In the latest Orwellian move to restrict the rights of their citizens, the UK government has come to an agreement with the four largest Internet Service Providers to censor explicit contents on the ISP level. The standard - it is for the best of the children - argument has been made to justify the censorship of web contents.
The four ISPs that have agreed to block explicit web contents - read porn at the time of writing - are Sky, British Telecom, Talk Talk and Virgin according to The Guardian newspaper. Subscribers to those ISPs need to opt-in to be able to view explicit contents on the Internet.
It is expected that the prime minister David Cameron will announce further moves like restricting "aggressive advertising campaigns and certain types of images on billboards". Those obviously will come without opt-in options.
The government furthermore plans to unleash a website called Parentport to the public which citizens can use to "complain about television programmes, advertisements, products or services which they believe are inappropriate for children".
It is interesting to note that the government believes that they can filter out all explicit contents on the Internet this way. Web filters, even on the ISP level, have weaknesses. This includes not only that they will never have a 100% detection rate, but also that the likelihood of false positives is high.
It is also not clear at the time of writing if individual web pages will get blocked or the entire domain.
That's beneficial for the Orwellian phantasies of the British government in two ways. They first have established censorship on the ISP level, supported by parts of the population. The term explicit contents, adult contents or even porn is vague at best which leaves lots of room for interpretations. Will this only include images and videos or other forms like texts as well.
Vagueness actually is a common denominator in public state-driven censorship. From a concerned citizen perspective it all boils down to the question of power. Who has the power to decide what to censor and what not to, and what quality objective guidelines are available to base that decision on?
Others might say that violence, drugs, computer games, weapons, Tom and Jerry, The Simpsons or Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet should also fall under that censorship.
It is also interesting to note that part of the users who would opt-in won't because of fear of landing on "the country's perverts list".
It is not clear yet how users can opt-in. Do they have to phone their ISP asking for permission to watch porn on the Internet? The opt-in cannot be anonymous, and it would not make sense to display options to opt-in right on the blocked web page.
Update: BBC now contradicts earlier reports stating that parents can opt-in to filter specific types of websites during sign-up (presumably like Open DNS offers packages to block certain types of sites).Advertisement
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.