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Censorship Your Rights Online

British Telecom Blocks Access to Child Porn Sites 835

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-is-scary-stuff dept.
An anonymous reader writes "British Telecom has taken the unprecedented step of blocking all illegal child pornography websites in a crackdown on abuse online. The decision by Britain's largest high-speed internet provider will lead to the first mass censorship of the web attempted in a Western democracy."
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British Telecom Blocks Access to Child Porn Sites

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  • Foot in the door (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip (656104) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:13AM (#9349764)
    What worries me is this could be a foot in the door situation.. It is hard to justify the first ones but then easier for future blocks. P0rn, Warz, Hax all could be disappearing from a website near you!
    • Re:Foot in the door (Score:3, Interesting)

      by djsmiley (752149)
      Porn runs the WC3, the net officals.

      iit wont get blocked.

      BUT it is a good thing, this means that no one can, ACCIDENTLY go onto a child porn site. Something which i've always feared tbh. As even temporary files can be concidered as stored information. Accidently finding such a site "could" get you into alot of trouble.

      For once BT have done something good!.
      • by mirror_dude (775745) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:31AM (#9350201) Homepage
        Or have you ever thought that BT might "accidently" filter some non kiddy porn sites that speek badly of BT?
        I'd prefer to keep the internet a dumb network thank you very much
        • by BasilBrush (643681)
          Only a very dumb company would try that. The negative publicity when they were caught would be worse than the original criticism sites.

          And have you no sense of proportion? Which is worse, kiddie porn, or the outside chance of collateral damage? If you say collateral damage, then you must also be against real time block lists for anti-spam purposes.

          • by cribcage (205308) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:37PM (#9350995) Homepage Journal

            I think it's a sad and telling statement about our society that every poster in this thread who criticized this decision also felt compelled to include a disclaimer, "I do not support child pornography."

            That fact is what makes actions like this insidious. You begin by pushing an issue that is so black-&-white, it's nearly indefensible. You begin by condemning something that absolutely no one wants to support. And you gain momentum.

            crib

            • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 06, 2004 @04:49PM (#9352356)
              You force your opponents to take an unpopular stance. Just as "Give Sen.Corruptus Money And Power In Order To Save The Children" is becoming tired and cliched, "Give Sen.Corruptus Money And Power To Save Us From Nukulor Terrism" is on the wane, but "Give Sen.Corruptus Money And Power To Save Us From The Pedophile Menace" is a fresh and new scam. You won't give Sen.Corruptus money and power? How dare you support pedophillia!

              Forget that most sexually molested kids are interfered with by their relatives or even their parents, the thing that people fear the most is evil strangers, hiding in the bushes in children's playgrounds, "grooming" children on the internet, jerking off to strangers' baby photos. The press have whipped the public into an absolute hysteria over the Evil Pedophile Menace, and it's fertile political capital for anything you want to do.

              The first thing any opponent of yours has to do is concede that Pedophiles Are Evil Agents Of Satan, which is basically agreeing with 99% of whatever you propose to do. If he doesn't, then He Is Siding With Those Evil Monsters. His hands are completely tied. All he can propose is something even stronger and accept your position even more than you do. Of course, your proposal will do fuck all to save anyone, let alone the children, from the pedophiles. It's all a ruse to get money and power. But if anyone dares suggest that, They Are In League With The Sick Pedo Beasts.
          • by Brad Mace (624801) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @02:39PM (#9351652) Homepage
            No one here is going to oppose it because they want to see child porn. However, these types of censorship always involve a great deal of collateral damage. Previous adult filters have blocked sites about breast cancer, contraception, support groups for sexual abuse victims, etc. They'd have to block sites 1 at a time, and then later go back and check to see if they should still be blocked. Kidsrus.com could be child porn one day, and the website of an unfortunate toystore the next.

            It also allows them to block other things they don't like. Blocking their competitors websites is probably too obvious, but if the boss wants to support some issue, throwing a warning about child porn in front of a page will make most people turn back immediately.

            Finally, they could do just as well by setting up a department to find these websites and report them to authorities, which would be useful without the problems of accidental censorship.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        If you want to stop accidently going to child porn sites then stop searching on google for "lolita underage kid porn". The people who get busted for child porn always have hundreds of images and movies on their hard drive. Do you think that happens by accident?

        The only people with a legitimate excuse are people who downloaded misnamed files from p2p programs like Kazaa but if you only have 1 file on your harddrive you will not get prosecuted. You should not be browsing p2p networks at work. What are you

      • Re:Foot in the door (Score:5, Interesting)

        by aastanna (689180) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @11:15AM (#9350475)
        Better than a block, they should force a redirect. It could go to something like:

        "You are attempting to access a site we believe is child pornography. If you would still like to view the site click here."

        Optionally, they could add "If you choose to continue your IP will be logged" and/or "your information will be sent to the authorities".

        Safety for the accidental porn browsers, and if it was actually an anti-BT site people can still get through.
        • Re:Foot in the door (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Hatta (162192) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @01:10PM (#9351191) Journal
          But what if they're wrong and are blocking a harmless page? Then you click through to get access and you're recorded as looking at kiddie porn. Or what if they're right and you think they're wrong? You've got to look to be sure, but once you've looked you've broken the law. What a bizarre law that even looking at something is illegal.

          Since when are there child porn web sites anyway? I thought it was all IRC and USENET.
      • Re:Foot in the door (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lord Kano (13027) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @01:04PM (#9351161) Homepage Journal
        Accidently finding such a site "could" get you into alot of trouble.

        I have accidentally come across kiddy porn sites as a part of my search for free (consenting adult) porno. Whenever I saw a site that appeared to be located/run from within the US, I called the FBI and reported it.

        My goal was two-fold, first I wanted to let the authorities now that these people are out there and if someone ever tried to accuse me of intentionally going to that site, the FBI's records would show that I called them and reported it.

        Cracking down on kiddy porn is not an unreasonable restriction on free speech.

        LK
    • by ftzdomino (555670) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:17AM (#9349785)
      It's unlikely that an ISP will survive if they block all porn.
      • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:03AM (#9350040) Homepage Journal
        There are a few ISPs whose main feature is that they (attempt to) block all porn. They charge a premium for this service.
      • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @11:45AM (#9350636)
        That all depends. They'll won't be a popular ISP amongst porn surfers, but they'd be popular with both families and companies. All three are big markets - plenty big enough to support many ISPs. Indeed an ISP can charge more for the service of blocking porn.

        Although porn consumes a large percentage of internet bandwidth, it's easy to overestimate it's importance. Multimedia is just by it's nature a high bandwidth activity. If there were 10,000 people dealing with email and one person watching porn videos the one person would probably be using more bandwidth than the 10,000.

    • Re:Foot in the door (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ianoo (711633) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:21AM (#9349822) Journal
      Well, consentual adult pornography is legal in the UK, but you're right, if BT intends to block illegal material, I can see that pirate software, pirate music and pirate videos could be the next logical step.

      Is this a good thing? Well, not for those of us who like our music and movies for free, but as far as companies are concerned, it probably is, although presumably they could lose a lot of business if they started blocking P2P.

      IIRC, several of the UK's mobile phone providers announced they were going to block all porn for mobile internet access unless the phone owner submitted proof of age. I can't help but wonder how many people would have the nerve to ring up customer support and ask for their porn access to be restored ;)
      • Re:Foot in the door (Score:5, Informative)

        by dipipanone (570849) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:55AM (#9350006)
        Well, consentual adult pornography is legal in the UK

        Really? When did this momentous change in the law occur? I must have missed that one as it passed me by somewhat.

        The truth is, a couple of years ago the British Board of Film Censors (or whatever the hell they happen to be called now) relaxed their regulations and started granting a certificate to films that show erect penises and penetration, arguing that public standards had changed, but I think that's rather a long way from saying that pornography between consenting adults is legal in the UK.

        The truth is, there are even some sex acts between consenting adults that are still illegal in the UK -- let alone representations of those acts. There has been a recent bureaucratic decision not to prosecute certain images and films lately, but there hasn't been any change in the laws relating to obscenity, etc. which are still archaic.
    • Re:Foot in the door (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dyefade (735994)
      I wouldn't be worried. While the potential is there, child porn really is an exception to the rule. There have been huge police campaigns to try to remove child porn (and catch the perpetrators) in the UK. This isn't comparable to regular (nb legal) porn or other illegal materials. Child porn is considered a heinous crime and so is not tolerated anywhere. Warez and porn are largely more accepted.
    • by aflat362 (601039) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:30AM (#9350198) Homepage
      Pr0n, Hax, open source software, non-microsoft technology . . .
    • by argoff (142580) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:37AM (#9350242)
      I can do alot to protect my daughter from perverts, but how do I protect her from people trying to micro-regulate the internet?

      • And just what can you do to protect your daughter from a lot of perverts? Sadly, there's only so much you can do... think about it; hidden cameras in locker rooms and bathrooms, people taking pictures at beaches and water parks. Kids get abducted all the time. These people who do these things need to be shot, but I don't know what you can do to prevent these things from happening, short of keeping your child locked in the basement. Remember Polly Klaas? Stolen right from her home. As a father of two,
    • Re:Foot in the door (Score:5, Informative)

      by clamhan (314806) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @11:44AM (#9350628)
      Since I use one of the ISP's mentioned in the referenced article, (Demon), I got interested in what the proposed technology Cleanfeed actually does. If I got the right site, it seems to be a standard filtering proxy and if you go to www.cleanfeed.co.uk/products.php [cleanfeed.co.uk] you'll see that there are 44 categories defined and 12 blocked in a standard configuration, more than just child-porn.

      The category list is on www.cleanfeed.co.uk/catlist.php [cleanfeed.co.uk]

      Some of the interesting categories are Religion, Web based e-mail, Health and Medicine and Usenet.

      Though Cleanfeed only blocks 12 of these categories it can log access to all of them.

      In my case I use Demon's web proxy to be a good citizen and cut down on bandwith usage on the net, therefore all my web accesses are logged in the proxy anyway - but I don't have to do it. I have the choice not to as Demon allows direct access by-passing any ISP proxies. If Cleanfeed comes in all my web accesses to sites that somebody else may deem inappropriate will be logged regardless. The list is defined as the, "Cleanfeed Master Database of classified Internet domains", and any domain of interest could be inserted into it. The use of Cleanfeed as a monitoring tool for anything that an ISP, and by extension a Government, may not like is obvious and it's use to block sites may only be secondary to its ability to monitor people's access to sites.
  • It's a crime (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:14AM (#9349772)
    It's a crime to block these services on the end user's side whilst leaving them at large on the internet; they should be taking them down at the source.
    • Re:It's a crime (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Elledan (582730) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:48AM (#9349958) Homepage
      Leaving the question or whether blocking sites with content related to the subject in question should be done or not aside, fact is that this is once more an example of trying to 'solve' purely social issues through technological means. It's no different from the RIAA and other's approach in regards to copyright infringement through file-sharing networks. In both cases the real issue isn't addressed at all, just suppressed in a less than subtle manner.

      Just because no one appears to be willing or able to answer the question why people are interested in images of (semi) naked 'underage' individuals (children) doesn't mean that by continuing to evade the issue in the long term even more damage will be inflicted than when society as a whole would stop pretending that things one doesn't like can just be ignored and/or suppressed without any negative side-effects.

      On a sidenote, I've got loads of images of (semi) naked young children in my possession, in various positions, including a number of close-ups. I would assume that they are mostly underage.

      It's called a friggin' medical encyclopedia.
    • by shostiru (708862) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @01:09PM (#9351188)
      In short: they can't, because the KP they're talking about is almost all softcore legally produced in (among other places) former Soviet countries. For a (much) longer explanation, continue reading.

      I built and manage a Usenet binaries site (one of the original ones, but now sadly in need of an update and, since Cidera bit it, not terribly complete). A lot of pure Usenet servers (no binaries decoding) make all newsgroups available under the hope that common carrier law will apply if (when) the shit hits the fan, but we suspected early on that common carrier law wouldn't apply as we were decoding and thumbnailing images. Thus, one of the first things I did when I wrote the code was to create an MD5 checksum database to block images. Anything that appeared in a known KP group would be be checksummed and added to the database, and anything anywhere else with a checksum in the database would be blocked (a good idea, since pedophiles change newsgroups frequently, and commonly take over abandoned groups in alt.*). New or newly active newsgroups were quarantined, no image decoding but with the subject lines presented in a report for our review. We could tell fairly quickly whether a newsgroup should go into the blocklist just based on the subject lines and content filenames.

      A few years ago I had occasion to speak to law enforcement (police and FBI) who were investigating someone for KP possession, and he had a subscription to our site. They decided we weren't the source (biggest sigh of relief in my life) but were interested in our blacklist system and wanted a copy of our blacklist database. I spoke with one guy (FBI if I recall correctly) for an hour or so and I got to hear more than I ever wanted to know about KP on the net. Here's what he told me. He seemed to know what he was talking about (and seemed to be rather discouraged by the whole mess) but for all I know it could be bullshit.

      There are three major sources of KP on the net. The first, present in Usenet but not on the web, is scans from magazines and such that were, at one time, legal to possess, but were criminalized during the Reagan administration (I think). As you might imagine the sickos who had stacks of "lolita" magazines weren't exactly rushing to turn them in to the cops. Once scanners became available, people started scanning in images and distributing them. Now, the original scanners' series are passed back and forth endlessly on Usenet and probably will be until the end of time. Fortunately, they're pretty easy to block by name and checksum.

      The second and by far largest major category of KP on the net is softcore websites (nudity and sexually suggestive poses, but no penetration or sex acts), and reposts of same on Usenet. I'd always assumed this meant casual nudity (like nudist camp photos) but the guy I spoke with corrected me and said a lot of them are highly sexual poses and attire, with genital closeups. There are only a handful of major companies involved, each one runs multiple websites, and they tend to use the same limited number of "models" (i.e., exploited kids).

      And "exploited" is the right word. Regardless of the fact that there's no penetration involved, these are poor kids making very little money for themselves and a shitload for the websites, and IMO it's similar to (tho not as bad as) parents selling their kids into prostitution. But in the areas where this occurs (largely but not exclusively former Soviet republics), it's legal, or in some cases just ignored because the cops are bribed or have bigger concerns to worry about (like actual child prostitution, organized crime, etc.)

      The third category, appearing on Usenet and P2P networks but not the web, is hardcore material produced by the same evil fucks who are raping the kids. There's no money involved, but most of it is privately traded (or posted encrypted on Usenet with keys exchanged privately) and to be admitted to trading circles you either have to find rare content or produce your own stuff. So this *definitely*

  • by Saven Marek (739395) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:15AM (#9349780)
    Good motives here, but are there controls in place to ensure ONLY kiddieporn is banned by this method?

    My fear if this came here is that it would be used to block all manner of 'improper' political sites.

    Slippery slope.

    nude anime gallery [sharkfire.net]
  • by jd142 (129673) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:17AM (#9349788) Homepage
    Before everyone does the kneejerk censorhip response, this seems no different than what goes on in real life. Access to child pornography is blocked in real life. Your local Kwik-E-Mart is not going to be carrying Russian Lolitas Monthly next to the Playboys and Penthouses. Nor should they.

    The only issue to be concerned with is whether or not the list of blocked sites is accurate or not.

    And of course, this will not stop the knowledgable pedophile, but if it can keep some companies from earning money via paid subscriptions, good for BT.

    • Before everyone does the kneejerk censorhip response, this seems no different than what goes on in real life. Access to child pornography is blocked in real life. Your local Kwik-E-Mart is not going to be carrying Russian Lolitas Monthly next to the Playboys and Penthouses. Nor should they.

      There is a subtle difference here, however, and its a matter of economics.

      Putting together and mass-publishing a magazine is not easy or cheap. It takes a good deal of money to do it. So your average Joe Citizen is not

  • Typo? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Glock27 (446276) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:19AM (#9349805)
    attempted in a Western democracy.

    Shouldn't that read "attempted by a large ISP"? Could this result in mass-migration to other services, or are no others viable? As an aside, are cable modems available in Britain?

    I do think this is a slippery slope, especially since "pornography" is always hard to define... Are "innocent" shots of (semi)naked teens on Scandinavian beaches "porn", for instance? Who decides?

    • Re:Typo? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:23AM (#9349830)
      As an aside, are cable modems available in Britain?

      No. In jolly old Britian, the best we have is 300bps modems. I would write more, but it would take too long to upload.

    • Re:Typo? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RogueProtoKol (577894) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:29AM (#9349857) Homepage
      First off, yes, we have cable modems in Britain.

      The low down on British Telecoms is as so, you have 3 major telecoms providers, BT, NTL and Telewest. BT are everywhere, NTL and Telewest have fairly large areas, some you can only get one or the other, but you can always get BT.

      Now, BT are the major ADSL provider, NTL and Telewest are the cable providers. As stated in the article, BT have alot of ADSL resellers eg Yahoo! who according to the artcle, would come under this.

      If you want to leave BT, this leaves you with either most likely NTL or Telewest for cable, or switch to another ADSL provider. There are quite a few ADSL providers, if you already have ADSL through BT it should be perfectly possible to come off BT and the pricing is pretty competitive.

      However, even though there is an OK range of choice, I doubt we'll see any mass anti-censorship protest of people switching from BT as to the majority, you'll just look like you're against BTs efforts to clean up child pornography, and with alot of recent paedophile news over the last few years, you won't be very popular.
  • by Inf0phreak (627499) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:19AM (#9349806)
    Filtering content that is illegal no matter how you look at it is fine with me, but then they also have to accept that if they fail to filter a page, they should be liable for damages (and possibly criminal charges).

    The door swings both ways.

  • by ZackSchil (560462) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:20AM (#9349815)
    I'm going to side with freedom of speech (and thereby child pornography on the internet.) I in no way approve of or condone child pornography. I think it's disgusting the way that some people get off by exploiting children too young to fully understand the consequences of their actions. However, censorship is a slippery slope. Once we allow the child pornographers to be blocked, what's stopping them from taking the next step and censoring all they deem obscene? What about outlawing anonymous forums because they facilitate obscenity? How long until you have to get your sites white-listed by ISPs to even be viewed in the UK or any other nation that follows this same path?

    I'm not insane, just concerned. I say fight the problem of child pornography (etc..) from the other end. Arrest the people, not the websites and protocols.
    • by dtio (134278)
      > I say fight the problem of child pornography
      >(etc..) from the other end. Arrest the people,
      > not the websites and protocols.

      But this *is* fighting child pornography. By putting barriers to the potential demand you're actually affecting the offer.

      I'm willing to lose some of my 'rights online' if I can improve the 'rights offline' of some children by accepting this kind of measures even with the risk of potential misuses.

      No problem with me.
      • by ZackSchil (560462) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:47AM (#9349955)
        But blocking websites is solving the wrong problem! Child pornographers are dodgy. Blocking websites doesn't stop them from taking photographs and distributing them via websites and proxies or other conduits. What this does do is frustrate the dumb-as-a-brick manager who made the decision to block the sites in the first place and cause him to start blocking proxies and more websites in order to see the results he expected. At that point, the child pornographers just keep finding new conduits and we are inconvenienced or end up blocked ourselves. And the children are still harmed.

        The ISP is striking at a cloud of smoke with a sword. They can scatter the cloud and hurt people on the sidelines but they cannot make the cloud go away. You have to cut the problem at the source. The internet does not lend its self well to censorship.
  • by seanvaandering (604658) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {gnirednaav.naes}> on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:22AM (#9349827)
    ...how about newsgroups? IRC? FTP? There are alot more distrbution methods available to those who traffic in this type of material, and believe me, the ones you should be worried about are not the ones who are "surfing the web" to get it either. -S-
  • Go BT. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by topynate (694371) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:24AM (#9349835)
    If they can do that without any slowdown, good on them. However, presumably they aren't saying what they're blocking, exactly. There's a problem with this, because if customers don't know they can't assure themselves that their internet usage isn't being unreasonably censored. But if you publish a list of illegal websites, that increases the ease with which anyone can find them (and alerts the owners of these websites that they are being monitored). So, while I can't deny that I'm glad these sites are being blocked, I don't think they should be - it's unworkable from a more general freedom of expression perspective.

    The alterative is trusting a government body that you have real freedom of information rights. Say no more.

  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ratso Baggins (516757) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:24AM (#9349836) Homepage
    Where on earth is child porn legal, such that these sites can't be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law?

    So I'm more that a little concerned the "solution" is to ban urls... wtf?

    • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bakreule (95098)
      Where on earth is child porn legal, such that these sites can't be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law?

      In Japan, pornography is defined as the showing of pubic hair, so showing images of young children naked is not considered porn.

      Even "abuse" has different definitions. I've seen a (mainstream) Japanese movie where a mother started grabbing her son's privates, after he was running around naked playing a game of tag with her. In the context of the movie it made sense, but the scene was still sex

  • by tmk (712144) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:25AM (#9349840)
    The decision by Britain's largest high-speed internet provider will lead to the first mass censorship of the web attempted in a Western democracy.

    No, it is not the first case. Remember blocking child porn in pennsylvaia? Have a look here [slashdot.org].

    In North Rhine-Westfalia all providers have to block access to two Nazi websites: look here [slashdot.org].
  • Not good. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mwillems (266506) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:26AM (#9349845) Homepage
    We can all sympathise with not wanting access to pedo sites, bomb-making instructions and anti-jewish hate sites. But there are, I think, several reasons why this is not at ALL a good thing.

    a) Practical reasons. How on earth are they going to decide which sites are child porn sites? Do these sites announce themselves as such with a special logo? Or will the government employ 1,000 people who search google all day for new sites? Or will all sites that refer to "child" and "vagina" in the same sentence be blocked (I guess that includes nudist sites and anti-childporn sites as well)? For these practical reasons and many more, this idea will not be practical.

    b) The slippery slope. OK, child porn is obviously bad. And so is antisemitism. And bomb making. So, the PLO site is soon to be banned too? All newsgroups that ever discuss bombs? Sites that sell radar detectors? Web sites taht discuss and encourage tax cheating? Anti-government sites? Exam cheat sites? When you accept that the government can decide what we are allowed to read online, this is a dangerous state of affairs.

    c) Drawing attention bad. It will no doubt make it a challenge to get to the forbidden sites.

    Censorship has never worked. My kids watch only shows that are rated "mature". While I sympathise with the intention here, the idea of a wise government that bans access to information is one that has never worked in the past and will not work now. It seems to me that enforcing existing laws against child porn (producers, viewers) would be a much better course of action; one more likely to lead to real results.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:28AM (#9349854)
    I'm sorry, but all these comments about a slippery slope are off track. They're not taking away rights - they're finally blocking content that you NEVER had a right to view in the first place. Outside of the internet, there is a clear division between kiddie porn and political speech/you name it - both moral and legal.

    Some slashdoters seem to have a view that the internet is a realm where all information should be free and available. This is bullshit. If, for example, my personal medical records became avaiable there, I'd be pissed. This is yet another example of information that you have no right to have in the first place. There would be nothing wrong with shuting down a site that listed everyone's the medical history. Same case with the kiddie porn. I'm sorry, but anybody making an argument that filtering all content is illegal should have NO expectations of privacy. RIAA/cops/evil twin want your fingerprints? No problem, that resturant you ate at can put them online(hosted, of course, in a 3rd world country with at best lax law enforcement) - filtering content is, after all, illegal.

    The only concern is that they have measures in place to unblock a site that is blocked in error, and that they make a best-effort attempt to minimize the number of errors.
  • I have a better idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:30AM (#9349862)
    Why doesn't British Telecom simply hand over the details of anyone accessing these child pornography sites to the police?

    Censorship in this case might be with the best intentions, but the precedent and future problems it creates is immense.

    What will they block next?
    - How to build a bong.
    - How build a petrol bomb.
    - How to make your car street illegal.
    - How to hack your ipod.

    All these things were blocked in China when I lived there.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:33AM (#9349880) Journal
    The sites are still there! Okay, so you can't see them. The out of site out of mind attitude is not going to help. Kids are still going to be abused. Find out who hosts the sites, shut them down, and arrest the owners!

    In fact, people seem to be missing what the actual problem is here. It's not that people download it (not that that's a good thing). The main problem is that people create it in the first place. That is the part that does the most harm.
  • not a good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nagboy (785944) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:34AM (#9349885)
    i dont think this is a very smart idea, not as much from the free speach perspective, but from a law enforcement point of view. the only thing that will happen is that this kind of material will be distributed in other less transparent ways.

    Every major child-porn bust in both western europe and the US has linked the end users with the web sites via their credit card, this is a good way both to bust end-users and to get a good statistical overview of the problem.

    Also if the sites are actually on the web it is also much easier for law enforcement to trace people / places where this kind of material originates.

    I mean, it would become a nightmare scenario for law enforcement if every end-user of child porn actually took the step and started downloading / posting everything anonymously w/PGP encryption on usenet or other message boards, it would be close to impossible to monitor and no credit card to trace.

    just my two cents
  • by tmk (712144) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:36AM (#9349897)
    but removing this content is the right way. Every single state on this planet has laws against child pornography.

    Most illegal pictures the Britons found were on webservers in the USA. You can find data here [guardian.co.uk]. In USA are laws against child porn. You can remove the content.
  • by One Childish N00b (780549) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:43AM (#9349931) Homepage
    A lot of people are screaming about how banning child pornography cannot possibly be twisted into A Bad Thing, but it is not child pornography that this debate really centres on.

    The issue most people have is a large corporation having sway over what it's users can and can't view.
    It's not just child porn, what happens if someone posts anti-BT comments or messages? I've seen enough companies censor their support forums by banning users and deleting posts that criticise their service, do we really want a company able to censor the entire internet? the 'net is one of the few havens of totally free speech availible, and if BT is given the power to block one sort of site, then they will use it as a 'test case' to gain the right to block other kinds of sites.

    Next will go the anti-government sites. Websites that criticise the government, simply blocked from view thanks to BT. Then regular porn sites. Scream at me to say I've got my tinfoil hat on over this, but all I see is a large corporation taking it's first tentative steps towards 'sanitizing' the internet. Blocking child pornography is just the start - the company can block child porn and live safe in the knowledge that anyone who objects will be labelled a paedophile or a supporter of child pornography. Then they can start sliding other categories onto their block lists, safe in the knowledge that anyone who objects to it will get the full wrath of the following knee-jerk reaction:

    "Oh so you don't like internet censorship, then, do you? what do you want, then, you want kiddie porn all over the place then? is that what you want!" - BT looks good by proxy of public hysteria.

    First it's the big, bad child-porn sites. Then it will be the big, bad anti-government sites. Then it will be the whole porn sector, then whole swathes of the internet that do not agree with 'company policy'. Like I said, I might have my tinfoil hat on over this, but the world seems to get a little closer to something out of a cyberpunk novel everyday.
  • Not the first.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wfberg (24378) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:44AM (#9349939)
    BT apparently is doing this not as a wholesale provider, but at the ISP level. They're certainly not the first to do so. Especially in the UK there has been massive blocking of usenet groups for example, I don't remember the specifics, but Demon Internet was derided for being the only ISP *not* blocking newsgroups (or the other way around really, this was years ago).

    In my own neck of the woods, even the widely held as enlightened, geek-run, freedom-of-information-positive provider xs4all blocks kiddy porn newsgroups on usenet. And there are multiple "Christian" themed providers that provide an internetfeed that is filtered beyond belief (usually using some sort of server-side implementation of wildly inaccurate blacklists like netnanny); most public primary/secondary schools also get filtered (if any) access.

    It's a matter of consumer choice really. At least BT (and the aforementioned "Christian" themed/school ISPs) are upfront about it. And let's hope the "error message" people get does inform people how to get innocent sites delisted.

    Now, if BT was doing this as a part of their wholesale operations, that would be A Bad Thing.

    I know for a fact that BT subsidiaries like to restrict their internal networks a whole lot; even browsing to another ISP's webmail is blocked, on the theory you might receive or send some (*gasp*) non-work related e-mails. That's pretty evil (not to mention counter-productive).
  • by notestein (445412) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:08AM (#9350071) Homepage Journal
    For those of you that think this is a slippery slope censorship issue, think again.

    What you are trying to do is link the relationship between free speech and censorship to BT's actions.

    What do you think free speech is? Your right to say whatever you want whenever you want wherever you want and make someone else pay to distribute it for you? If so, you have no idea what free speech is.

    Free speech is your right to have an hold unpopular ideas and convey them (at your own trouble and expense) to others if you wish.

    You cannot use this right to abrogate the rights of others. So you can't libel or extol the use of violence against your fellow citizens. You also can't steal from others by forcing them to pay for the distribution of your ideas.

    BT has every right in the world to engage in these actions.

    This article is not about the government suppressing ideas that it does not like. That's the only censorship that is truly dangerous.

    This is a private company. They can block what ever they and their shareholders wish. They are in the marketplace of ideas and goods.

    If it really bothers you, then compete with them.

    But don't try to tar and feather them with the misuse of poorly held ideas.
    • Ah, but BT is not a private company in that sense - as the article says (I assume you read it), this is all being done in close cooperation with the Home Office (that's the government).

      So this is a government initiative more than a BT shareholder initiative, and in that sense it is "about a government suppressing ideas it does not like". And yes, child porn is bad, but that is not the argument.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:10AM (#9350085) Homepage
    And we're going to trust them to regulate content? What happens when the sites simply change names and move somewhere else? There will be a trail of used IP's blocked in their wake that may be switched to different uses. How does the new owner know they were previously blocked?

    You think the ISP's are going to go back through and make sure the original sites they blocked are still being used for the same purpose? HAHAHAHA! Then you've never dealt with tech support on some of the bigger ISP's. Yesterday I couldn't spell ethernet, today I is a tech support pro-fessional.

    This really doesn't have anything to do with kiddie porn. It's a question about who decides where we can go on the Internet and who makes the call about what constitutes objectionable content.

    And, as usual, it's only going to stop the honest people. Anyone wanting to get to a site bad enough will figure out a way to proxy around the block.

  • by pedantic bore (740196) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:16AM (#9350111)
    How can anyone argue against the government cracking down on illegal activities like this? It's illegal. The legality of this material isn't even the subject of controversy.

    One the functions of governments is to crack down on illegal activities and generally enforce their laws. As long as it's illegal, this is what I'd expect.

    Now you might argue that this material shouldn't be illegal. Go ahead and argue, but you're not going to get any sympathy from me.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:24AM (#9350168)
    "What's next? Blocking anti-government sites?

    Yeah, right. Governments change. This year they lean to the right, next year they lean to the left. So what happens? Do the filters switch on election day, to block anything critical of the new rulers? Please...
    There are enough people on all sides of the political spectrum to make this a non-issue.

    Child porn is universally wrong. Show me an upside.

    "Why censor? Why not just arrest the blighters?"

    And we know that's not the next step how? Identify, notify, arrest, prosecute. But you have to identify first.

    Pre internet, pedophiles were out there, but isolated. With the fre range internet, and easy access, interest boomed. "More, more!" How many pedophiles got their start in the last few years only because they could find this material easily? We'll probably never know, but I'd be willing to bet its grater than 1.
  • by Whumpsnatz (451594) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @10:43AM (#9350277)
    I've seen numerous comments lamenting this action as the beginning of a "slippery slope". I think this is a side effect of seeing the world as binary. Regardless of all the binary computers, the world is fuzzy. Too bad more people can't apply that. Defending kiddy porn because you don't like the idea of a secretive psycho-moralist witch-burning society is lame. I personally don't care whether the sites are blocked; I just want to kill the child molesters who set up these sites.

    In some ways, it comes down to deciding on a lesser of n evils (or, in rare circumstances, n goods). I don't want any government or private agency or person to secretly search my house, library records, or financial records. I don't want to be thrown in jail with no charges, no lawyer, and no acknowledgement that I've been imprisoned. Nor do I want murderers to get out of jail before pot smokers; it usually comes down to making unclear choices. And what is a "kid"? 6-year old - kid. 17-year old, in a country where 16-year-olds are adults - different answer.

    The abortion rant is similar; partial-birth abortion sounds to me like 99.9% murder (of an infant, no less), while a day-after contraceptive sounds like .25% murder. Our legal system has no sensible way to deal with these issues.

    So I suggest we assess each action as it happens, and stop forcing it into a binary view.

    ~, not ==/!=
  • by NtroP (649992) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @04:07PM (#9352113)
    What is child porn?

    My mother has pictures of me as a young child taking a bath in her wash tub. She also has many pictures of my brothers and sisters and I swimming in the local watering hole. We're all starkers. They're all in her old photo albums - she even used some of them as part of a collage at my HS grauation party as part of a "roast the grad" display. Is my mother a child pornographer? What if one of the guests looked at it a little too long? Obviously that makes them a pedophile and they should be locked away.

    My brother just e-mailed me a picture of my niece playing in her wading pool - topless! What about pictures of my wife on the beach (in her bathing suit) with someone else's topless child in the background? Is that kiddy porn? My local hospital has a large full-color poster of about a dozen toddlers, lined up "cheek-to-cheek", with some sort of cute saying on it? KP? Why not? Are the toddlers too young?

    What about a picture of a 12 year old girl in her underwear? That can't ever be right! Except in the Sears catalog. But only pedophiles read that section right? Is Sears contributing to the lust of pedophiles? Boycot them!

    What about that Discovery Channel show about growing up and aging where they line up 100 people from infant to 100 years old, one for every age, all naked?

    The argument for pornography, and by extension, kiddy porn, is "I'll know it when I see it". The problem with that argument is that what is one person's porn is another person's art (or research, or marketing, or memories, etc). Another problem with "kiddy porn" is that the subject is SO taboo and SO reprehensible that there is an instant knee-jerk reaction to it without any rational thought.

    Even my questioning the "status-quo" like this will invariably brand me as a pedophile. This makes about as much sense as my being branded a terrorist because I question the effectiveness of "security measures" that substantially inconvenience me and terribly embarrased my 14 year old daughter who was "caught" wearing an underwire bra on our trip to Europe and had to be "felt-up" by "the lady", in front of everyone.

    The cry is: "It's for security!"or "It's for the Children!". Well, security is good - if not taken to mindless extremes, and protecting children is also good. But are we really about protecting the children? If so, why is is so easy for people to find KP online but so hard for the police to find it and shut it down? And, as another poster pointed out, what about totaly computer generated or hand-drawn material? What happens when "no children were harmed in the making of this film?".

    Yeah, I know, "the material will fuel the lusts of the demented pedophile" and he will therefore be forced to hunt down neighborhood kids. Just like my neighbor downloading pictures from alt.sex.bdsm.* will force him to become a sadistice rapist, or like playing GTA will force the my son to steal cars and run down pedestrians or, God forbid, the next time I see a cross-post of bestiality, I'm going to just have to take out after my poor dog.

    OK, I'll admit that I'm stretching the connections a bit. But it seems to me that trying to censor the end-user is not the solution. While it MAY help those who use Internet Exploder from being "accidentally" exposed to KP when their computer get hijacked and bombarded with pop-ups, shouldn't the effort be focussed on finding the people who are actually exploiting these poor children? And don't tell me that viewing a cross-post on Usenet is "contributing to the exploitation". I didn't ask for it, I didn't pay for it, and I'm sure as hell not gonna act on it.

    In my personal opinion, people who get sexually excited by looking at pre-pubescent children have a phlychological problem, just like people who look at a pony and get that "special feeling". But, and I'm going out on a limb here, I'd be willing to bet that, of those who don't just view ALL pornography as wrong, a vast majority prefer to look at younger,

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