British ISPs revolt against the self-appointed censors who ordered blocks on Wikipedia and The Internet Archive

Internet service providers in the U.K. have rejected a website blacklist maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation, a private charity notorious for its bungled attempts to censor pages at Wikipedia and the Internet Archive. From The Register:
ISPs have rejected a call by childrens' charities to implement the government's approved blocklist for images of child sexual abuse, because the list does not stop anyone who wants to accessing such material. On Monday a coalition including the NSPCC and Barnardo's sounded warnings that 700,000 homes could access websites hosting images of abuse because small ISPs do not filter their networks. The charities aimed to put pressure on the government to force them to implement the Internet Watch Foundation's blocklist, pointing out that in 2006 ministers said all providers should do so by the end of 2007.
In January, internet service providers blocked access to the Internet Archive at the IWF's say so, and last year, British users were blocked from Wikipedia's editing functions after it flagged a Scorpions' album cover as child porn. Letting a cabal of unaccountable, self-selected net nannies bully ISPs into blocking swathes of the internet serves no credible end: the IWF admits its system is easily circumvented by criminals. The whole thing is a game of moral panic, intricately patterned around the British belief that you can prevent bad people from thinking about a bad thing simply by removing the suggestion of it from public view. Small ISPs reject call to filter out child abuse sites [The Register]

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13 Responses to British ISPs revolt against the self-appointed censors who ordered blocks on Wikipedia and The Internet Archive

  1. Stevejobsisgod says:

    The original posting by Wired was obviously flawed in many ways. Of coarse it will take some time for the iPhone to saturate into the market. It’s an uphill battle in a market saturated by other companies whose phones are available out of vending machines. It is only a matter of time before they realize that any cell phone that was not made by apple will eventually be little more use than a coaster. Sometimes it angers me that peoples just cannot see how it dwarfs the other cell phones, but I can cope taking a breather as I look into a portrait of Steve Jobs and ask “what would Steve Jobs do.”

    I will admit there are downfalls to finally adopting into Apple. Other things just start to lose their flavors, their energy in comparison to all things Apple. Pornography once had flair but I found I could only get off masturbating in front of a mirror once I found my new found coolness. Sometimes even then I did not feel worthy to get off on myself, it was weeks of nothing but friction burns. Then I put on a black turtleneck, I blew my wad right there and then in my pants as soon as I looked in the mirror. God, what I would do to be Steve Jobs love child. BFF Apple!!

  2. Rob Beschizza says:

    Don’t you all have classic Jags to buff in your bowler hats when the shoppes close on Wednesday afternoon or something?


  3. Robabob says:

    I think you’ll find it’s not a “British belief” but a British Governments belief, hence the fact the IPS’s rejected it. That Said I’m not so sure this is restircted to just the British Government.

  4. blip says:

    “intricately patterned around the British belief”


  5. andygates says:

    Not too far from the truth, though – it’s an idea with a heritage that goes back to modesty-petticoats for chair legs. That’ll show those dirty cathedraphiliacs!

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is also very British to shrug off incisive comments about Britishness with single-world dismissals.

  7. jeffv says:

    I wonder if you have the wrong end of the stick regarding the IWF. I think it was originally set up and funded by ISPs who were worried that the government would intervene and force some sort of censorship upon the internet, with the ISPs as enforcers. The compromise was a loose system of self-regulation through the IWF.

    If you, dear reader, should find something you believe to be illegal on the net – for instance, child pornography – the IWF act as middlemen. You notify them, they notify the police and ISPs if it’s of concern, and if they think that the police may be able to do something. This avoids you having to contact the police and the conversation where you explain just how you stumbled upon the offending item.

    On the whole, IMO, this system seems to work quite well.

    “Letting a cabal of unaccountable, self-selected net nannies bully ISPs into blocking swathes of the internet serves no credible end: the IWF admits its system is easily circumvented by criminals”

    Cabal? I suppose so, if we understand cabal to mean a group of people working in the open.

    Self-selection. The IWF is based near Cambridge, UK, and from time to time there are adverts in Cambridge newspapers looking for people to work there. I imagine it’s a particularly unpleasant job, which is why you are subject to rigorous qualification.

    Net-nannies. I rather think that dealing with images of children being abused is somewhat more than being a nanny.

    Moral panic. I guess so. An organisation dedicated to removing pictures of children being abused is definitely panic at work.

    Is this worth doing despite the fact that it can be circumvented? I guess it depends on whether you have children or not, whether you are community-minded or not, whether you think that good people can make a difference to the world or not, and whether you have the money to spend on this or not.

    IMO, if the IWF have occasionally made mistakes, it’s understandable: in just the same way that people working with perfume or gas lose their ability to judge whether the smell of gas or perfume is present, I’m certain that dealing with the sorts of things that they do, dulls their ability to judge well what is publicly acceptable.

    I’m not employed by the IWF, nor do I have any indirect interest, apart from having children. I may have some, perhaps all, the facts wrong.

    I think on this one Boing-Boing, and Rob, you’ve gone off the rails, and you should post an apology to the folk at IWF whose valuable work you have tarnished.

  8. Blue says:

    “The British belief?”

    We’re all of one mind?

    We are the Brit. Lower your shields, and surrender your beliefs. We will add your philosophical and moral distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours. Resistance is futile.

    Lazy, lazy. (Two words, Anon! See: your lame stereotypes are foundationless!)

  9. Anonymous says:

    When this organization fails in it’s bullying, be prepared for legislation to take its place.

    Also, be prepared to be ridiculed and marginalized the way that people who oppose the war on drugs, gun control, the war on terror, or other panic induced social controls are ridiculed and marginalized.

    Remember, your point of view might be mainstream in the blogosphere, but it is a marginal and extremist view to mainstream society. The ‘wild west’ days of the internet are over, and most politicians of all political stripes agree that the internet needs far stricter controls and regulations. Hell, the only reason most of you aren’t jumping on the moral panic is because you are tech savvy and the internet is your thing, not because you are less prone to moral panic.

  10. Bugs says:

    @RevEng (7):
    Your example of Michealangelo’s David being filtered doesn’t go far enough. A few years ago I was trying to find an image of a caffeine molecule (to engrave on a cafetiere for my then-girlfriend, natch), using the Cardiff Central Library computers for my search.

    Their internet filters wouldn’t let me search for anything that involved the word “caffeine”, blocking it as “drugs or drug parafinalia”. Completely insane.

  11. RevEng says:

    Let’s not be too quick to say, “Oh, those British prudes.” They aren’t the only ones jumping on the censorship bandwagon.

    Ask anybody in a library in Canada or the USA for a picture of Michaelangelo’s David and they’ll likely give up in frustration as their government-legislated filtering software blocks it for being “inapprorpiate”. If you want information on abortion, breast cancer, or even childhood sexual education, that’s banned too. And let’s not forget the Great Firewall of China. Calling this a British problem and throwing about stereotypes of Victorian-era prudishness is missing the real concern over these watch groups.

    The real concern is that a private group with private interests can sufficiently scare and influence the government and major ISPs into determining what the entire nation is allowed to see. We should be rejoicing that there are some businesses left with enough guts and customer-interest to stand up to these net nannies and leave it up to their customers what they deem appropriate, and we should be speaking up in their defense.

  12. Nelson.C says:

    Thinking about it, you’re probably right, Anon. It’s also very American to shrug off criticisms of US-ness with a single word, and very Italian to shrug off crticisms of Italian culture with one word, and very geeky to shrug off criticisms of geek culture with one word, and I’d guess, very Icelandic to shrug off criticism of Iceland with a single word.

    Could you come up with a comment with less semantic content if you tried?

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