Explicit Web Contents Soon Opt-In In The UK

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 11, 2011
Updated • Mar 31, 2012

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).


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  1. Berttie said on October 11, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Thomas Jefferson who knew a few things about the dangers of government wrote: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”

    How true this is has been demonstrated by the Australian government which tried to foist an Internet filter onto us under the promise it was only to block illegal kiddie porn and bestiality sites, etc. Had it been just for that no one would have objected.

    But that was only the thin edge of the wedge. The bible thumpers that were apparently really calling the shots on this had much more in mind. Wikileaks obtained the seret list of sites to be blocked and about half were online gambling sites, YouTube links, regular porn sites, Wikipedia entries, some Wikileaks pages, euthanasia sites, and websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites.

    The resulting outcry has stalled it for now, but it is clear that some in the government still want it. The main opposition parties have claimed to be against it, but I’m not totally convinced. They have even closer links to some of the groups that have been pushing for the national filter.

  2. Dave said on October 11, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Now………do I write a letter to my ISP demanding that they do not censor ANY aspect of my browsing habits? That should prove broad enough I would think. I can see this being fraught with problems. It seems only a matter of time before the net is controlled out of existence.

  3. Jack said on October 11, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Yoav – it’s not just happening in England – it’s happening in the United Kingsom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    I’m English but I live in Scotland. I vote for Scottish independence at every opportunity, and will be very happy to see an independent Scotland free of the pigs’ trough the Westminster Parliament has become. They don’t even seem to have a sense of shame any more.

  4. Yoav said on October 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Really, if this is happening in England, what can we expect from the rest of the world?

    I guess every generation has to fight all over again for its human and civil rights, because there are so many politicians and businesses that are only too glad to relieve the population of their rights in the name of…just about anything.

  5. Khai said on October 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    no, it’s opt IN for controls. check more than the guardian….

  6. Chuckle said on October 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I think this is awesome news. I have been finding it really hard to get my younger friends interested in things like censorship not to mention actually bothering to learn what the internet is and how to use it. The cameroon and his bible thumpers just fixed that for me – this is now, literally, a sexy topic!

  7. Midnight said on October 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Sounds like the Brits are being denied what the rest of the world has “enjoyed” since the beginning of time!

    That’s one freedom taken away! What’s next?

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