Internet Censorship, again.

I’ve touched on this before, and it seems worth a revisit: in a week where The Pirate Bay has been blocked by Virgin Media, and discussion of an opt-in for Internet porn has resurfaced, and people who don’t understand have made themselves look uncharacteristically foolish (via The Register), it seems worthwhile to explore a few things.

This is going to be a mix of my opinions, and technical facts. The tech I know about: I’m sysadmin for a medium-sized business: I know how web filters, DNS, and routing works. I know about tunnelling, VPNs, and proxies, but I rpomise not too go too deep into the tech.

To set out my opinions: the Internet should not be censored by ISPs or the goverment for two reasons: first of all, it’s wrong. It might be porn or copyrighted material today, but it could be your political beliefs or anything else deemed unnacceptable tomorrow.

Secondly, it doesn’t work. Technically, it doesn’t work, because techies will find a way round it by use of a VPN, SSH tunnel, or anonymous proxy. Once the techies do it, they’ll distribute knowledge or tools on how to.

It also doesn’t work on another level. How do you define porn, for example? As The Register points out, is this site porn, or is it OK because it’s educational and produced by Channel 4? If we’re talking about electronic distribution, is this little lot OK, because there’s no pictures?

What level of nudity and/or sexual activity is OK?

Children have always had access to porn: stashes of magazines, their dad’s videos, etc. People need to get a grip and do some parenting, instead of devolving things to their ISP or the government.

Moving away from porn, The Pirate Bay, it should be noted, didn’t actually host any copyrighted material, just links to filesharing of that material, which also makes it a dodgy target.

I guess what really annoys me is this: this is blaming a transport medium. I have one expectation of my ISP: I don’t want “value added content” or crappy customised search pages. I want them to route packets of data, correctly, and unfiltered, without having to opt-in. Let us not forget that in the 1950s ‘saucy postcards’ were banned (and their creator found guilty under the Obscene Publications Act…, so can we really trust a government to be our moral guardian, or perhaps we should start burning books now.

Will someone please think of the children?

6 Responses to “Internet Censorship, again.”

  1. Willenhall Lad Says:

    A good article and one I’m concerned about too. Unfortunately, we are in such as bad state in regard of politics in this country, that any “bad laws” get through because bar rioting, we have no means of opposing them. In the recent elections, we saw a turnout of 8% elect a councillor – what kind of democracy is this?

    The people who are interested in politics are the ones who have the “bright” ideas and respond the the hysterics and will do anything for a vote – and then lie. Unless we stand up and lobby, this like this will become the norm. How long them before the knock on the door for wearing a loud shirt in a built up area after 11.00 pm?

  2. species5618 Says:

    I wonder if this internet censorship attempt will be followed telling Ferrari they can’t sell cars in the UK as they are designed to exceed the speed limit, or stopping EVERY car on every motorway on the off chance they contain something illegal.
    Then there is “Primary school head vows to shop parents to social services if pupils use Facebook” (http://goo.gl/8E1It), regardless of what you think about Facebook, and personally I agree some of the content is not suitable for primary school children. Facebook term and conditions are based on US Law (and a few other countries) which protect under 13’s from having their data stored anywhere without parental consent, that law does not apply in the UK and is completely unenforceable. I don’t want to start a debate on that one, but it is another example of so called elders, not understanding the internet etc.
    Then there is the “appropriate use” of internet in schools, some ban youtube altogether (probably because they only have ONE web filter), some allow staff access and some allow open access. Yet most kids (almost 75% ) have 3G capable smart phones, so will watch youtube on the phone,
    But then I have said this before. But then many teenagers don’t get the internet either, as I have said before here (persistence of stupidity http://goo.gl/SkRm1)
    I suspect that trying to clamp down on any internet activity, but with increasing speeds, will see a resurgence of the BBS type world, using point to point VPNs instead of a network of modems.

  3. Willenhall Lad Says:

    It seems the Government is determined to proceed with this as revealed in The Queens Speech today.

  4. Willenhall Lad Says:

    However, Techweek says that some of the proposals relating to ISP Black Boxes are being dropped:

  5. Willenhall Lad Says:

    Isn’t this worrying as well:

  6. stymaster Says:

    On the flipside, isn’t the EU cookie law ridiculous?