proxy service that engages when blocking is detected. He also claims nothing about the end user is collected or saved, including the IP address. So, that’s how easy it is to circumvent the UK’s porn firewall. Not that anyone expected it to be a challenge. Most probably figured using a proxy is all it would take. The astounding thing is that politicians obviously believe this lousy bit of state-ordained soft censorship will actually turn the UK into a less, I don’t know, sinful nation.”

PM fact:
Last July, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the government initiative to have ISPs filter the Internet by default – hence the name “Go Away Cameron” for the Chrome extension mentioned above.