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Uganda, Great Britain, same difference

Uganda is notorious for having some of the most repressive anti-gay laws in the world, but that’s not enough for the bluenoses of Africa, oh no: they’ve just passed sweeping anti-pornography laws.

The Bill defines pornography as any cultural practice, form of behaviour or form of communication or speech or information or literature or publication in whole or in part or news story or entertainment or stage play or broadcast or music or dance or art or graphic or picture or photography or video recording or leisure activity or show or exhibition.

It also prohibits any combination of the preceding that depicts unclothed or under clothed parts of the human body such as breasts, thighs, buttocks and genitalia, a person engaged in explicit sexual activities or conduct; erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement and any indecent act or behaviour tending to corrupt morals.

That’s a bit…broad, don’t you think? That “underclothed” bit is already being interpreted as a ban on mini-skirts, for instance — just exposing any bit of the thighs has just been criminalized. Give ‘em time, they’ll get around to making exposing the knees illegal, and then the ankles, and eventually everyone will be wandering about dressed like Victorians.

But it’s not just Uganda that is run by prudes: David Cameron in the UK is anxious to police the internet with the same prim attitude. He’s been working with ISPs to lock down the internet.

The language of the mythical ‘porn filter’ is so insidious, so pervasive, that even those of us opposed to it have been sucked into its slippery embrace. And so even when it turns out that O2 are blocking the Childline and Refuge websites, or that BT are blocking gay and lesbian content, we tend to regard them as collateral damage – accidental victims of a well-meaning (if misguided) attempt to protect out children from the evils of cock.

But this was never the case. As Wired reported back in July, Cameron’s ambitions extended far beyond porn. Working through secretive negotiations with ISPs, the coalition has put in place a set of filters and restrictions as ambitious as anything this side of China, dividing the internet into ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ categories, and cutting people off from huge swathes of it at the stroke of a key.

“As well as pornography, users may automatically be opted in to blocks on “violent material”, “extremist related content”, “anorexia and eating disorder websites” and “suicide related websites”, “alcohol” and “smoking”. But the list doesn’t stop there. It even extends to blocking “web forums” and “esoteric material”, whatever that is. “Web blocking circumvention tools” is also included, of course.”

And the restrictions go further still. Over the weekend, people were appalled to discover that BT filters supported homophobia, with a category blocking, “sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle, contraceptive, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.”

Wow. That had me wondering whether freethoughtblogs was blocked yet, but as Martin Robbins explains at that link, they are being secretive about who is getting blocked, as well.

Hey, I wonder if they swapped the Ugandan and UK parliaments, if anyone would be able to tell?

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    Big Brother is worried you’re watching the wrong things. These wrong things will be defined as whatever fits Cameron’s prejudices.

  2. Gregory Greenwood says

    I’ve been following this story since this idoitic policy was first aired in public, and I have long since come to the conclusion that the testerical ‘won’t someone think of the children’ posturing from Cameron about the supposed need to protect society from pornography was never anything more than an excuse. I have long suspected that going after porn was really about testing the waters and seeing what he could get away with; if he doesn’t get too much push back on that front, then he can expand the definition to cover things like violence (as he now has) and finally he would be able to get to what has been the real target all along – political discourse and opinion that the aptly nicknamed Nasty Party doesn’t approve of.

    I still hold out some hope that this is all going to transpire to be electoral maneuvering – a bid to rally the right wing vote by beating the ‘public morality’ drum for the mindless reactionaries that form the core of Conservative support that will be quietly abandoned after it serves its purpose – but it is equally possible that Cameron really is both fool enough and authoritarian enough to try to engage in this large scale nanny-sate intervention, and is either unaware or uncaring of the impact on things like net neutrality.

    As for the blocking of non-porn related material due to the over enthusiastic application of this provision, I suppose it could be a case of straight forward incompetence, but I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t intentional, especialy with regard to the blocking of sites that relate to the LGBT community. The Conservative Party has a large constituency of really nasty homophobes, and while it suits Cameron to appear to be more progressive when in public, and put in place provisions for things like gay marriage, the grubby business with the so called ‘triple lock’ to appease the shrieking bigots within the Anglican Church shows how weakly held his supposed pluralist values really are.

    It would be just like a politician to want it both ways; outwardly appear to be more enlightened so as not to scare off the more reasonable, progressive voter, while covertly signaling to his bigoted hard core support that he is still, beneath the veneer of being a more or less decent human being, one of them. Or maybe I am just getting cynical.

    I suppose we will just have to wait and see, assuming that Freethought Blogs doesn’t get blocked as well, that is…

  3. badweasel says

    Well fuck me it;s happened again.

    Just as soon as I think I’ve reached the point where I cannot detest Camaron and is rabble I get proved wrong!

  4. says

    :shakes head: There are days I just can’t see humans successfully progressing, given the amount of them who seem to feel a return to the 19th century would be the very best thing ever.

  5. Nick Gotts says

    Of course you can opt out of the filtering (if you’re not overruled by parent or partner), or use an ISP that’s not involved, but this will undoubtedly get you on GCHQ’s priority watch-list.

    It [new Ugandan law] also prohibits any combination of the preceding that depicts unclothed or under clothed parts of the human body such as breasts, thighs, buttocks and genitalia

    Ugandan hospitals had better junk those filthy ob/gyn, genito-urinary and proctology textbooks, stat!

  6. voriank says

    “testerical ‘won’t someone think of the children’ posturing from Cameron about the supposed need to protect society from pornography was never anything more than an excuse”

    Quite – and I’d say it’s no coincidence the internet was a big gap in the Leveson censorship proposals. This parliament is still full of people stinging from being caught repeatedly with their fingers in the till, and are desperate to control public conversation as tightly as they could in the 50’s.

  7. says

    Ugandan hospitals had better junk those filthy ob/gyn, genito-urinary and proctology textbooks, stat!

    Makes you wonder what they tell their kids in sex ed class. Oh, wait.

  8. stevem says

    What’s wrong with “porn”, anyway? People having sex? Why do we forbid kids from seeing 2 people having “fun” together? Isn’t that what all the Christidiots want? They must want to ban “gay porn”, kids should not be shown 2 men or 2 women having “fun”, only one man and one woman. But even that part is actually contradictory to their “creed”, why not show kids what they should NOT do, that this is an example of the WRONG way to have “fun”? To then, though, they just hear the rational arguments as “bafflegab”, to be dismissed forthwith. “Porn”, conventionally, shows a lot more than just “fun”, also shows men dominating women, and always shows MEN as strong and GIRLS as weak and submissive. THAT is the “bad” part of “porn”, forbid that aspect of it, not “porn” in general. </rant> Not a “fan” of “porn”, myself, just ranting about the concept of banning it outright. Don’t like it? Just don’t buy it. How hard is that?

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    Hey, I wonder if they swapped the Ugandan and UK parliaments, if anyone would be able to tell?

    The people facing jail time for being homosexual, or for not reporting homosexuals, can probably still tell.

  10. says

    Stevem:

    How hard is that?

    It isn’t, obviously, but that’s not the point. The point is control. In this, men get a very small taste of the constant efforts to control us women.

  11. AndrewD says

    Nick @6 I am probably already on GCHQ/MI5’s list as I am a member of the Royal Socie of Chemistry, a former process development Chemist and I subscribe to Freedom as well as buying Anarchist literature so unblocking the Cameron-filter is not likely to get me on any new lists. Joking aside(if it is a joke…) the extended filter almost certainly falls foul of the Human Rights Act as article 10 “prohibits a government from restricting a person from receiving information that others may wish to give him” There are wide exceptions including “ health or morals” and “public safety” but I suspect Cameron’s filter would be judged over-wide. We need a lawyers opinion…Paging Walton

  12. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Esoteric material “This film is so obscure as to have no apparent meaning. If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable.”
    Justification by British film censors for banning a film.

  13. says

    YEah, I mean, I’m not in the UK, but, I’d think twice about unblocking anything the government disapproves of since as a budding teacher my future career depends on the government hireing me.
    Sure I’d risk being on record as somebody who wants content that “endangers children.” Not to mention that these things will be used in custody battles.

  14. says

    Anyone on here familiar with pre-colonial clothing in what is now Uganda? I have my suspicions the new law has probably made depictions of some of that clothing illegal. Which would be ironic given the claims by Ugandan politicians that foreign outrage against their antigay laws is colonialism.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    sc_770 @14: Yeah, in 1927. In other breaking news, Oscar Wilde did hard time for being gay.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    Maybe all concerned can restore the links loosened by this “Commonwealth” business and combine operations under the name of UKanda.

  17. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    There are plenty of criticisms of the current content of most pornography, as well as industry practices. However, the solution there would be better rights and protections for workers, as well as being able to discuss and criticize porn like any other form of media, Certainly not blocking it and using it to test the waters for even more authoritarian crap.

  18. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    In other breaking news, Oscar Wilde did hard time for being gay.

    News which probably wouldn’t break with BT’s filters, Rob.

  19. madscientist says

    Sure you can tell the Ugandan from the British parliament – the former doesn’t rob its citizens of anywhere near as much money. Sure that may have something to do with the fact that the Ugandans haven’t got as much to be robbed of, but that’s not the point.

  20. Sili says

    Hey, I wonder if they swapped the Ugandan and UK parliaments, if anyone would be able to tell?

    I suspect the albedo would change dramatically, but aside from that, no.

  21. RFW says

    Judging from his actions, Cameron has significant sexual maladjustment. He needs a few sessions with a good psych, but when he bursts out of his bubble of sexual repression, look out! It’ll definitely be a matter of locking up your women, your children, and your decent looking men under the age of eighty.

    Re the preceding paragraph: first sentence is admittedly a stab in the dark, but it’s quite likely and my assessment is serious. The first clause of the second sentence is also serious. The rest is pure snark.

    /snark

  22. Moggie says

    It’s annoying that (so far) this is being done with no new law. The Tories haven’t bothered bringing in legislation for this, they’ve simply leaned on the ISPs, and at least the big four have rolled over. I wish they would show more spine. If the government were forced to legislate, they’d have a stand-up fight, and at least we could get some more transparency about the process.

    On the other hand, this does mean that customers of some smaller ISPs aren’t affected (yet). The ISP I’ve been with for years currently thumbs its nose at Cameron over this issue, and suggests that customers who want a filtered connection should move to North Korea. In the past, it has said that if it is forced to filter, it will block access to the Daily Mail.

    There’s a good chance that this will turn into a political disaster for the Tories. People are working on automated tools for determining what’s blocked, and various campaign groups will continue to press for more openness (for example, finding out just who BT’s third-party filtering supplier is). Expect more stories about inappropriate blocks, about the dodgy credentials of the filtering companies, and about kids easily evading the blocks.

  23. Nick Gotts says

    the extended filter almost certainly falls foul of the Human Rights Act as article 10 “prohibits a government from restricting a person from receiving information that others may wish to give him” – AndrewD@13

    I very much doubt it, because you can opt out of the filtering.

    Sure you can tell the Ugandan from the British parliament – the former doesn’t rob its citizens of anywhere near as much money. – madscientist@21

    Er, what? If you’re talking about taxation, that’s only “robbery” to libertarian lackwits. If not, what are you talking about?

  24. Moggie says

    RFW:

    Judging from his actions, Cameron has significant sexual maladjustment. He needs a few sessions with a good psych, but when he bursts out of his bubble of sexual repression, look out! It’ll definitely be a matter of locking up your women, your children, and your decent looking men under the age of eighty.

    Horses. And redheads with horses. Mentioning no names…

  25. David Marjanović says

    It even extends to blocking [...] “esoteric material”, whatever that is.

    Woo. That’s what pseudoscientific and spiritual woo is called in Europe generally.

  26. Rob Grigjanis says

    madscientist @21: Er, no.

    According to Transparency International’s recent Global Corruption Barometer Uganda was ranked the second most corrupt country in east Africa, after Kenya, and the 17th most corrupt in the world.

    The HRW report said corruption in the country had mainly impacted ordinary people, as money intended for public services including life-saving treatment or infrastructure projects have all but been misappropriated.

    Many rural schools in Uganda remain in a poor state and there are regular teachers’ strikes over low pay. The health system is ailing, with more doctors preferring to work in foreign countries where they can receive better salaries.

    Yet the country loses up to $258.6m (£160.3m) a year due to corruption, according to 2007 the African Peer Review Mechanism report.

  27. Nick Gotts says

    sc_mess@27

    The amounts involved in that scandal were trivial – total amounts ordered to be repaid were in the low 100,000s (which doesn’t mean it wasn’t justifiably regarded as a scandal – it was), and it’s quite possible Ugandan MPs steal more.

  28. says

    First they came for the pornographers but I did not speak out because I was not a pornographer
    Then they came for the subversives but I did not speak out because I was not subversive.
    Then they came for the gays but I did not speak out because I was not gay.
    Now my ISP won’t let me see (anything)

    with apologies to Martin Niemoller

  29. sonofrojblake says

    I wonder if they swapped the Ugandan and UK parliaments, if anyone would be able to tell?

    Estimated net migration OUT of Uganda (pop. ~35m) in 2013 – 350.

    Estimated net migration INTO the UK (pop. ~60m) in 2013 – 187,000 and rising.

    I think we can tell the difference.

    Also, same-sex marriage is legal here. Just like it is in (almost) eighteen of your… how many is it? FIFTY states you had at the last count, wasn’t it? And you’ve got the lack of self-awareness to compare the UK to a backward homophobic third world hole?

  30. gillyc says

    Dave doesn’t really care about porn – he just cares about getting Daily Mail readers to vote for him, and he thinks they care about porn.

  31. stripeycat says

    On the UK censorship thing: it’s hard to know exactly which sites are blocked because there’s a deliberate effort towards opacity. However, rumour/allegations have it that the Child Protection filter cuts out a lot of scientific and general reference sites. Not only obvious candidates like evolutionary biology, geology and cosmology, but medicine, physical chemistry, and even the British Library archives. We’ve been worried for a while right-pond that Cameron may have cut the same devil’s deal with the RW religious lobbies (christian and muslim over here) that the Republicans made a generation ago. Is it paranoia if they really are gunning for you? On an OT note, I’m really hoping all the rhetoric about defying European courts and human rights is (just!) tub-thumping for the grassroots’ benefit.

    All that said, though, the comparison to Uganda is very nasty, and trivialised the institutionalised violence people there face. Not good, PZ.

  32. zenlike says

    33 sonofrojblake

    Also, same-sex marriage is legal here. Just like it is in (almost) eighteen of your… how many is it? FIFTY states you had at the last count, wasn’t it?

    How recently did you get SSM over there? Don’t gloat too hard UKnian. Signed, a fellow European.

  33. gillyc says

    I don’t even think it counts as censorship when all you have to do to get it turned off is go to a website and tick a box. I’m not saying I agree with it (though if it was opt-in rather then opt-out it wouldn’t bother me) but I do think people are exaggerating somewhat. And as for those people saying they don’t want their name on a list – I hardly think the government is going to be interested in a list of a few million people who want to look at porn (or sex education sites, or whatever).

    And as stripeycat points out, the comparison with Uganda is offensive, on several levels.

  34. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The real problem with both the UK and Aussie implementation is the opt-out concept. All filtering must be opt-in, or it does amount to government censorship, which does appear to be case in the UK implementation.

    If you personally want to censor your incoming internet, fine. I have just such a filter I purchased with my anti-viral package. I don’t use it, but it is there. It is not for the government to say what I can or can’t see; it should remain neutral.

  35. gillyc says

    I do see your point, Nerd, but as it doesn’t actually stop me accessing any site at all as long as I tick that box, I’m still not sure that ‘censorship’ is the right word. If it is censorship, it’s the weakest form of it there’s ever been.

    From what I’ve read, it’s actually neither opt-in or opt-out; each ISP is contacting existing customers to ask them if they want it, and asking new customers the same question when they sign up. I got the impression from what I’ve read that until that question is answered, it’s left turned off, which really makes it opt-in, but I’m not absolutely sure. I’m with Virgin Media, and they haven’t actually turned it on yet – I think they’re the last big ISP to do so.

  36. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I do see your point, Nerd, but as it doesn’t actually stop me accessing any site at all as long as I tick that box,

    My point is you shouldn’t have to tick a box UNLESS you want filtering. Otherwise, if you need to opt-out any more than once, and it can be demonstrated your choice is being executed, it is an unnecessary burden, especially in any democracy.

  37. Moggie says

    stripeycat:

    However, rumour/allegations have it that the Child Protection filter cuts out a lot of scientific and general reference sites. Not only obvious candidates like evolutionary biology, geology and cosmology, but medicine, physical chemistry, and even the British Library archives. We’ve been worried for a while right-pond that Cameron may have cut the same devil’s deal with the RW religious lobbies (christian and muslim over here) that the Republicans made a generation ago.

    It’s possible that that aspect is due to the ISPs buying an off-the-shelf solution rather than developing from scratch. If they buy something designed primarily for the US market, it’s likely to pander to the fundie homeschoolers. That should be configurable, though, and time will tell whether the problems so far have been with the knobs not being twiddled sufficiently. It’s also possible that errors are being made deliberately at the ISPs, to make sure people get the message of what a stupid and dangerous policy this is…

  38. Rich Woods says

    @gillyc #34:

    Dave doesn’t really care about porn – he just cares about getting Daily Mail readers to vote for him, and he thinks they care about porn.

    Exactly. The PR merchant and the politician in him both line up here.

    Of course, if it were ever possible to produce a really accurate and consistent Internet filter (as opposed to the blunt instrument of IP filtering based upon a few complaints received once upon a time), the first thing blocked would be the Daily Mail’s hate speech articles and their appalling web site’s right-hand column of perviness.

  39. gillyc says

    My point is you shouldn’t have to tick a box UNLESS you want filtering. Otherwise, if you need to opt-out any more than once, and it can be demonstrated your choice is being executed, it is an unnecessary burden, especially in any democracy.

    On that point, I’m in complete agreement with you.

  40. says

    sonofrojblake:

    Also, same-sex marriage is legal here. Just like it is in (almost) eighteen of your… how many is it? FIFTY states you had at the last count, wasn’t it?

    Perhaps you’d like to gloat about the UK’s rather bad record of persecuting gay men now.

  41. latsot says

    We’re building the terrifying feature-creep right in at the start. You have to give it to we Brits, when we’re idiots at least we are COMPLETE idiots.

    “Esoteric”? Do you mean “things we’ll decide later, probably when the Daily Mail tells us what they don’t like today”?

    And of course, opting out. Why would you WANT to opt out of a filter that defines decency? Well, OK, you can put yourself on the indecent list if you like, it’s entirely up to you. You know, I’m just saying. It’s totally your decision. Please let me make it clear that putting your name on the list of deviants as we define it now will not in any way cause you to be an automatic suspect for future crimes. Well, unless we really want that to happen.

    My only hope is the contrary nature of all Brits: let’s *all* put ourselves on the porn list, regardless of whether we want porn or not. If there’s one thing we Brits are good at, it’s figuring out how to break things. Let’s do that.

  42. Moggie says

    Giliell:

    YEah, I mean, I’m not in the UK, but, I’d think twice about unblocking anything the government disapproves of since as a budding teacher my future career depends on the government hireing me.
    Sure I’d risk being on record as somebody who wants content that “endangers children.” Not to mention that these things will be used in custody battles.

    I’ve heard this objection from another teacher, and it occurs to me that what I hope for from teachers is exactly the opposite. If a teacher has a child of their own, I would hope that they have already taken steps to protect them, whether via technology, policing their Internet use, or simply talking to them. If instead they choose to rely on this rather dubious government-driven filtering, I would be concerned that perhaps they are not taking their duties towards children sufficiently seriously. And if they have no kids of their own, but still choose a filtered connection, what the hell are they thinking? Are they that incurious, timid, and deferential to authority? Either way, that doesn’t sound good for a teacher.

  43. latsot says

    @Moggie

    You’re quite right. But Giliell is also right to see and understand the threat.

    Now is my time to cackle “I DON’T SEEM SO CRAZY NOW, DO I?”

    As it happens, I still DO seem so crazy. I didn’t plan for that. But our government is doing eye-wateringly insane and horrible things and I predicted it, so there (not crazy, remember).

    But this is how it works, isn’t it? A government asks its citizens “do you WANT children to be abused?” and… well, you know the rest. Kudos for our current government, I suppose, for doing what every other government we’ve ever had was thinking, even before the Internet.

  44. says

    “Hey, I wonder if they swapped the Ugandan and UK parliaments, if anyone would be able to tell?”

    That is the equivalent of swapping a GOP dominated Congress with a Democrat dominated one: the only difference is scale, not ideology.

  45. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    I wonder if they swapped the Ugandan and UK parliaments, if anyone would be able to tell?

    I’ll take rhetorical hyperbole for $1000, please, Alex.

    I’m going to take a real vacation next year, and take a week or so off and just do stuff I enjoy, with no pressure or obligations. And the one thing I really hope to do is attend the World Humanist Congress in Oxford next August [...]

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/15/another-meeting-im-hoping-to-attend/

    Remind me when that’s going to be held in Kampala and we’ll talk.

    *sheesh*

    Perhaps you’d like to gloat about the UK’s rather bad record of persecuting gay men

    And witches and papists, too! But, curiously:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/26/gay-voters-more-likely-favour-david-cameron

  46. ck says

    Moggie wrote:

    And if they have no kids of their own, but still choose a filtered connection, what the hell are they thinking? Are they that incurious, timid, and deferential to authority? Either way, that doesn’t sound good for a teacher.

    Should someone have to work in a completely different career just to avoid being deferential to authority? I find it difficult to criticise a group of people who have been under siege for a long time for failing to fight this battle. Defying unjust laws is great for those who can afford it, but I’ll not shit on those who cannot and decide to go along with it instead.

  47. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    Oh, and! (Sorry, I’m not actually ranting, it’s just there’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make sense.)

    And so even when it turns out that O2 are blocking the Childline and Refuge websites [...]

    Except they’re not …

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/o2-changes-porn-filterafter-charity-sites-blocked-9023209.html

    *argh!*

    Look, the Tories are supposed to be the evil party in thrall to the interests of big business. Why would they drive big-business customers away to small not-required-to-filter ISPs (like mine)? It makes no sense, except in gillyc’s formulation above that it’s voter-bait for the (socially) conservative news consumers.

  48. says

    I’m missing some information on net infrastructure and filtering implementation here, pertaining to the UK, but also in general. I agree that content filtering must be opt-in to not constitute censorship.

    But, we are always told that countries like China, North Korea or Iran have a magic kill switch for the internet or at least parts of it, so what about supposedly friendly countries like the UK, US or Australia? Do they have a technical implementation of a kill switch? Or is it down to compliance or lack thereof of individual ISPs? I need that information to get to an informed opinion here.

    Because if it’s just up to the ISP, that’s easy, surely the market will regulate it, people will just sign up to ISPs that don’t play fucking Orwell with them.

  49. says

    Moggie

    I’ve heard this objection from another teacher, and it occurs to me that what I hope for from teachers is exactly the opposite.

    There are battles you have to pick.
    Eliminating all chances to ever get a job as a teacher so I can blow raspberries at the government does not seem like a very good strategy. If it’s a sacrifice you want to make, fine, but don’t assume that other people are not able to judge their risks themselves.
    The point is: There’s a good chance that doing the opposite might mean you won’t be a teacher at all.

  50. latsot says

    @rorschach

    It rather depends what’s meant by ‘up to’ the ISP, doesn’t it? If a government passes laws that mean an ISP can’t operate without implementing a filter, then there’s not much ‘the market’ can do about it. That’s what is happening: laws that force ISPs and broadband providers to implement a horrible political agenda or cease trading.

    There’s no hyperbole. This is a dreadful, horribly oppressive idea. Having to opt out of filters is terrifying. If you aren’t terrified then you have as much imagination as you do sense.

  51. says

    That’s what is happening: laws that force ISPs and broadband providers to implement a horrible political agenda or cease trading.

    But that’s what I mean! I need info about the technical realities of ISP and infrastructure to make an informed decision here. Can I just dismiss this filter crap with vague references to VPN and anoymous proxy servers? I.e., let them put in a filter and censor anything from porn to health advice to filesharing, while I can still get all that some other way anyway, or is there a technical implementation for current democratic governments to actually really censor what I see, read or watch?

  52. Moggie says

    Giliell:

    Eliminating all chances to ever get a job as a teacher so I can blow raspberries at the government does not seem like a very good strategy. If it’s a sacrifice you want to make, fine, but don’t assume that other people are not able to judge their risks themselves.

    Sorry, I expressed myself badly. I totally agree with you. I suppose I was just clumsily making the point that I’m not a Daily Mail reader

  53. says

    I wonder what the Royally-Pardoned Turing would think of all this. Besides the obvious, “Fifty years too late for the pardon,” that is.

  54. Moggie says

    latsot:

    It rather depends what’s meant by ‘up to’ the ISP, doesn’t it? If a government passes laws that mean an ISP can’t operate without implementing a filter, then there’s not much ‘the market’ can do about it. That’s what is happening: laws that force ISPs and broadband providers to implement a horrible political agenda or cease trading.

    I admit I’m behind on the news, but which laws are those? Certainly there’s an implied threat that new law will be introduced if ISPs don’t do Cameron’s bidding, but I’m not aware that that has happened yet. What law will be used to drive my ISP out of business?

    Rorschach’s market argument is one I’ve used in the past, when Cameron first pushed the idea. Since it’s coming from conservatives, who supposedly love the invisible hand-job of the market while decrying the “nanny state”, why not let the market sort it out? The majority of households in the UK are now childless, and have no obvious need of “protection” from sites containing perfectly legal material (including non-porn). And the hardware, software and administration of filtering costs money, so, left to itself, the market could offer premium Internet connections which claim to be child-safe, and cheaper unfiltered connections for adults who trust themselves – if the customer demand is there. That’s what conservatives should want, right?

  55. says

    “Uganda, Great Britain, same difference”

    If only there was a gay African person living in the UK, freely blogging about gay issues and who had written a book on homosexuality in Africa, that PZ could have asked for some kind of informed opinion!

    nope? too hard?

  56. gillyc says

    Rorschach, Maggie has it right – there is no law, it’s just Cameron leaning on the ISPs. It’s being implemented at ISP level, and there’s no ‘kill switch’ like there is in China. And Chromebook already has an add-on that will route round it (via a proxy), I’m expecting Firefox to follow suit if it hasn’t already. Though it’s easier to tick a box to say ‘turn it off’ than to install an add-in, so that will only appeal to people who don’t want to ‘be on the list’. (The creator of the add-on has said that no information is being collected… so that’s purely down to who you trust more with your data, really.)

    I don’t think the ISPs will be handing the lists of who has opted out to the government either – like I said, Cameron’s doing it for votes, and demanding the data would lose votes if it became knowledge. The rhetoric around the whole thing is ‘make it easier for parents to protect their children’, not ‘eew, sleazy adults want to look at porn and we want to know who they are’. I think he’s misjudged the public anyway, as there’s a lot of pushback – or perhaps he thinks the pushback is only coming from people who would never vote conservative anyway. He might be right there, too, but he may also be underestimating how much it will encourage us to get out and vote.

  57. Moggie says

    rorschach:

    But that’s what I mean! I need info about the technical realities of ISP and infrastructure to make an informed decision here. Can I just dismiss this filter crap with vague references to VPN and anoymous proxy servers? I.e., let them put in a filter and censor anything from porn to health advice to filesharing, while I can still get all that some other way anyway, or is there a technical implementation for current democratic governments to actually really censor what I see, read or watch?

    Unfortunately, so far the whole thing is being done with a serious lack of transparency, so the answer to a lot of questions about it is “we don’t know”. Right now, VPNs and proxies will do the trick, but we don’t know what’s coming.

    For some years now the UK has had filtering in place for known child porn sites (I think it’s still voluntary for ISPs, but it’s obviously harder for an ISP to argue that they shouldn’t block that). The list of material to block is centrally maintained, but it’s up to each ISP to decide what blocking technology to use. The best-known of these is probably BT’s “Cleanfeed” content-blocking system, and wikipedia has a reasonably good description of that, if you want to see how Camerfeed might be implemented. In the case of the existing Cleanfeed, it goes something like this:

    * BT are given a list of URLs to block.

    * They resolve the host parts of these to IP addresses, and route customer traffic bound for those addresses to a proxy server.

    * The proxy server has the list of URLs to block, so if the request matches a URL on the blocklist, it gets a 404, otherwise the request is forwarded exactly as a normal proxy would.

    This technique could perhaps be used for Camerfeed, if BT were to route customer traffic differently depending on whether the customer had opted out. But the list of blocked URLs and IP addresses would be greatly larger, resulting in big routing tables (which equals big router memory usage) and a beefier proxy farm.

    The above would be defeatable using a proxy (provided it’s beyond BT’s network), a VPN, or even just SSL. Obviously, IP-based blocking could be used against all of those, but the collateral damage could be huge.

  58. David Marjanović says

    And the hardware, software and administration of filtering costs money, so, left to itself, the market could offer premium Internet connections which claim to be child-safe, and cheaper unfiltered connections for adults who trust themselves – if the customer demand is there. That’s what conservatives should want, right?

    Uh, no. That’s a liberal attitude – except by the US meanings of those terms. Conservatives are anxious; they don’t trust people to trust themselves and prefer when everything is under control.

  59. Moggie says

    David, I’m well aware that what our Tories claim to stand for is often a self-contradictory mess, and I think that should be used against them at every opportunity. They often complain about the “nanny state”, claiming that the left want to over-regulate our private lives – so we should emphasise the nannyish nature of this Internet filtering. They often laud “deregulation” and the ability of the market to deliver desirable goals without government coercion – so we should draw attention to any conflict between that and the pressure they’re applying to the ISPs. Remember, the Cameron who wants default-on Internet filtering is the same Cameron who says that the market should decide whether tabloid newspapers continue to publish pictures of topless women.

  60. stripeycat says

    cm@52 – good news that they’ve unblocked the domestic violence support sites. There was a possible concern that it was a part of a deliberate move to allow authoritarian heads of household to restrict access to information about how to get out. (It’s far-fetched, but then so are the US arguments surrounding parents’ rights in medical contexts – and a lot of our RW does seem to be taking theirs as a model.)

  61. says

    A government decides what’s obscene? The Meese shall imperil the Earth.

    Cameron’s overreaching definitions of “obscene” remind me of the bad old days of the internet when crap like “net nanny” any other censorware was in its heyday. Websites were blocked for ludicrous reasons, poor filters, or political ideology:

    * breast cancer sites were blocked because they contained the word “breast”
    * Black Awareness Month sites were blocked because they contained pictures of lynchings
    * beer sites were blocked because they mentioned “XXX” measurements
    * feminist, pro-choice and democratic party sites were blocked

    Among others. Self-appointed censors don’t become censors by popular support, they’re thugs who want to tell others how to live. How unsurprising that they are nearly all religously and politically motivated.

  62. zmidponk says

    I can see this backfiring, as this may push people towards things like Tor and I2P to get out from under the threat of government censorship and/or interference. The problem with this is that, whilst these are ways to encrypt your internet connection and get around any filters or blocks, as well as anonymous ways for whistleblowers to disseminate information, it’s also where really, really nasty shit lives (hardcore child porn, real rape porn, etc, etc, etc).

  63. sonofrojblake says

    Perhaps you’d like to gloat about the UK’s rather bad record of persecuting gay men now.

    When a person write a blog post that compares my home to a shit-filled stain on the map like Uganda, don’t be surprised when I point out that that person’s home in fact has more in common with said shit-filled stain than does my home. No gloating happening here, just highlighting the dense, self-awareness-free hypocrisy. You might like to check out the title of the blog post, and note how many people are saying “Yeah, go PZ you’re so right” in response, and how many are, shall we say, also disagreeing.

    Also, while we’re at it:
    Howard Efland.
    Allen Schindler.
    Brandon Teena.
    And fuck you.

  64. Louis says

    Is it possible to criticise the shitty ideas of a shitty government without all the nationalism and generalised jingoistic fuckery?

    If so, that would be great, thanks.

    Sensible people worked out their respective nations weren’t perfect, good, or without piles of nasty wank (historical or current) a while ago.

    Louis

  65. Rey Fox says

    I figured since the decline of the Empire, jingoism had gone down considerably and most people had come to terms with the fact that Britain has done some considerably horrible things in addition to some considerably good things, and that it was the kind of national mindset that I could hope that America would mature into, sooner hopefully rather than later. But I could be wrong.

    Meanwhile, I just want to say that I’ve always hated the phrase “same difference”. It doesn’t make any sense.

  66. chrisdevries says

    I doubt very much a Canadian version of this abhorrent bill will make it through even a Conservative majority government. The CPC has been telling us all now for several years that it is NOT the old Reform/Alliance Party, that we’re all being paranoid if we think they’ll institute the predictably Authoritarian policies of the pre-Unite-the-Right fascists. Also, Harper has been governing from a less-government-is-better ethos; expanding the role of hapless bureaucracy into peoples’ private lives is a disaster waiting to happen (as the Brits are learning), and I expect he’d find resistance even in his own party. And although Smith (a true moron I know well, living adjacent to her constituency) said she’d press forward with plans for this bill in the Fall (already passed) Session regardless of public opinion, the CPC wants to win elections and giving moderates and libertarians who might vote for the CPC the impression that they are expanding the surveillance state and trying to impose their morals on society at large is inadvisable. They have won enough seats for a majority the last 2 elections but multi-party Parliamentary elections are fickle and a majority of seats are won with a varying percent (38-41% at a minimum) of the popular vote (depending on where people vote for whom). People will go back to the Liberals if they see the CPC making moves like this.

    Actually, I am moderately surprised that Cameron managed to make this happen in the UK. I very much doubt that a majority support this policy and, what with the predictable incompetence of the filtering, it is poised to blow up in his face. I doubt he would get it passed as a law if he tried to, and hope that reams of people are voting with their wallets, signing up with smaller ISPs who are not succumbing to governmental pressure (or at least opting out in their millions). Stupid idea designed to pander to stupid people who want to control the behavior of their peers.

  67. gillyc says

    Chrisdevries:

    Actually, I am moderately surprised that Cameron managed to make this happen in the UK. I very much doubt that a majority support this policy and, what with the predictable incompetence of the filtering, it is poised to blow up in his face. I doubt he would get it passed as a law if he tried to, and hope that reams of people are voting with their wallets, signing up with smaller ISPs who are not succumbing to governmental pressure (or at least opting out in their millions). Stupid idea designed to pander to stupid people who want to control the behavior of their peers.

    Yup, and I’m quite looking forward to seeing it blow up in his face, it’s going to be funny!
    I think he’s seriously misunderstood the public mood with this one. (Not unusual for Cameron.)

  68. Anders Kehlet says

    What they hell is going on over there?
    I’m pretty sure something like this would never stand in Denmark. Our constitution explicitly prohibits censorship and other preventive measures from being implemented ever again (in those words).