UK ISP Filtering causes collateral damages

By EDRi · January 15, 2014

UK ISPs have started to implement a default filter for adult content
online following the government’s endeavours which met success in 2013,
under the pretext of protecting children from pornographic content.

Unfortunately, UK ISPs have started to comply with the government’s
requests. The default filter implies that all Internet providers need to
opt-in in order to have access to adult content. As it has been argued
by specialists and Internet freedom advocates for some time now, such
measures are not only inefficient but also damaging as filters are
targeting a wide range of other than pornographic content as well.

The so-called “parental controls” do not actually protect children and
cause also the blocking of totally innocent sites. For instance, the
newly launched Broadband Shield filtering system of Sky, one of the
first ISPs to apply filters, blocks various legitimate file-sharing
sites such as uTorrent or, download portals for Linux
distributions or a distribution platform for indie filmmakers. The
13-years-old-and-over setting is ticked by default, covering not only
pornographic content but also including dating, anonymizers,
file-sharing and hacking-related websites.

But the system blocks more than that. For example it blocks, for any Sky
household filtered for children under 18,, which has
only articles and does not offer any links to torrent files.

“As an earlier statement from Sky points out, the parental filters can
be modified to let certain sites through, included.
However, when someone in a family asks the account holder for a site to
be unblocked (they are the only person who can do that), why would they
do so when Sky and Symantec make it very clear on their block screen
that we are a file-sharing site? Who will most people believe, a
teenager or a “respectable” corporation that cares so much about kids?
Furthermore, what are the chances that the account holder even remembers
how to turn filtering off once the initial ‘default on’ settings are
accepted?” says TorrentFreak.

“There can be little doubt that little by little, piece by piece, big
corporations and governments are taking chunks out of the free Internet.
Today they pretend that the control is in the hands of the people, but
along the way they are prepared to mislead and misdirect, even when
their errors are pointed out to them” is TorrentFreak’s opinion.

In the meantime, EDRi member Open Rights Group started a Censorship
Monitoring Project in order to help users to be able to ask for a
website to be tested for blocks. It aims to deploy a number of probes on
mobile as well as fixed-line ISPs which will be able to test whether a
particular URL is blocked on an ISP.

Internet Censors Came For TorrentFreak & Now I’m Really Mad (5.01.2014)

UK ‘Porn Filter’ Blocks Legitimate File-Sharing Services (And
TorrentFreak) (3.01.2014)

ORG Censorship Monitoring Project

EDRi-gram: Search Engines Pushed To Inefficient Internet Filtering