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UK Culture Secretary Wants Website Ratings, Censorship 377

Posted by Soulskill
from the since-the-aussies-seem-so-excited-about-it dept.
kaufmanmoore writes "UK culture secretary Andy Burnham calls for a website rating system similar to the one used for movies in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. He also calls for censorship of the internet, saying, 'There is content that should just not be available to be viewed.' Other proposals he mentions in his wide-ranging calls for internet regulation are 'family-friendly' services from ISPs, and requiring takedown notices to be enforced within a specific time for sites that host content. Mr. Burnham wants to extend his proposals across the pond and seeks meetings with the Obama administration."
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UK Culture Secretary Wants Website Ratings, Censorship

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  • Noooo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FreeFull (1043860) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:42AM (#26241369)
    *cringes in agony* Please, please, please don't bring censorship into UK. It will certainly be used in the way that the Chinese censorship is used. Why the hell does someone in every country think "Let's censor internet!"? Internet is not something to be censored, it's composed of the work of people who want to communicate. The government shouldn't choose what people can communicate to each other and what they can't.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by x78 (1099371)

      The government _can't_ decide what can be viewed and what can't, won't stop 'em all from tryin' though!
      I'm already proxying myself through servers in other countries to avoid the censorship that the big UK ISPs recently signed up for.

      • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:12AM (#26241495)

        Proxies are only useful if the government can't control them. Things aren't looking good now that democracies are taking the example of dictatorships and clamping down on the Internet. Having a proxy chain composed of different government regulated servers (and honey pots) isn't security.

      • Re:Noooo (Score:4, Insightful)

        by damburger (981828) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:26PM (#26241967)

        See my post below: If they implement a whitelist as opposed to a blacklist, then they can very well decide what can be viewed because your proxy servers will never get a rating.

        Of course, it will require so much manpower and money it may bankrupt the country - but that won't be a shock as it seems to me the UK workforce will in a few years be employed solely in checking people aren't peadophiles. Think of the children!

    • Re:Noooo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jombeewoof (1107009) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:48AM (#26241393) Homepage

      ...Why the hell does someone in every country think "Let's censor internet!"?...

      The less open communication you have the more control they have. It's all about making our decisions for us. I thought we were starting to get used to the idea. At least here in the states we are.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by JamesTRexx (675890)
        Reminds me of that sci-fi story where in that world people thought for themselves, and parents took responsibility for their kids.
        And there was this kind of thing they called fair justice everywhere. *thinks* I just can't remember the title...
        • Re:Noooo (Score:5, Insightful)

          by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:40AM (#26241659)

          Reminds me of that sci-fi story where in that world people thought for themselves, and parents took responsibility for their kids.

          The think-of-the-children arguments are just a red herring; if there weren't children around then people would think of other reasons to censor. There will always be excuses to control people.

        • I must have missed that one.
    • Re:Noooo (Score:5, Funny)

      by c_g_hills (110430) <chaz AT chaz6 DOT com> on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:57AM (#26241423) Homepage Journal
      Perhaps it is just a stealth policy to tackle rising unemployment by creating jobs for looking at websites all day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by El_Muerte_TDS (592157)

      *cringes in agony*
      Please, please, please don't bring censorship into UK.

      What do you mean "bring"? The UK already has a lot of censorship. The BBFC has been censoring media for quite some while.

      • Re:Noooo (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DanBrusca (197887) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:47AM (#26241703) Homepage

        What do you mean "bring"? The UK already has a lot of censorship. The BBFC has been censoring media for quite some while.

        The BBFC's job is classification, not censorship. It has no power to ban material or demand cuts in any material. It can withhold certification, but certification is only withheld where it's considered the material in question would breach the criminal law, usually the Obscene Publications Act.

        It's worth noting that over the past 10-15 years the BBFC has trended towards permissiveness, granting certification to previously 'banned' films, often attracting the ire of politicians in the process and effectively pushing the boundaries of what can be considered (legally) obscene material.

        It's also introduced the principle that artistic merit can be an overriding factor, such as a few years back when the German film Taxi Zum Klo was granted a certificate enabling it's broadcast on television, despite it containing a scene featuring actual urolagnia between two gay men.

        Censorship is enshrined in law thanks to the likes of the Obscene Publications Act so any criticism should be directed at our politicians, not at a body which has no choice but to work with the law presented to it and which tries to be as liberal as possible within that law.

        • The BBFC's job is classification, not censorship.

          Nonetheless, labeling something based on its morality or decency is an enabler for censorship.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Then every single video store in existence is enabling censorship - damn them for separating kids films from hardcore porn films!
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              Then every single video store in existence is enabling censorship - damn them for separating kids films from hardcore porn films!

              Exactly my point. And not only that; now of course things are getting worse (as they always do) and now they are separating hardcore porn films write out of any type of legality.

        • Re:Noooo (Score:5, Informative)

          by mdwh2 (535323) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:43PM (#26242111) Journal

          The BBFC's job is classification, not censorship. It has no power to ban material or demand cuts in any material.

          As of the Video Recordings Act 1984 [wikipedia.org], video can only be legally sold or hired if it has been classified. (Consider the recent case of Manhunt 2 as an example.)

          Indeed, the BBFC's name changed from "censors" to "classification" at the same time that the Act changed their job from that of classification to censorship. As summed up in a House of Lords debate [theyworkforyou.com]:

          "On Report, I spoke about the Video Recordings Act 1984. I did not repeat one of the juiciest pieces about it. Until that time, we had a British Board of Film Censors, which was not a censorship board. It classified films, and if it refused to classify them, they could still be shown with the permission of local authorities. The Video Recordings Act 1984 changed the board from being a classification board to being a censorship board because if a video recording was not approved by the board, it could not be shown at all. From being a classification board, it became a censorship board, but its name changed from being a censorship board to a classification board. George Orwell would have been proud."

          but certification is only withheld where it's considered the material in question would breach the criminal law, usually the Obscene Publications Act.

          That's one reason, but the class of material they will refuse to classify is slightly broader than that (e.g., see http://www.bbfc.co.uk/classification/c_R18.php [bbfc.co.uk] ).

          Now having said that, I agree with the main point of your post in that the problem is with the laws rather than the BBFC - in this case, the Video Recordings Act 1984, and the Obscene Publications Act (not to mention a new law that as of January 26 will criminalise possession of adult images considered "extreme" by the Government).

        • Re:Noooo (Score:4, Interesting)

          by rhyder128k (1051042) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @03:43PM (#26243447) Homepage

          They use quite a lot of tricks to censor films. For example, they will sometimes pass the film back to distributor with notes explaining why they cannot pass the film at the requested certificate. The best bit? The distributor makes the changes as specifies and then resubmits the film which is then passed. The BBFC then report that they didn't have to make any cuts.

          It gets even better as the distributor (notice that I didn't say, "the film makers") have a rough idea of the what the BBFC will and wont allow at each certificate. This means that they cut it to BBFC rules in advance.

          Note that the UK doesn't have an X certificate.

          Using this policy, the BBFC gets away with censoring everything while claiming that they hardly ever have to make cuts.

          Don't get me started on their procedures, criteria for "obscenity" and the qualifications of their staff.

          Melon Farmers [melonfarmers.co.uk] used to be the best site for monitoring the BBFC although I haven't used it for a while.

        • Re:Noooo (Score:5, Informative)

          by makomk (752139) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @05:26PM (#26244185) Journal

          The BBFC's job is classification, not censorship. It has no power to ban material or demand cuts in any material. It can withhold certification, but certification is only withheld where it's considered the material in question would breach the criminal law, usually the Obscene Publications Act.

          Nope, this is far from true. Firstly, as someone has already pointed out, it's illegal to show unclassified films or rent/sell unclassified DVDs and videos. (I think the Government was planning to extend this to the web.) Secondly, the BBFC can and do demand specific cuts in material. Thirdly, while if the material in question will breach criminal law (including the OPA) the BBFC do refuse to classify it, it's not the only reason why.

          For example, any film that depicts explicit sex acts can only be rated as R18 [bbfc.co.uk], which means it's not allowed to contain any violence (including violence not linked in any way to sexual activity), the infliction of pain, humiliation, sex portrayed as non-consensual, or "any form of physical restraint which prevents participants from indicating a withdrawal of consent". The last one is generally interpreted by the BBFC to prohibit anyone being shown tied up and gagged in an R18 film. Basically, anything kinky is risky. (A fairly large percentage of R18s, about 20-30% of those rated this year, have BBFC-imposed cuts.) This may have made sense, once upon a time...

          Also, the BBFC have various other odd... quirks, which aren't officially documented by them. For example, they don't like nunchucks, so those often get cut - including in 18-rated films. Plus, if the BBFC think a film contains any depiction of criminal behaviour, illegal drugs, violence, "horrific behaviour or incidents", or sex that may harm potential viewers or cause them to act in a way harmful to society, they are legally required to ban it. Yes, the law really is that vaguely-worded.

          More specifically, anything that could be taken to encourage the use of illegal drugs is banned - including a DVD extra from Weeds Season 2 [bbfc.co.uk] which is a parody of cookery shows discussing different varieties of weed. Additionally, anything dangerous that they're worried children might copy is also banned - often at all classifications. This includes stuff like "combat techniques, hanging, suicide and self-harm".

          It's worth noting that over the past 10-15 years the BBFC has trended towards permissiveness, granting certification to previously 'banned' films, often attracting the ire of politicians in the process and effectively pushing the boundaries of what can be considered (legally) obscene material.

          That's mostly because, in retrospect, those banned films don't look nearly as nasty as they were originally made out to be. Also, don't expect this to last - it looks like the Government are trying to get more control over the BBFC.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rhyder128k (1051042)
      These powers could be abused but I'm comfortable that Gordo and Jackboots Jackie will only use these powers for good.

      [fx: wipes a tear away that was brought on by the laughter]

      It's the kind of diversity that NuLabour are best at: now we're taking choice elements from the best despotic societies such as China and the Soviet Union and integrating them into our culture. I'm almost moved to vote but I'm not convinced that the other lot are going to do that much about it.

      "Papers please." --- get used to he

      • Indeed. Labour would be looking at a massive defeat in the next election, if only the Conservatives didn't reply to every stupid Labour idea with 'Look at us! We can be more stupid than them!'
        • by damburger (981828)
          The Tories are lockstep in line with New Labor (sic) - they differentiate themselves largely by their position on the foxhunting ban. So our 'elections' are a choice between a totalitarian government and a totalitarian government that gets its rocks off maiming small animals. Go democracy!
    • Re:Noooo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arkhan_jg (618674) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @03:45PM (#26243457)

      As the Internet Watch Foundation demonstrated vividly the other day with wikipedia, silent and secret censorship is unfortunately already alive and well in the UK today. Since participating ISPs block the list without question, and in fact are required to, and the list is not vetted by any other organisation, we have no idea what pages are being 404'd for the majority of british internet users already.

      Add this to the european-wide expansion of state monitoring of email, web-traffic, phonecalls and text messages, and the capability - and willingness - for a great firewall of the UK like the chinese or coming australian firewall is rising greatly.

      Of course, we all know that it won't stop knowledgable people from circumventing the blocks, especially those who are supposed to be blocked in the first place. So the only end result will inevitably be more secret government censorship of the UK web of legitimate sites for ordinary people, while not affecting the already illegal activity they're supposedly trying to stop. For all we know, the IWF already filter political websites they disagree with. It's a slippery slope, and the British government has not not only jumped right onto it, it's running downwards as fast as humanly possible.

  • Free speech (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KasperMeerts (1305097) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:44AM (#26241379)
    Excuse me, but don't they have free speech in the UK?

    There is content that should just not be available to be viewed.

    Don't tell me they can do that? I'm pretty sure that would be completely unconstitutional here in Belgium. And why do these idiots keep messing with our internet. You don't like, don't visit it.
    I friggin' hate Modern Art and that's why I stay away from museums.

    • Re:Free speech (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MoonBuggy (611105) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:59AM (#26241441) Journal

      There are plenty of terms that are thrown about to counter free speech. Some examples from the UK include laws against "inciting religious hatred" and "obscenity" - neither term is defined. There is also the chilling effect caused by the threat of legal action against content that probably does not contravene any law at all. It's made all the more effective when you look at the scope of our 'anti-terror' laws and what they can do to you if you refuse to comply.

      I'd be surprised if Belgium didn't have some laws lurking on the books that make certain content illegal.

      I've said it before on Slashdot, but I'll ask again: what can we do when our politicians try to do things like this. Writing letters (yes, real ones, on paper), voting and protesting have all been ignored. What realistic options are left to us?

      • Re:Free speech (Score:5, Insightful)

        by russotto (537200) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:28AM (#26241575) Journal

        I've said it before on Slashdot, but I'll ask again: what can we do when our politicians try to do things like this. Writing letters (yes, real ones, on paper), voting and protesting have all been ignored. What realistic options are left to us?

        If any realistic options were available, they'd be illegal -- and dangerous to talk about.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by shinier (949631)
          If you don't like any of the available parties then the realistic option is to start your own party and stand for government. If the Internet is useful for anything, its for stirring up action. It shouldn't be too difficult to win at least one seat with a viral campaign and enough supporters. That's the great thing about Democracy. If you don't like the government, you start your own. Take advantage while you can.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheRaven64 (641858)

            It shouldn't be too difficult to win at least one seat with a viral campaign and enough supporters

            Except that we have a first-past-the-post system in the UK, which means that winning one seat in parliament means persuading the majority in one constituency. It doesn't matter if you persuade 5% of the national population, you still won't win unless they are the same constituency.

      • I've said it before on Slashdot, but I'll ask again: what can we do when our politicians try to do things like this

        Talk about it. An effective protest movement needs popular support. The only way you get that is by convincing people that the issue is important and that it affects them. And the only way to do that is to discuss it. Talk to people and get them to talk to people.

        And don't give up on voting. Just don't vote for the main parties, since they almost certainly are bought and paid for in advanc

    • Re:Free speech (Score:5, Informative)

      by owlnation (858981) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:04PM (#26241809)

      Excuse me, but don't they have free speech in the UK?

      No. There is categorically no legal right to free speech in the UK. There is also no right to remain silent either. In the 1980's the UK government censored the voices of the IRA (for good old fashioned terrorism reasons). This resulted in TV stations trying to get around it with a loophole, by using the voices of actors.

      Also, if you remain silent in court this can be assumed as evidence of guilt.

      People assume the UK has always been free, however in truth it never has been. It's just that recently it has become terrifyingly unfree, and becoming more so every day that the Neues Arbeit Regime remains in power.

      • Re:Free speech (Score:5, Informative)

        by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Saturday December 27, 2008 @01:53PM (#26242701)

        There is also no right to remain silent either.

        Yes there is - the caution you receive when arrested in the UK is as follows:

        "You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court, anything you do say may be given in evidence."

        You are under no requirement to answer anything during questioning - you can sit there as mute as anything and the police cannot do anything about it.

        Also, if you remain silent in court this can be assumed as evidence of guilt.

        No it can't, not in any court within the United Kingdom. Staying silent may harm your defence, as noted in the caution you are given, but it can never be used as a presumption of evidence of guilt.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gilgongo (57446)

          Staying silent may harm your defence, as noted in the caution you are given, but it can never be used as a presumption of evidence of guilt.

          And the difference between that and having no right of silence is... ?

      • Re:Free speech (Score:5, Informative)

        by thebrix (587104) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @02:01PM (#26242757)

        There is a legal right to free speech - but no _absolute_ right to free speech - in the UK or any other EU state. To quote from the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms:

        1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

        2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

        The exception for "protection of health or morals", in particular, opens up huge holes.

    • Re:Free speech (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:30PM (#26242009)

      Excuse me, but don't they have free speech in the UK?

      Alas, no. That's the USA you're thinking of.

      Don't tell me they can do that? I'm pretty sure that would be completely unconstitutional here in Belgium.

      It's going to go in through the back door (no pun intended). First they'll say it's about child porn; then they'll say it's about "violent" porn (the UK has a history of denying certain basic rights to people who engage in BDSM). Then it's going to be regular porn, although it won't be banned outright - there'll just be rating requirements. And then they'll make it more and more difficult to actually comply with the requirements, de facto killing things that they cannot kill de jure (check out 18 USC Section 2257 record keeping requirements in the USA, for example). And finally, when public support for regular porn has waned, it'll be outright outlawed, too, in a step-by-step strategy: first it's going to be porn that "degrades" women, for instance, and then that definition will again be expanded until any and all porn will be included.

      And so on.

  • Hmmmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot @ s p a d . c o.uk> on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:46AM (#26241383) Homepage

    I think I speak for everyone here when I say: "Good luck with that".

  • scarily ignorant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:48AM (#26241387)
    Not only does this show that the individual making these proposals is not qualified to consider the subject, but it also tells us that the advice he is giving is incompetent.

    In practice, of course, this is not really a serious proposal - it's merely a way of seeing (from the reaction) who amenable the public would be to being censored.

    Sadly, most people have such a degree of scorn for this and other governments, that they won't take this seriously - or make any comments about it. The consequence being that the "public opinion" - whichever way it comes out - will be decided by a small, ignorant, but vocal minority who have their own agenda or fears.

    Whatever happens, it won't represent the opinions of the people - but that's "democracy" for you.

    • We have a Minister for Culture? WTF?

      More snouts in the bloody trough. Bah.
    • by Lazarian (906722)
      "In practice, of course, this is not really a serious proposal - it's merely a way of seeing (from the reaction) who amenable the public would be to being censored.

      I believe you have hit the nail on the head with that statement, although I don't believe the "representatives" who make such proposals are in any way ignorant of the practicalities of these proposals. I've always had the thought that they already know the idea of rating systems on websites would be beyond possible to implement, since they like

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:50AM (#26241401)

    Burnham is a moron. This is another great example of a minor politician grasping at something to make him-/herself seem more important, and resulting in him appearing more stupid than dirt.

    If something in the region of 90% of all websites are outside the UK, how on earth can this be implemented and enforced? The US has strict laws on censorship, so this cannot work there, so I can't see why he's wasting his time trying to get the US involved, unless he's simply posturing and trying to boost his ego.

    Andy - wake up, you'll end up being a laughing stock, not a hero.

    • And if the router at the border just drops the packets for these alleged "outside the UK" sites, then what?

      Don't believe it won't happen.
    • by damburger (981828)
      His proposals seem to centre around ISPs censoring based on a whitelist. This is quite possible, although expensive, so don't get comfortable.
  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:51AM (#26241405)
    I unreservedly apologise for our stupid politicians. Unfortunately, many of them don't reveal themselves as barking until after they get elected and then get given a Government job. I believe that you in the US have had similar problems in the past.
    • Those problems make me wonder why that whole "impeachment" thing doesn't happen more often. I don't know much about law. My guess is the process of removing corrupt elected officials from office is controlled entirely by corrupt elected officials.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Extremus (1043274)
        Haha! This happens because every government reflects its people in one way or another. Like somebody said before in this post: there are lots of people who believe that internet censorship is a good thing. These people still does not see the internet as a tool for free-speech, but as a toy for teenagers.

        IMO, from the government point of view, this is the right moment to impose a internet censorship: the generation that actually understands the internet does not have any political power yet. More and more
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Archtech (159117)

          Haha! This happens because every government reflects its people in one way or another.

          Yes, I am very much afraid you are right about that. Which also explains why the UK Conservative Party does not offer any useful alternatives to Labour Party policies - the same applies to the Democrats and Republicans in the USA. (As Gore Vidal memorably put it, the USA is ruled by one party with two right wings).

          The leading political parties no longer offer significantly different policies because they have adopted marketing techniques that show them what the people want (or will put up with, which is goo

      • If it was easy to get rid of the pricks, we'd already be rid of Blagojevich.

  • excellent! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:53AM (#26241407)

    so myspace and msn gets blocked from under 18s I take it? brilliant, bring it on!

  • The Internet Watch Foundation, protectors of the British citizenry against uncceptable material on teh intarweb, have declared Wikipedia illegal in the UK [today.com].

    Several police forces had advised the IWF concerning the site, swearing their actions had nothing to do with anything in the site about senior policemen or their behaviour.

    "The fourth most popular website in the world is an encyclopedia," said IWF Obersturmgruppenwhitehouse Myra Hindley. "What sort of message does that send about the youth of today? They should be using mobile phones, dealing drugs, smoking cracks to 'jazz' music in discos and knifing each other in the streets. God help us if they see record covers!"

    Police across the country used sophisticated hammer-detecting equipment to swoop on the homes of rumoured Wikipedophiles. All computers, mobile phones, televisions and any technology more sophisticated than scissors will be confiscated for investigation, and will be returned in due process in twelve to eighteen months when the filthy fucking nonces have been brought to trial, assuming they survive multiple beatings in jail.

    "Fuck these filthy fucking fuckers," said Zoe fucking Hilton of the NSPCC. "And give us money, or you're a filthy fucking kiddie fucker yourself. Turd."

    "We absolutely won't be adapting the system to discussion of ID cards," said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. "Nor will MPs raising the issue have their offices or homes raided. Probably."

    Virgin Media users had failed to notice any difference, assuming the connection problems were service as normal, and went back to watching the football except for the last ten minutes of the game.

    • You're on your way to getting yourself put on a do-not-fly list.

  • by Manip (656104) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:58AM (#26241425)

    There is nothing in principle wrong with "movie style ratings" for sites. The question is two fold:
    - How will it be enforced?
    - Who will [pay] to enforce it?

    If the answer to the first question is "software that users put onto their systems" then I am fine with that. Parents should have the power to control what their own kids view. We're always talking about parents taking parental responsibility so let's give them TOOLS to do so.

    The second question is who will enforce these movie style ratings? Now that is really the hard part as you have 90% of the internet outside of the control of the US and UK governments unless they wish to put up some kind of firewall (bad plan).

    I think everyone should get together, Governments, ISPs, and internet standards bodies and come up with a cheap, and simple way to mark all sites.

    Then the UK and US should mandate it within their own borders and put international pressure on other countries to do the same.

    That way we will give parents control, make the parental software really work, and give governments less ammo to firewall the Internet for us adults.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      There is nothing in principle wrong with "movie style ratings" for sites. The question is two fold:
      - How will it be enforced?
      - Who will [pay] to enforce it?

      And how will it be kept updated? This is far from trivial, with movies/music/games and whatnot you can submit the final product for review and that's forever the rating. Every time you update your blog it could potentially change its rating if you take up topics or display graphics that aren't suitable for the age group. Even if I wasn't taking up any particularly sensitive topic I'd have to enter some kind of agreement not to replace it with hardcore pornography in the future, which means 99%+ of all norma

    • ... that is to recognise that the internet is not and never can be regulated. It's a trans-national structure, with no controls and little public understanding of how it works.

      Once you accept that internet regulation is not possible, you have three possibilities:

      ban it - cheap and simple

      keep your children off it; also cheap and simple

      The third choice (as always) is to do nothing: also cheap and simple.

      Of course, few parents seem to be willing these days, to accept responsibility for their childrens' w

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      if it worked like that, I don't think anyone would have any problem with it, but in the real world the politicians will some how screw it up and it will be completely wrong and hence why we have to stop them from going anywhere near this subject
    • by earlymon (1116185) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @04:04PM (#26243597) Homepage Journal

      There is nothing in principle wrong with "movie style ratings" for sites.

      Absolutely and completely incorrect.

      To begin, look at the premise of movie style ratings and what's wrong there:
      1. Pre-code movies are more realistic w.r.t. interpersonal and social interactions and - for me - more interesting and entertaining.
      2. The movie code led to nothing more nor less than political oversight of Hollywood.
      3. The modern movie ratings system (an outgrowth of the code) has destroyed many a good indie film's chances of recouping costs - there have been a number of decent shows on the IFC (Independent Film Channel) detailing this.
      4. The ratings themselves are set by people whose values and reasoning make me wretch (again, I refer to interviews with them in the aforementioned shows on the IFC). I would urge you to really think about who will set these ratings of which you speak - and to further think about the criteria.
      5. Anecdotally, I watched the original Jurassic Park sitting next to someone else's 5 year-old kids while they were being mentally numbed by the raptors ripping living human limb from limb - raised to be as slack-jawed as their parents.

      Movie ratings don't work at all - therefore, there is no principle for you to apply.

      When theory and data disagree, you validate the data and when proven valid, you throw out the theory and start over.

      You're taking what appears to be a measured argument on this subject, but your premise is completely screwed up - that the ratings themselves will be fair (whatever that means!!!!) or fairly applied (whatever that means!!!!) or will be rational in the first place.

      All that your support will accomplish is a dilution of quality and a growth area for narrowly-focused political interests to become the middle layer in yet another immoral currency exchange.

      History has proven this with the movie ratings - and they got away with it because the back-end arguments **sound reasonable**.

      When the front end is drek, the back end is, too.

      All I'd have to do to kill a competitor's website with a G rating - and a comment space - is to constantly hound the comment space with X-rated remarks and report the site to the "authorities." Think it wouldn't work? Sure it would. The door is then open to regulate all blogs with higher "standands" than non-interactive sites.

      The whole idea for rating web sites is just so wrong on so many levels that I don't know where to begin - or stop - so I stop here.

  • . . . but the year of Internet Censorship!

    To all you former UK citizens, I would like to say a hearty, "Welcome to Vietnam!"

    Try the Pho.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Run it through the English->American translator. Yes, they said the word "censorship". However, you will find that you do indeed have censorship the other side of the pond too. You just have a taboo against calling it censorship. Is kiddy porn illegal? Yes? That's censorship. The only difference here is that people in the UK actually call it censorship instead of tiptoeing around it to double-think ourselves into maintaining the belief that the First Amendment is absolute. Nowhere is free from c

  • I thought the quote "There is content that should just not be available to be viewed." would have been something taken out of context just to be inflammatory. Nope -

    "There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear abo

    • You can't have freedom of speech unless you're willing to stand up and support your most vocal opponent's right to say the most offensive things.

      Free speech is all well and good, but what about things like hate speech, child pornography, videos of youths knifing other youths and so forth? Yes, it may be the stereotypical and usually worthless "Think of the children!" cry, but it makes it extremely difficult to effectively argue against it in a public space, claims of Free Speech or no. As a result this sort of ridiculous law can be seriously contemplated, because anyone trying to stand up against it is faced with vague tutting and the veiled implica

  • Peer Pressure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:08AM (#26241481)

    Mr. Burnham wants to extend his proposals across the pond and seeks meetings with the Obama administration.

    Same with Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other notable world leaders. Let's hope peer pressure doesn't sway anybody to think that censorship is a good idea.

  • Must be stopped (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:14AM (#26241507)

    This notion simply disgusts me and is a dangerous development, which clearly sets dangerous precedents which may be used to supress certain political dissent and create a saudi arabia like totalitarian state where everything from perfectly harmless pornography of consenting adults for consenting adults, to certain kinds of music and political views are illegal. this creeping vicious totalitarian trend is quite disturbing to me and creepy. As a supporter of free speech and liberty, I strongly oppose this idea, and that to protect our freedoms and human rights, this horrible idea which threatens the rights of the people should be totally defeated. It is quite clear that many countries are degenerating into a totalitarian police state where powerful elites may decide what you are allowed to see and hear. People did not fight and die in vain so that we would give up the freedoms we fought for. I am surprised that a country like the UK, which had a near death experience from the Nazis and was nearly invaded, and barely escaped having a totalitarian Nazi regime imposed on it, and fought hard to defend their rights and freedoms, will now willingly give up those rights and freedoms it worked so hard to protect.It seems, the mentality is, they saved their rights and freedoms from the Nazis just in time for them to willingly give themselves up themselves and turn their country into a big brother totalitarian police state of horrific proportions from within. The UK seems to be especially degenerationg into a police state very quickly, with more cameras per capita in London than any other city in a western country, and with police state tactics including mass surveillance and ID cars (nazi phrase: your papers please!).

    I strongly hope that the citizens of the UK do not tolerate this gross abuse of power and erosion of their rights and liberties. Government should not be in a position to determine what people are allowed and not allowed to look at, and what they are allowed to say and publish and not allowed to say and publish. Government is clearly treating people like children, by creating a nanny state, a big brother state, which endangers the well being and safety of all people. Privacy is an essential part of freedom, and so is free speech and both are being totally violated by the UK government, through net surveillance and now censorship. The surveillance is an enabling factor which further allows establishment of a police state tyrannical order and destroys basic privacy expections at the cornerstone of any free society. This power can very easily be abused by governments seeking to create dossiers of views and opinions of its people,. this is the first step that allows them to be singled out and attacked by a government. And even if i am just e-mailing my grocery list, its not really any of the governments godd*#% business if I prefer to drink 2% lowfat organic milk. Just the concept of government of prying into our daily lives and personal communications and preferences, should outrage us and should be completely intolerable to us.

    The censorship aspect should be completely defeated. The only thing which even remotely one could say it might be justified to censor is child pornography, but I am concerned that even that system could be abused, it would be too easy to add websites which might be politically unpopular by some to such a filter, "accidentilly", such as socialist or communist websites or ones critical of the prime minister or the queen. So for that reason i am opposed to the idea of any filter at all since it is a far greater danger to our freedom and is not warranted. Child pornography should be combatted by going after producers of it.

    As far as a self ratings system which would encourage websites to self label themselves with a PICS label in the HTML code, for instance for violence and such,and thus allowing the consumer to choose whether or not to allow such content, this might be acceptable, as long as the consumer is control and will decide if any filtering will be applied. I do support putting the consumer in control and being able to opt-in by installing a filter on their computer. I am against any forced filtering which would be in direct violation of basic human and civil liberties.

    • by tsa (15680)

      I totally agree with you, even on the point of child pornography. Filtering child pornography does not stop it from being made. People who need child pornography will get their share in other ways if it's filtered on the 'net or anywhere else.

    • The problem is this seems to be completely backwards.

      What is needed is a way of identifying kid friendly sites, say something like robots.txt but for child friendly sites and a simple extension for the web browser to use it.

      when active this would block at the pc level any sites without the child cert. A parental password would turn it on or off.

      Thus parents can have a safer internet for the kids and everyone else can have access to the rest.

      Simple free and keeps our internet the way we like it.

      The key thi

  • by EnglishTim (9662) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:14AM (#26241509)

    I don't like the man. he was previously in charge of identity card legislation and was also a big supporter of the right of the state to detain 'terrorist suspects' for 42 days without any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BeerCat (685972)

      Not only is he an advocate of "42 days", he is also a total despotic hypocrite. from the Telegraph article:
      (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/3965513/Labour-doesnt-understand-the-internet.html)

      Mr Burnham says that his own children are closely supervised when they use the computer. No impractical rating system is necessary in his household. It is as a parent, therefore, rather than as a politician that he is pointing the way forward.

      So, it is as "a parent", that he demands something that is "

  • How about opt in? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by myxiplx (906307) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:22AM (#26241549)

    While like everybody else here I'm absolutely opposed to anybody censoring my internet connection, I wonder if the politicians have ever thought that this could maybe be a public service that people could opt in to?

    A decent content rating system that's made available by any ISP to customers who want to use it, with an independent body doing the ratings could be very useful to people who actually do want their content filtered. I can see it being useful to parents, some old folk would certainly use it, as would a few religious types.

    Done as an opt in system (maybe even opt out at a push) it could achieve pretty much the same results, without antagonising all of us who feel we're old enough and mature enough to decide what we want to see.

  • by jc42 (318812) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:29AM (#26241583) Homepage Journal

    This is something I've wondered whenever this topic comes up. Suppose I have a home server, and I've helped several friends build their own web sites on it. One friend has registered JoesKiddieSite.org and the name points to my IP address. Another friend has registered SuziesPornSite.com and that name also points to my IP address Yet another friend just uses my example.com domain, and I've set up SamsPetPics.example.com and SamsNudeMidgets.example.com domain names for him.

    Are there one, three or four "sites" on my machine? Would a rating system give them all the same rating (presumably X), because they all have the same IP address and are thus the same "site"? Or would it give each of them a different rating, because they all have different domain names and are independent "sites"? Or would all pages owned by the same owner would be a single site, even if Sam keeps his two "virtual sites" strictly independent?

    So far, I've never heard a coherent answer to such questions.

    I have a curious case on my real machine, and on a remote account where all my stuff is mirrored in a guest account. Over 10 years ago, I got tired of the claim that if you put something online, any child can find it. So I put a naughty picture on my web site, an "artsy" picture of a naked woman, and challenged visitors to find it. So far, according to the server log and "ls -lu", nobody but me has ever accessed the photo. It's hidden by the most trivial method I know: the directory has an index.html file and there are no links to the image. So you can only find it if you type the bizarre random-looking name that I gave it. The question is: Because I state openly that the image exists, would my site get an X rating? Would a court subpoena the image's URL, and would I have to tell the judge how to find the picture?

    It's pretty easy to come up with absurdities about such site ratings. As long as it's only search sites that are doing the rating, it doesn't much matter if they are occasionally nonsensical. But if written into law without dealing sensibly with questions like the above, it seems fairly clear that a legal rating system for web sites would be simply wrong much of the time. It might give JoesKiddieSite the same rating as SuziesPornSite the same rating due to a common address, or might give Sam's two "sites" the same rating due to a common owner.

    Or perhaps someone has worked out a scheme to reasonably define "site" for legal purposes in a way that solves such problems. Anyone have a link to such a scheme?

    • I know I'm trying to introduce logic into a system that clearly was not designed to handle it, but how is this for a simple solution to your question.

      Any collection of web pages that is designed to be viewed as a single object.
      With your examples, every single one of the "sites" would be their own entity.

      To put another example out there, my brother has a web page that is mostly hosted by a provider. There are certain things that provider will not host, and those portions are on my server at home. This

    • by damburger (981828)
      If as I suspect he is thinking of a whitelist scheme, almost certainly any ip address with a whiff of anything outside the narrow definition of acceptable material would not be permitted. Seeing as any website that matters to the government (i.e. is a giant corporate wallet-emptying machine) wouldn't be affected by this they won't spend extra money to clear servers containing material of variable age suitability.
    • i've suggested this on another comment but an age.txt similar to robots.txt would solve your problem.

      Any site which you host which is kidsafe has an age.txt in its web root folder, it simply states the recommended minimum age eg 12 or 18 or what ever. The browser respects the parental settings set per pc (a simple extension would do it). if there is no age.txt then it assumes its adult content. that way you can host your pornsites on the same server as your flash game sites and the only kids that get to se

  • ... will it be before the average politician has the slightest clue about how the internet actually works, and is savvy enough to simply laugh off hopelessly stupid ideas like the one presented in this story?

    I don't mean "technically", I just mean at least as good as the average 10 year old.

    Do we really have to wait until the current crop is dead?

    • by Spad (470073)

      Most of the people I know (18-30 age group) don't have the slightest clue about how the internet actually works.

      Don't make the same mistake that everyone else does in assuming that being comfortable using computers and being on the Facebook every waking hour somehow means that you have any idea or any desire to know how it all works.

  • by damburger (981828) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:15PM (#26241893)

    His idea seems to be (although he is being vague about it, probably on purpose) to have ISPs only allow access to sites (in context presumably meaning IP addresses) that have a certificate - one we can only assume has to be applied for.

    If this is indeed what he is suggesting, its horrific. For crying out loud, Iran only operates blacklists. We would officially have worse Internet censorship than a nation that executes women for being victims of rape.

    The reason totalitarian nations haven't tried a whitelist by the way, is the amount of work it requires. Of course, that may work to the advantage of the UK government. A slow process of being allowed to publish controversial material on the web would prevent non-government groups being able to react quickly to government abuse. By the time your web page got through the government approval (after your personal details have been lost a few times) the controversy has died down, government wins.

    I don't want to live in a society where you need to apply to the government for permission to speak.

  • That Orwell was an optimist...
  • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:31PM (#26242015)

    Not to be melodramatic, but computers and the Internet are probably the single-most important human acheivement in the past 1,000 years. Free communication has the power to transform our society from warring tribes to a true global civilization, concentrating efforts to better our lives. It's the first truly accessible bidirectional network (or "peer-to-peer" as corporate/government drones like to say).

    It has the power to dislodge those who seek to position themselves between productive people (for tax or ideological control). These are people who don't produce anything useful; they are simply parasites on the system. Thus, the loss of a global communication network is of little negative consequence to them.

    And these are their opening shots; thousands of petty little dictators from all walks of life (government, religion, busybodies, corporate) have zeroed in their guns and are beginning to fire. If they are not stopped, the end result will be disasterous. I did not spend the last 20 years of my life building another glorified cable TV entertainment network.

    We, the technically inclined... the engineers who conceptualized, and then actualized this network... we hold the cards. We build and install the equipment, we write the software, and we understand what's at stake. We need to organize, and we need to do it now.

    Perhaps a worldwide RBL that completely deletes a hostile force from the Internet, based on a vote. Australian government implementing a censorship plan? No packets to any subnet associated with the Australian government until those responsible are found and punished. New bill to restrict anonymity on the Internet, forcing people to use identifying information? Let's see how well that senator does without email. After all, if he gets his way - to damage our ability to communicate - should we not get ours?

    Perhaps a worldwide union of engineers for a collective maintenance; all member engineer will refuse to cooporate with unethical requests (routing to censorship hardware, violating principles of net neutrality, etc), and the union will pay their salary, and assist in finding a new position, if they are terminated for insubordination. In any case, firing an engineer is expensive. Let's make these companies hurt.

    The net routes around damage... yes. But nothing is invincible. If we fail to defend it, we lose everything. If a critical mass of governments succeed in inserting themselves as gatekeepers, we have lost. Not because secure communication will be impossible... nothing can stop the individual. But because it will stop the masses. And that's all they want.

  • Proof once again! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110)

    "The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe."

  • a couple of doors down the street and have a word with the local MP to explain just how fucking stupid this is, perhaps if he gets it he can explain to others.
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:51PM (#26242183) Homepage

    Why is it that the larger a nation grows (in terms of population), the more oppressive its laws become ?

    Statistically speaking, more people should mean more diversity. More diversity would then imply a place for everyone and everything, without the need for some ruling dictatorship to impose draconian restrictions on the freedoms of life.

    The only thing that will come out of censorship is more and better ways to circumvent it. The UK has 60 million people, you don't think one or two of them have the smarts to set up proxies ?

    • very simple.

      More people == more people to be offended by what the other people are doing.

      Now, we can't possibly allow people to be offended, so we must protect them. We must at all costs not allow these people to feel "different" in any way.

      Now, some people want to be different. They get together with the other people and dress/talk/walk different. Just like the rest of their friends.

      Also, the more people you can tax the more money is there for the taking which means more people want to get a slice of that

  • by thebrix (587104) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @01:56PM (#26242717)

    I think someone in Government had put a heavy paw on his shoulder in the interim because there was a interview on BBC Radio Four a few minutes ago in which he was much more reasonable - the word "voluntary" was used repeatedly and "censorship" was omitted - and, in any case, there was a counter-interview (didn't catch the interviewee's name or affiliation) which tore the whole thing to shreds - the probability of 100 per cent international cooperation on this issue was zero and, in the end, "policing" would best be done by parents taking responsibility rather than some half-baked State attempt which would be full of holes even before it was switched on.

    In passing:

    1. The Telegraph is a Tory newspaper and Burnham is Labour, so I can be sure that the most negative spin possible was put on the interview;

    2. The notion of the British government negotiating with the US government on this issue is risible - the President-elect, as a former professor of constitutional law, would presumably tell it to retreat across the Atlantic with all possible haste.

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