UK “Porn Filter” Triggers Widespread Internet Censorship

03/07/2014 19:00

Source: Torrent Freak

 

 

Internet filters are now on the political agenda in many countries around the world. While China and Iran are frontrunners for political censorship, the UK is leading the way when it comes to porn and other content deemed unsuitable for children.

In addition to the mobile restrictions that have been in place for years already, last summer Prime Minister David Cameron announced a default filter for all Internet connections. This means that UK Internet subscribers are now required to opt-in if they want to view ‘adult’ content online.

These default filters have led to many instances in which perfectly legitimate sites can no longer be accessed. This very website, for example, was inaccessible on Sky Broadband after it was categorized as a “file-sharing” site. The false positive was eventually corrected after the BBC started asking questions, but that didn’t solve the underlying problem.

In an attempt to make it easier to spot overblocking the Open Rights Group (ORG) has today launched a new site. The embedded tool runs probes on all the major broadband and mobile filters of UK ISPs, and allows people to check which sites are blocked and where.

The first results are quite scary. A review of the 100,000 most-popular sites on the Internet reveals that 20% are blocked by at least one of the filtering systems.

“We’ve been surprised to find the default filtering settings are blocking around a fifth of the Alexa top 100k websites. That’s a lot more than porn, which accounts for around 4% of that list,” ORG’s Executive Director Jim Killock informs TorrentFreak.

The list of blocked domains includes many legitimate sites that aren’t necessarily harmful to children. TalkTalk, for example, blocks all file-sharing related websites including bittorrent.com and utorrent.com. TorrentFreak also appears to be listed in this category and is blocked as well.

Linuxtracker, which offers free downloads of perfectly legitimate software, is blocked by Sky, TalkTalk and Three’s filters, while the blocked.org.uk tool itself is off-limits on BT, EE and Virgin Media.

Perhaps even worse, the BT and TalkTalk filters also categorize social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as potentially dangerous to children, and the same applies to Reddit.

Reddit is blocked as well

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