Not just porn – Open Rights Group reveals full extent of UK web content crackdown

david cameron
david cameron

Porn isn’t the only internet content that’s set to be filtered in the UK, according to information obtained by the Open Rights Group.

david cameron

The organisation, which aims to defend consumer rights on the internet, spoke with internet service providers (USPs) in the country who revealed that a number of topics alongside pornography will also be automatically filtered unless consumers change their default settings. Some of the content that has been deemed too harmful include material that centres on violence, anorexia or eating disorders, suicide, alcohol, smoking and even web forums. One question that immediately springs to mind is how sites will be classified as objectionable – for example, in the case of eating disorders, could sites that promote recovery end up being blocked too?

As for those who want to get around the blocks, they’ll have to figure out how to on their own – included on the filter list is “web blocking circumvention tools”.

[contentad2 keyword=”2″ “left”] The Open Rights Group says the main problem is that all content on the list is automatically checked – meaning consumers have to manually deselect items to opt-out. While users can change their preferences if they want, it’s likely that many will go with the default settings without really realising the filters have been brought in – which could see a rise in complaints if customers then can’t access certain sites and don’t know they’ve been blocked.

The group is fighting for consumers to gain an “active choice”, where they’re prompted to pick their settings and decide themselves whether they want to opt-out or not.

In a blog post, Open Rights Group Executive Director Jim Killock wrote: “The implication is that filtering is good, or at least harmless, for anyone, whether adult or child. Of course, this is not true; there’s not just the question of false positives for web users, but the affect on a network economy of excluding a proportion of a legitimate website’s audience.”

Enabling filters for some internet content was championed by British Prime Minister David Cameron as a way to protect children from content on the web that could be harmful. The decision to introduce porn filters, which was announced last week, met with controversy as consumers and rights groups voiced concern over invasions of privacy and restriction of choice.

Russia recently also introduced an online register of banned web content in an effort to “crack down on cyber-extremism and banned information that may be harmful to children”. According to that country’s Pirate Party, the filters resulted in more than 3,000 websites that were not not dangerous being blocked because they shared IP addresses with harmful sites.

Image credit: Cameron flickr user x1brett

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