UK: The Home Office's Prevent Strategy includes Internet filtering

By EDRi · June 15, 2011

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Deutsch: [Filterung des Internets als Teil der britischen Präventionsstrategie |]

The UK Home Office has recently published its new version of the Prevent
Strategy aimed at countering terrorism, which includes worrying suggestions
about the necessity of Internet filtering.

Besides the fact that one can read in the Prevent Strategy that “Internet
filtering across the public estate is essential”, the document also suggests
the Home Office’s intention to consider “the potential for violent and
unlawful URL lists to be voluntarily incorporated into independent national
blocking lists, including the list operated by the Internet Watch

The document seems to ignore issues related to transparency, censorship or
accountability as well as the technical and financial consequences, in one
more attempt to solve a series of social problems by blocking access to
the Internet as the source of all evils.

The strategy takes no consideration of the fact that, as UN Special
Rapporteur Frank La Rue pointed out in his Report on the promotion and
protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, website
blocking would be a violation of rights to freedom of expression.

Furthermore, what is even more worrying is the tendency towards ignoring
legal means in establishing the unlawfulness of a site and blocking it. The
strategy says nothing about the legal process leading to blocking the access
to a site – quite the contrary, there seems to suggest the need for
collaboration between law enforcement authorities and the Internet industry
that would result in voluntary removal on Internet content.

“This work will require effective dialogue with the private sector and in
particular the internet industry. It will also require collaboration with
international partners: the great majority of the websites and chat rooms
which concern us in the context of radicalisation are hosted overseas,” says
the strategy report.

Moreover, according to the strategy report, TACT (the Terrorism Act) allows
the Government to charge website owners with encouraging terrorism and
publishing terrorist information if they do not remove unlawful content.

“TACT provides that those served with notices who fail to remove, without
reasonable excuse, the material that is unlawful and terrorism-related
within a specified period are treated as endorsing it.”

As many freedom advocates have several times emphasised, blocking access to
Internet sites is no real solution in preventing harms, while affecting, at
the same time, the users’ rights to freedom of expression and access to

Censorship of the Internet is also suggested by Reg Bailey, Chief Executive
of the UK Mothers Union, who has recently published a series of worrying
recommendations for privacy and confidentiality of communications.

In his “Letting Children be Children – Report of an Independent Review of
the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood”, Bailey suggests
making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from
the Internet by providing “a consistent level of protection across all
media” and that, “as a matter of urgency, the internet industry should
ensure that customers must make an active choice over what sort of content
they want to allow their children to access”.

The implication of Bailey’s report, which seems to entirely disregard the
censorship issues and the technical implications of the measures proposed,
is that the entire UK telecom industry should impose communications
surveillance, with Internet users forced to “opt out” of the censorship.

“Specifically, we would like to see industry agreeing … that when a new
device or service is purchased or contract entered into, customers would be
asked to make an active choice about whether filters should be switched off
or on: they would be given the opportunity to choose to activate the
solution immediately, whether it be network-level filtering by an ISP or
pre-installed software on a new laptop.”

Again, the most unrealistic measures are being considered because they are,
apparently, the simplest, in an attempt to eliminate the symptoms and not
the causes. Real measures such as the education and supervision of children
by their parents don’t really seem to be encouraged.

Home Office – Prevent Strategy

Home Office Prevent strategy claims: ‘Internet filtering is essential’

UK ‘blacklist’ of terrorist-supporting websites should be developed,
Government says (8.06.2011)

Media industry relaxed over Bailey report on sexualisation of children

Mothers Crawl Into Bed with Big Brother (7.06.2011)

UN – Human Rights Council – Report of the Special Rapporteur on thepromotion
and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La
Rue (16.05.2011)