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UK’s new ‘porn filter’ to block much more than porn

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

July 26, 2013

Allegedly brought in to protect children from the dangers of online pornography, Prime Minister David Cameron’s newly proposed ‘default-on’ porn filter is set to block a great deal more than porn.

The internet freedom and privacy rights organization Open Rights Group (ORG) have been talking to various ISPs about how the ‘pornwall’ will be implemented, and we are unsurprised to find that a wide range of internet content is likely to be filtered. The list suggested by the ORG includes the following:

  • Pornography
  • Violent material
  • Extremist and terrorist related content
  • Anorexia and eating disorders
  • Suicide related websites
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Web forums
  • Esoteric material (we are unsure what this actually means)
  • Web blocking circumvention tools (such as VPN)

TorrentFreak has observed that, based on TalkTalk’s Home Safe filtering system (which has been much praised by Cameron) to this list may also added:

  • Dating
  • Drugs and tobacco
  • File sharing sites
  • Gambling
  • Games
  • Social Networking
  • Weapons

As noted, all filters will be turned on by default, and will require the person who pays connection bill to go through the list and turn them on, if that is what they want. Many less tech-savvy people may struggle with this, while others may feel guilty in doing so.

That many of the blocked websites may provide vital information to people (including children) who are in trouble does not seem to entered the government’s considerations, and it is clear this move is a fairly transparent attempt to introduce a system of internet censorship into what is nominally a ‘free’ democratic country.

Because the filters can be turned off, many may view them as an innocuous way to protect the young, but widening of the scheme’s remit is an alarming move, and smacks very much of ‘thin edge of the wedge’. The ORC says it all in the title of their post on the subject… we are ‘sleepwalking into censorship’.

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