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Only three days left to protest UK porn filter

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The UK’s Department of Education is currently holding a public consultation on parental internet controls, the results of which will influence the coalition government’s decision to implement an mandatory ISP-level content filter, designed to block pornography and other adult content. The consultation ends on Thursday, so there’s only three days left for you to make your voice heard.

The consultation follows Conservative MP Clare Perry’s report back in April, which advises that the government should control what UK internet users can and cannot see online. The report recommends a 12 months timeframe to roll-out an network-level filtering system, which is mandatory for all internet connections, and can only be opted out of by contacting the ISP directly.

“A network-level ‘Opt-In’ system, maintained by ISPs, that delivered a clean internet feed to customers as standard but allowed them to choose to receive adult content, would preserve consumer choice but provide an additional content barrier that protected children from accessing age inappropriate material,” the report concluded.

Opposition and support

Perry’s report failed to define what will actually constitutes pornography and also neglected to specify who would be in control of deciding what is deemed offensive and inoffensive. It also fails to address any of the technical issues around internet filtering and doesn’t provide any assurances over privacy concerns raised by UK activist groups such as BigBrotherWatch.

ISPs are naturally against Perry’s recommendation. The Internet Service Providers’ Association said such content filters are: “easy to circumvent, reduce the degree of active interest and parental mediation and has clear implications for freedom of speech.” The Conservative cabinet minster Francis Maude also expressed concerns over government intervention in the web. Even the prudish MumsNet was convinced to back away from supporting Perry’s plans.

Nevertheless, support for the content filter is well-organised. The biggest pressure group calling for Perry’s recommendations to be implemented is Safety Net, an organisation run by the religious group ‘Christian Media‘. Safety Net has amassed hundreds of thousands of signators to its campaign and urging its members to join the public consultation in order to “protect children’s innocence online.”

Ineffective protection

But in order to protect children, the filter has to work effectively. As many have pointed out, from The Open Rights Group to MumsNet, such systems rarely work. Anyone who wants to watch porn can easily find ways to circumvent the block. This raises the possibility that the whole scheme will ultimately prove counter-productive, as it lulls parents into a false sense of security and stops them from implementing more effective ways to prevent their kids watching porn.

“Default filternets are awful. They block a wide range of innocent material; and nobody should be advocating broader and simpler censorship,” says Open Right’s Jim Killock. “All the independent evidence has pointed to giving parents simple tools and choices. There is no need to create network level censorship in the name of a porn opt-in.”

In fact, back in June, magazine PC Pro illustrated a simple flaw in ISP TalkTalk’s filtering system. All the magazine had to do was use Google Images to access pornographic content. “Although the sites hosting the images were blocked, we were still able to click on the thumbnail images in search results to see enlarged photos,” writes PC Pro. “Which ironically appear over the warning that the page has been blocked.” PC Pro also points out that TalkTalk’s filter is incredibly inconsistent, blocking sites like Flickr, but allowing access to sexual content on sites like Reddit.

Given a degree of cross-party support for Perry’s filter recommendations, and given the organised support from Christian groups such as Safety Net, there’s a real chance that UK online citizens could soon find themselves behind a giant content filter by default. Are you comfortable with the government deciding what you’re allowed to view online, even when they haven’t defined what type of content they want to block? Do you want to have to contact your ISP in order to opt-out of such filtering? Head over to the government’s consultation page and make your voice heard. You’ve got until Thursday!

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46 Responses to Only three days left to protest UK porn filter

  1. Jeremy Hunt says:

    Stop calling it a porn filter.

    • Theresa May says:

      Shut up, you’re history, Lansley.

      We’ll call it the the Children’s Safety Shield. If you want it disabled, contact your ISP. Then the police will audit your computers.

    • Jared Butler says:

      But that’s essentially what it is, isn’t it? Call it what you want, but it is an internet filter, which will attempt tp implement a block that will stop porn from being able to reach your computer. It’s essentially “soft” censorship backed by mainly religious groups.

    • rebecca says:

      Stop calling yourself Hunt.

  2. Andrew Lansley says:

    STFU Jeremy, They can call it whatever they like.

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  5. stephen pudney says:

    stop taking our freedoms

  6. Ben Cook says:

    It kind of *is* a porn filter. In fact, it seems to be a filter for the entire internet. I’d hazard a guess that about 50% of the things online are ‘unsafe’ for the innocent wee kiddies. So the most obvious solution is to embarrass fully grown adults by making them opt-in because technically incompetent parents can’t install their own web filters? Belting idea, Clare. Forward thinking, too. What a corker. On second thought, you can do whatever you like – The Onion Router will ensure I can access anything I please on the internet, regardless of your draconian controls.

  7. Maryjane says:

    All I can say is WTF…… how is this going to help anything?? Censorship is not the way the forward…

  8. Roman Waites says:

    This isn’t a porn filter.. Porn is just the excuse being used to stop you seeing anything that paints the government in a false light. Porn only makes up around 4% of websites with the most traffic on the internet, but you say porn and all the ignorant parents who dont want to teach their kids stuff get on the band wagon and start talking about things that they know nothing about. Enjoy the internet while it lasts you bunch of ignorant pink monkeys!

  9. john silverton says:

    When you trie to block porn from the internet, there will be only one big website on the net:
    It will only contain one sentence that is: BRING BACK THE PORN

  10. Wyvern says:

    What the fuck, it’s absolutely normal for a teen to fap ! If he don’t he’ll ejaculate in his sleep anyway, it’s a traumatic experience, for fuck sake nobody teached your government these things ?

  11. David Cameron says:

    I’ll support any proposal by a conservative group with ‘christian’ in the title. You have my sword

  12. David Cameron says:

    I’ll support any proposal by a conservative group with ‘christian’ in the title. You have my sword

  13. unidentified says:

    It is the most insidious form of censorship, to remove information from the many based on what a few people deem to be acceptable and not. To call this anything else is to fail to understand and mislabel what is happening.

  14. Max says:

    This is an excellent idea. Make it so.

  15. DaveTheDave says:

    As if it matters. Easy work around by routing all local traffic through a VPN, adds an extra few quid to the monthly bill, so be it.

  16. Davie S says:

    I tell you this, no porn filter will every stop the average 13 year old boy from accessing porn.. why?, because all it takes is one boy to access porn, who tells his friend, who tell their friends, who tell their friends… before you know it you’ll have an arms race between the ISP’s and a load of horny boys… that’s a fight they’ll never win

  17. Kale says:

    Ban sex but not beheadings, torture or murder!!! Since when should censorship replace adult supervision? I wish these parents would start taking responsibility for their children instead of leaving them to surf away alone!

  18. Mr. Machandy says:

    > make you’re voice heard

    Make you are voice heard.

    ಠ_ಠ

  19. James says:

    Why protest? It’s not like the state cares what ordinary people think. Democracy is a sham.

  20. rebecca says:

    Yeah I think we should try an Opt-Out system for Organ Donation first.

    It doesn’t even make sense to filter the internet for everyone in the UK when we’re trying to protect Children which is only a small % of UK population and children under 5 basically can’t use it and teenagers will get round it anyway.

    Not to mention look how well China, Syria, Egypt etc got on at censoring their internet you know just trying to “protect” the public by taking away their freedoms.

    And Jeremy, you believe in homeopathy, you probably believe that censoring the internet will work but the rest of us who don’t believe in magic water, don’t agree with you.

  21. Paul says:

    First its porn. But since they only loosely define porn, if at all, what happens next?

    Well, since the system would already be in place, its easy to start blocking the odd media super-injunction. Maybe a few sites which encourage civil unrest.

    Before you know it, we have a fully censored internet, introduced by the back door.
    People need to be much more angry about this.

    I think Western governments are looking at places like China, and see how easy it is to control and censor without huge repercussions, and it all helps keep them in power, and prevents any threat to the rivers of dollars flowing in.

    Be very angry about this, people.
    You owe it to future generations of internet users.

  22. Martin Alexander says:

    For those of us new to this kind of protesting would you mind giving us some guidelines on the manner in which we respond on the government’s consultation page? I may not have read correctly but they don’t seem particularly interested in having lay people tell them they’re idiots (which is practically all I was going to do).

    Do I simply write out in a word document why they’re wrong and attach it in the submission page?

  23. John Wilson says:

    Give arguments of why shouldn’t be called “Internet Filter” even if that’s what it does.

  24. Steve says:

    What are they going to decide you don’t need to see next?

  25. TQian says:

    Great, now I’ll have to have a VPN for when I’m in the UK as well as for when I’m in China! Thanks for making it easier to live in these two ever-more-similar countries, Tories!

  26. Lisa says:

    So who oversees the standards by which these censors shut down normal adult search behavior? How much art will be censored as porn, for having tits shown? Tits are ubiquitous in Renaissance art – how many classic artworks will now be blocked as porn, so that kids can’t know about the Birth of Venus, or countless other classic works? How many Roman and Greek sculptures will now be blocked?

    More important, why are we willing to give religious pearl-clutchers such control over the art and culture that our children experience? They are now censoring their own works, in addition to modern intellectual thoughts. How about we stop being politically correct, and just be straight up honest about not censoring art and intellectual thought?

  27. TurkeyBurgers says:

    Oh you silly British toothless wankers. Once you lined up and willingly turned in your firearms to Big Brother you went from citizens to subjects.

    Free people own guns.

    Slaves do not.

    • Ryan says:

      *Looks at America’s two party political race* Yeah, very free over there buddy. Not that it’s much better here with our three major ones…

      We’re still all locked in this bullshit democracy that only appeases the ‘majority’ and oppresses the minority. Funny that the way it works here, the minorities can far outnumber the majority…

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  29. Justin Kachel says:

    I thought it was pretty obvious that these things don’t work… I don’t know why governments still insist on trying to push things like this. But you know, we still live in a society based off of ignorance rather then scientific and mathematical proof. But you know, being stuck in a tier 2 society is where it’s at, screw innovation and freedom, we all need to read the bible and let it tell our bodies what to do.

  30. Fletcher says:

    Why should the entire nations internet be censored for the convenience of a few parents too lazy to install a block on their own computers? Next they’ll be telling us we cant wear “objectionable clothing”, or use “objectionable speech” in public.

  31. Michael says:

    “porn filter” ? Its more like a disguised censorship tool to block websites all in the name of “protecting children”. Are these parents gullible that they want their government on what their children want to watch Internet?

    How will this tool be really used? So for example, what about the fate of the image hosting websites like imageshack or imgur? They contain so many adult images as well as many personal user images. So they will block the whole website? What about websites like youtube or vimeo which also contain adult videos? They will block it too.

    And haven’t these parents and the politicians supporting for this type of blocking ever heard of the the consequences of banning something? It creates more demand for it and inadvertently turn them in to the very thing they try to avoid. Ever heard of the prohibition in US?

    I am not in support of children watching porn of course but this sort of thing is a parents responsibly, not the government.

    I am mostly sure this will block will be most probably removed but if it is implemented, it will only create more problems in the long term.

  32. Chris says:

    Anyone else notice the irony in this being championed by “Christian Media” to “protect the innocence of children” when the church has been quite active in taking childrens innocence away? Besides, shouldnt it be the parents monitoring their own kids? Don’t make the rest of us suffer for your lifestyle choice (as in, having kids!)

  33. Ike Ramsey says:

    My vote is 1) Protest Internet censorship. 2) If the protesting doesn’t work, we take back our freedom using a free VPN like proxpn.com or hotspotshield.com! 2-note) Better download a VPN before it’s too late because who knows… they might start blocking sites that offer this type of service too.

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  35. RELIGION IS OBSOLETE! says:

    RELIGION IS OBSOLETE!
    Don’t like porn or anything that’s against your religion. don’t go into those places!!!!
    Keep your shitty beliefs to yourself!

  36. Allen Vincent says:

    Wow… just wow. This whole idea is the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time. The people behind this are not only pushing this for purely religious reasons but are obviously technologically illiterate. Do you know how long it would take most people with a modicum of computer knowledge to circumvent this? About 2 minutes. Do you know who has the best and most intuitive computer knowledge? Kids and young people. Do the people supporting this even have the vaguest concept that the whole idea will be impossible to implement in the real world? Do they have even the vaguest concept of the internet or how it works?

    It is unworkable, unpoliceable and a huge waste of time and money. I’m proud that the UK government doesn’t generally bow to religious nutjobs. Don’t start now.

  37. JP says:

    If porn is blocked, firstly there will be a lot of moody, horny teens. That aint good. Then, where does the censorship stop? Porn? YT? Facebook? Where?

  38. Ryan says:

    What annoys me the most is that getting that word document set up to send via that online form is the most complicated thing I’ve ever seen. What’s wrong with just a message box like this that I can say “No government, fuck off, you ruin our lives more than enough as it is, I don’t want your stupid ass censorship in my internet.”

    Censorship is disgusting enough as it is, we can’t have swear words on television before 9pm and certain ‘more rude’ swear words before 10pm because a few people complain about their kids seeing it and repeating the words, even though most of the time they learn those words from school from other kids who hear it off their parents. The internet is the last place of freedom people have to escape to when the real world restricts them in every possible fashion, and now there are people wanting to censor and control that too? Fuck off.

    I wonder if I can get them to stop by threatening to kill myself if they go forward with it… Given the clear religious aspects of this, I’m sure they wouldn’t want their actions causing a suicide, otherwise they’d be just as much to blame for the suicide in the eyes of their god as I am.

  39. Lisa says:

    It only effects you if you want the filter. Stop whinging porn addicts and grow up. Want to be a loser behind a computer screen your whole life and you can. Don’t want to have brain changing, addictive drugs that distort sexuality freely available in your home, and you don’t have to. Now THAT IS freedom of choice. At the moment there is no choice. Like it or lump it, porn is everywhere. And no, I’m not religious, or a prude, or ugly, or fat, or whatever name you want to call me to try and control me or ‘put me in my place’.

  40. Jace says:

    Terrible idea hope it is revoked!

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