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British ISPs Respond On Filtering 163

Posted by Soulskill
from the defenders-of-the-porn dept.
An anonymous reader writes "UK ISPs have responded to culture minister Ed Vaisey's comments regarding pervasive, opt-out only porn filtering, bringing up many of the technical and civil-liberties issues also raised on Slashdot. In response to the government proposal, Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the Ispa industry body, said: 'Ispa firmly believes that controls on children's access to the internet should be managed by parents and carers with the tools ISPs provide, rather than being imposed top-down.' Trefor Davies, chief technology officer at ISP Timico, commented that 'Unfortunately, it's technically not possible to completely block this stuff. You end up with a system that's either hugely expensive and a losing battle because there are millions of these sites or it's just not effective. The cost of putting these systems in place outweigh the benefits, to my mind.' Mr. Davies also feared that any wide-scale attempt to police pornographic content would soon be expanded to include pirated pop songs, films and TV shows. 'If we take this step it will not take very long to end up with an internet that's a walled garden of sites the governments is happy for you to see,' he said."
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British ISPs Respond On Filtering

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  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:17AM (#34625632)
    Let me introduce you to Common Sense... Oh, I see you two just met...
    • by Mordie (1943326)
      its not just england. australia's goverment want one too, since politicans are the best and the brightest, not popular blowhards. seriously people, if your technology minster never worked in the industry, then problems you gonna have.
      • by h00manist (800926) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @05:34AM (#34626204) Journal
        We here have a law just for cybercafes, supposedly to "reduce Internet crime". Basically it says no minors or alcohol, and recording the ID and keeping records on all users, there's a bunch of other articles but not so important.
        So we have cops shaking down establishments that don't follow the laws. We have lawsuits demanding damages on cafe's that were used for sending anonymous emails to someone. We have potential customers (rightly) angry that they just want to use a computer for five minutes, and don't want to leave a dozen pieces of information on them for that. We have the constant concern that the police is coming by to check if everything is according to the laws. We have the concern that some disgruntled client or employee will start looking for some legal clauses not followed 100% (there are always some) and call the inspectors on us. We have the labor of creating, for each and every client, username, password, recording name, date of birth, ID, address, phone. Then people forgetting passwords, and resetting it for them, dozens of times a day. All labor we earn nothing for.
        And no, this is not Iran or North Korea, it's Brazil.
        I understand people want to catch criminals and reduce crime and violence. That's fine, even commendable. What people fail to do is properly study where crime and violence originates, and how to prevent or reduce it. If you put controls and checks everywhere, all the time, you'll reduce crime, yes, and make society and life terrible. Just like the Internet, if you want to prevent crime on the streets, you can install machines that check fingerprints, license plates, records a face on video, on every bridge, subway, bus, major avenue, and street corner. It's certain to reduce some crime, even a lot of it. You can install devices to check fingerprints and ID on the phones, to record all phone calls, to record conversations on every table in society. It will reduce crime, too. You can make all financial transactions analyzed by computers and requiring a description as to a purpose, to check for corruption, and theft, and so on. You can eliminate paper money, to force people to create electronic records of all purchases and expenses. Everything can be tracked and checked. That will reduce crime, too.
        But none of that will eliminate the intention and motivation for crime. People have ignorance and violence in their heart and mind, motivated from anger from other past violence, ignorance, or bodily pain. Controlling people's actions does nothing to control what they feel, want, wish, think. That, we will only get with more, better education, education to think of others, of society, and not just oneself, which is exactly what our society does NOT encourage. It requires a a society that people don't feel they need to commit crime to advance in, that rewards intelligent and useful work, and not legalized psychological manipulation to sabotage people's brains into wanting and buying things that will do nothing they actually need. In short, if we want to reduce crime and violence, great, let's. It's built in to, and requires deep change to, the legal, financial, commerce, government, the moral values, the education system. It's not in the freaking Internet. Crime and violence does not run over wires. Crime and violence is not stored on hard drives, or transmitted over telecommunications systems. Crime and violence can be committed everywhere and with any means when someone is decided for it, just study any prison or war situations, and see if any "laws" or "enforcement" apply there, when violence has set in, when it's the order of the day. Crime and violence is born, lives and dies, grows and shrinks, every day, in the heart and mind of each and every citizen, neighbor, voter, employee and family member. If you want to reduce crime and violence you need a massive education campaign, teaching respect for all human beings, above all other principles, there is no other way. As it stands, it is taught that everything is more important than human beings. Tr
        • by Reziac (43301) * on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:11AM (#34627128) Homepage Journal

          Reduce crime? No. What it does is INCREASE crime, because now there are so many more things that are illegal.

          [Crime here defined as "What the state doesn't want you doing" as contrasted to the commonsense definition of "Doing harm to others".]

        • by Rexdude (747457)

          For an extreme example of ineffectiveness, just look at Saudi Arabia/Iran, which impose the harshest punishments based on Sharia law. Despite the fact that stealing can get your hands chopped off, or that you can be beheaded for murder, it doesn't exactly kill the crime rate there and you still hear of the odd story of someone being punished for these crimes.

    • It makes much more sense when read in this context [eff.org].

      Once you get such a filtering infrastructure in place by invoking the universal "think-of-the-children" excuse, then using said-system to filter out copyrighted material becomes a breeze. And if anyone complains, kindly remind them that complaining will only make them suspected pedophiles.

      • by JackOfAllGeeks (1034454) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:17AM (#34627154)
        If you're concerned about them blocking porn and copyrighted material, you're thinking too small. The real concern is that once this kind of a system is in place, it becomes trivial to expand it to other content you don't like, such as Wikileaks or political dissidents or anything else that goes contrary to the Government-approved worldview.

        We have always been at war with Eurasia.
        • This being the UK government, I'm guessing the government would want to block 'hate speech.' A vague class that includes saying anything negative about a minority group, regardless of the legitimacy of the criticism.
          • by MoonBuggy (611105)

            You undermine your (quite valid) argument by letting your bias impair your accuracy. I quite agree with you that 'hate speech' laws are a terrible idea; even in the title you can see that their intent is to limit freedom of speech, but we both know that "saying anything negative about a minority group, regardless of the legitimacy of the criticism" is not actually within their mandate. Proponents of the legislation just need to point to criticisms levelled at a certain group and allowed by law, and your arg

  • Told you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:34AM (#34625706) Journal

    Allow a filter for kiddie porn and it won't be long before someone suggests since you can filter X you can also filter Y. Why do you think every sensible person who mattered was behind Larry Flynt and his smut? Because either you defend the smut you find disgusting or get censored yourself. It is only a matter of time before someone finds you in poor taste.

    Yes, this does mean you must defend the possibility of having kiddie porn on the net. If you are not willing to tolerate toddler porn being transmitted then you are saying "censor anything you want on the internet". A very difficult position to take. Either you have freedom and people abusing it or you don't. And oddly enough even if you limit your own freedom, it don't stop the abusers. Take away "legal" kiddie porn and only child rapist will have kiddie porn... eh what? But the proof is clear, having sex with children is illegal in many ways in the Catholic church, doesn't seem to stop them does it? Child porn is already highly illegal in most countries and yet children keep being abused. The filters, they do NOTHING!

    Except function as the introduction of filters for anything else the elite object to.

    Though choice. Either surrender your freedom or be a child rape defender. Because ANYONE suggesting that the internet should not be censored and controlled wants to share child porn, just as everyone who defended Larry Flint wanted smut.

    It is getting very hard to not be either a pedo or a terrorist these days. Think I will just surrender my freedom. So much easier and I can also get back to watching Idols.

    • Re:Told you (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dintech (998802) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @04:32AM (#34625952)

      If you are not willing to tolerate toddler porn being transmitted then you are saying "censor anything you want on the internet".

      I don't think we have to prepare ourselves to tolerate child porn in such a way. Child porn is already illegal in it's own right and should be dealt with using the laws we have available for it's removal from society. Same goes for inciting terrorism and other kinds of 'distasteful' stuff including, like it or not, copyrighted material. Freedom of speech isn't a concern relating to these, legally anyway.

      I think when a politicians ask the question, "Can we have a filter?", your answer should be, "Ah, you mean like China and Iran..."

      The impact to civil liberty is more clearly understood in that context.

      • Re:Told you (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @05:27AM (#34626164) Journal

        I don't think we have to prepare ourselves to tolerate child porn in such a way. Child porn is already illegal in it's own right and should be dealt with using the laws we have available for it's removal from society.

        And as we can see, that includes cartoons. At least in some puritan countries.

        I think when a politicians ask the question, "Can we have a filter?", your answer should be, "Ah, you mean like China and Iran..."

        The impact to civil liberty is more clearly understood in that context.

        Agreed. Spread the meme.

        I apologize in advance for the behavior of my AC stalker.

    • by julesh (229690)

      Allow a filter for kiddie porn and it won't be long before someone suggests since you can filter X you can also filter Y.

      Of course, this isn't actually true. The only reason any progress has been made on child porn filtering is because there's a rather large group of people who are willing to report it when they find it, so you can easily build up a list of those sites that have been around for a while (of course this doesn't help with usenet/file sharing/image boards/anything else that changes quickly, a

      • It wouldn't cost much to find porn sites on the internet. One person could easily find and classify several sites an hour. Finding *all* the porn sites, on the other hand...
    • For the record, this is not about child abuse images (which in the UK includes drawings - including, potentially, stick figures) but about any pornographic material - the story initially started because some backbench politician asked for a filter due to her children "accidentally" stumbling across porn while online and unsupervised, or something similar. The UK already has a near-compulsory child porn filter (controlled by the unaccountable IWF) that was introduced against the wishes of the ISPs and even t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think rampant government corruption will do more to damage my child's mind than seeing some porn.
    There is simply too much room for abuse for this to be acceptable (at this point in history we need to assume there _will_ be abuse rather than simply hope there won't be).

    As soon as you enforce a real age verification, you're forcing someone to identify themselves with a credit card or some other personally identifying mechanism. That in itself is wrong.

    The lists of blocked sites itself will become a target

  • Screw it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xnpu (963139) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:37AM (#34625730)

    Politicians needed 20+ years to catch up on the Internet and now they're trying to basically destroy it. Let them. They're great at messing things up.

    Let us Slashdot nerds focus on building the future Internet. Whether it's a freenet of NFC capable devices or something other that much brighter minds come up with. Let's focus our energy on designing an impossible to corrupt network unrelated and (at least in essence) independent on what will be the government controlled old Internet.

    • Re:Screw it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:49AM (#34625780)

      I agree however the problem isn't that people need anonymity on the internet with something like Freenet. What needs to happen is that the original peer to peer structure of the internet needs to come back so that ISPs and governments can not filter and close down site's they disagree with such as wikileaks.

      Part of the problem could be solved with something like a city wide mesh networking using a protocol like OLSR. That way an ISP can never filter out a site the mesh simply routes around the damage. If eveyone's ISPs are filtered you could simply redirect censored traffic through a proxy.

      Being anonymous really isn't a factor in who controls the internet.

      • by adolf (21054)

        An interesting idea, and one that I've long pondered myself. It is increasingly clear to me that the Internet needs to return to being a collection of peers, for its own health and the freedom of the people who utilize it. The tech for this is gradually becoming available and useful, mostly in the form of wireless mesh networks over unlicensed airwaves -- as you've noted.

        But you seem to be arguing against anonymity, or are at least displaying a lot of indifference about it. I tend to agree: Usually, I c

        • by LingNoi (1066278)

          In a large scale wireless mesh network system one could easily be anonymous if they connected in different areas and didn't give away identifying information or used encryption.

          In an ISP bound Freenet internet you'd still have to worry about what your ISP is doing to your internet connection because you're not a peer. The power is still in their hands and they can cut you off for any reason.

          There's nothing stopping you from using both solutions however I think it's unrealistic to think that if everyone star

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        It's been quite a while since I looked at the Freenet project, but perhaps stripping away most of the anonymity and obfuscation would actually make it more useful in day-to-day circumstances? Obviously a fork of that nature would be unusable for the original purpose, communicating within oppressive regimes and the like, but with the enhancements in speed and ease of use it could be a good compromise for general content distribution.

        Basically, I'm thinking of a P2P web-server 'cloud' (as much as the term is

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Let us Slashdot nerds focus on building the future Internet. Whether it's a freenet of NFC capable devices or something other that much brighter minds come up with. Let's focus our energy on designing an impossible to corrupt network unrelated and (at least in essence) independent on what will be the government controlled old Internet.

      Corporate interests more or less control the backhauls/last mile and if you can't unlock that bottleneck,
      the future is whatever corporate interests want or the government can force upon them.

      Without an independant infrastructure, we're essentially stuck with (the very slow) freenet.

  • In the 80's and early 90's, the internet's had a feel of a frontier environment with the freedom we've had. Since the Eternal September, it's had more and more pressure to confirm to the most conservative taboos as the average population demographic changes. This happened to the new world, happened to the west, and now the internet.

    • .gov Likes this.

    • Is that why so many dotcom billionaires are involved in new.space? 'Tis the new New Frontier.

      [30 years later...]

      "UN announced plans to take over the currently unregulated asteroid trade..."

      "In unrelated news, asteroid-mining quadrillionaire, Jon Goff Jr., announced plans to develop Pulse-Wave ships capable of reaching the Oort Cloud in weeks rather than years..."

  • Thank you.
  • by SeaFox (739806) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:55AM (#34625806)

    You end up with a system that's either hugely expensive and a losing battle because there are millions of these sites or it's just not effective. The cost of putting these systems in place outweigh the benefits, to my mind.

    Just release a public statement that you'll be happy to institute this filter but you'll have to significantly raise rates for customers to recoup the cost. Angry constituents will be flooding the politician's in-boxes to put a stop to this.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      You end up with a system that's either hugely expensive and a losing battle because there are millions of these sites or it's just not effective. The cost of putting these systems in place outweigh the benefits, to my mind.

      Just release a public statement that you'll be happy to institute this filter but you'll have to significantly raise rates for customers to recoup the cost. Angry constituents will be flooding the politician's in-boxes to put a stop to this.

      This will be a double lie: lie that you can do it effectively (nobody can) and lie that will cost anyone an arm and a leg. What's wrong with admitting that parentship, nanny-ing and supervision must stay within the family?

      Besides, if there aren't only "consumers"only the money in their pocket in this world that mind: the donations to Wikileaks sort-of prove it.

      • by julesh (229690)

        This will be a double lie: lie that you can do it effectively (nobody can) and lie that will cost anyone an arm and a leg.

        You can do it *almost* effectively. Give me around one employee for every 5 subscribers, and I can set up an ISP where any porn image/movie not downloaded over an encrypted connection will only ever be seen once. I reckon subscription costs would only be something like £1000 a month.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Bingo. Just have human filters. This also means that every page request will be delayed long enough for the reviewer to read over the content to make sure that there is no porn.
    • by heikkile (111814)

      And release a statement that they are testing this new filter, and have signed all politicians up for a trial. Randomly block about 10% of their traffic, and also some porn sites. Slow down their download speeds, and triple the prices. Anyone who publicly supports the filtering will of course get added to the trial.

  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @04:09AM (#34625860) Homepage

    Isn't anyone going to stand up and say that preventing children from accidentally coming across pornography has absolutely NO benefit? Pornography is not amoral. Pornography is normal. Accidentally stumbling across pornography is exactly as bad as accidentally stumbling across a lolcat.
    "Think of the children"? Okay, I think the children will not be warped by seeing some porn. Not wanting children to take part in pornography is one thing. Not wanting children to spend all day looking at pornography is one thing. Not wanting children to accidentally stumble on porn is ridiculous.

    Pornography itself does not cause anything bad.

    • by Darkon (206829)
      Furthermore, does anyone buy the argument about kids stumbling across pornography by accident? I've never seen teh boobies anywhere online except when I was looking for them.
      • I have stumbled across some silicone with only skin over it while looking for a NoCD patch before Ad Block Plus came to my attention.
        Of course these sites offer mostly illegal contents, so the copyright bastards would like them blocked anyway.
        Disclaimer: I have a system without permanent CD rom drive. How the hell am I going to run a game with the CD/DVD in the drive?
      • I use stumble upon in my spare time. I've come across "porn" disguised as art (painting, CG art, photo art).

        /begin sarcasm
        I'd love someone to block this content for me as I see no artistic or cultural value what so ever. Who needs to see the Venus De Milo or Michelangelo's David anyway
        /end sarcasm

        I'm sure if there was filtering in place the system would very quickly turn in to something like M.A.D.D Canada. They want it so everyone has to have a breathalyzer in their car to block it from starting if
      • Depends where you go. The places you are most likely to stumble across porn are pirate hangouts - tracker sites, dc++ hubs, dubious sites with needless Zs in the name.
    • by cp.tar (871488)

      Isn't anyone going to stand up and say that preventing children from accidentally coming across pornography has absolutely NO benefit? Pornography is not amoral. Pornography is normal. Accidentally stumbling across pornography is exactly as bad as accidentally stumbling across a lolcat. "Think of the children"? Okay, I think the children will not be warped by seeing some porn. Not wanting children to take part in pornography is one thing. Not wanting children to spend all day looking at pornography is one thing. Not wanting children to accidentally stumble on porn is ridiculous.

      Pornography itself does not cause anything bad.

      Now, this is deduction from pure introspection, YMMV and $disclaimer. However, I should think that a child who stumbles across some porn either has no interest in it and doesn’t understand it, or it did in fact search for it. In neither case is there any damage.

      While I’ve heard of childhood trauma caused by running into your parents having sex, it can only happen at an age when it is imprudent to leave kids online on their own anyway.

      • I stumbled across porn as a child. I stared at it for about thirty seconds, then grew bored and ignored it.
    • by boristdog (133725)

      Seven years old when I found my first "Penthouse".

      I was irreparably damaged, became a drug addict and axe murderer. I was executed in 1987.

      No wait. I had a healthy childhood, went to college, and I'm now a married homeowner in the 32% tax bracket.

    • Depends on the porn. There's pictures of people without clothes and people without clothes doing nice things to each other, and I don't think that's going to harm anybody. Then there's the other stuff, and I'd rather spare children (and myself) that. Remember, goatse isn't the worst thing out there.

  • by dangitman (862676) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @04:17AM (#34625888)

    Trefor Davies, chief technology officer at ISP Timico, commented that 'Unfortunately, it's technically not possible to completely block this stuff.

    Why is it unfortunate? Isn't it a good thing that content can't be arbitrarily blocked? If it could it would assist the goals of totalitarian regimes and those who are against freedom of speech.

  • Whether it be a suit-locker full of playboys or something that requires a flash codex, you get my point.

    I hate ignorant people. I'm really just at that point this holiday season Slashdot. So much bad news someone cheer me up...please.

    • by Evtim (1022085)

      Cheer up!

      If you live in Europe, you will notice that the winter has (for the third time in a row) surprised both business and authorities. As a result:

      1. You can go to work late and excuse yourself with the transport system.
      2. Staying more at home means on average more sex (yhea I know, this is /. but still...)
      3. You save money by not going on that Christmas shopping spree (in another country), because there are no flights.
      4. You can have endless fun poking overzealous environmentalist by asking in true Fox

      • Unfortunately I do not live in Europe (for those reasons I suppose), but you did happen to nail my father's favorite:

        4. You can have endless fun poking overzealous environmentalist by asking in true Fox news style "is this the global warming?"

        It isn't even out of ignorance he brings this up, but I think to watch the squirming at the holiday reunion...That does cheer me up :)

    • I hate ignorant people. I'm really just at that point this holiday season Slashdot. So much bad news someone cheer me up...please.

      Me too new friend! Whenever someone I know tries to claim that Reiki, Numerology, Homeopathy, Astrology or any of those other kinds of bullshit are "real" and that they are "free to believe in it if they want to" so I can just go STFU, I fire up Left 4 Dead 2 [steampowered.com], bust out a chainsaw, axe or a katana and just go to town on some Zombies. Very very very therapeutic. Try it :)

      • I fire up Left 4 Dead 2, bust out a chainsaw, axe or a katana and just go to town on some Zombies

        Amen.

    • So much bad news someone cheer me up...please.

      http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20021104 [girlgeniusonline.com]

      Start at the beginning, then work your way through the middle until you reach the end. Then stop.

  • by dropadrop (1057046) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @05:06AM (#34626094)

    In Finland they made a kiddie porn filter. It's pretty funny, there is hardly any oversight, no formal investigation by the police regarding sites that get filtered, and thus no process for removal of sites that are falsely flagged. Originally the law covered only sites that are abroad (I guess the idea was that local ones would be handled traditionally by the police), but that did not stop them adding the most vocal critic of the system to the list of filtered sites.

    And of course best of all, it's a dns based filter so it's very trivial for anybody to bypass even if they are not technologically advanced.

    I'd like to hear a success story from somewhere in the world regarding these filterings, but till now it seems governments participating on these are competing on who has the biggest failure, yet still considering them to be a success. The biggest winners are probably the companies designing the systems, and I would not be in the least bit surprised if the same companies act as advisors when analyzing if it would be worth while before starting.

    • What do you mean that you would like to hear a success story regarding these filterings? You referred to one in your post. Finland's is a great success. It filters out those who express ideas the government does not approve of (such as the critic of the filter).
      Oh, you mean successful at filtering out kiddie porn without filtering out legal content. Well, that wasn't the purpose, that was just the excuse.
  • UK ISPs have responded to culture minister Ed Vaisey's comments regarding pervasive, opt-out only porn filtering

    Well, at least they recognize porn as a matter of culture!

    Unfortunately, it's technically not possible to completely block this stuff. You end up with a system that's either hugely expensive and a losing battle because there are millions of these sites or it's just not effective. The cost of putting these systems in place outweigh the benefits, to my mind.

    C.f. "War on Drugs". But then, nobody in the US Congress or DoJ is going to agree with him on the porn, either.

  • Isn't the internet just a large collection of computers connected together via a smaller (though still large) collection of computers that control things like DNS tables (OK, a bit of a simplification). But what would stop some determined criminals from creating their own "internet 2", say, and using that, totally un-policed? Surely there is a way round any law for determined criminals?
    • Isn't the internet just a large collection of computers connected together via a smaller (though still large) collection of computers that control things like DNS tables (OK, a bit of a simplification). But what would stop some determined criminals from creating their own "internet 2", say, and using that, totally un-policed? Surely there is a way round any law for determined criminals?

      Criminals try to get around all laws, and law makers try to prevent that. In a way it's not really the issue here, and neither is the law (the things they are trying to prevent are already illegal so adding filtering does not change anything in that respect).

      The problem is, that the methods used for this filtering is generally DNS filtering which is of course very trivial to bypass. This means that anyone actually wanting to break the law can do it just as easily as before (because changing your dns host

  • ISP's in the UK already perform content filtering using the IWF blacklist [wikipedia.org].

    It's optional, but mandatory for any ISP that wants a shot at bidding for contracts with government agencies and other public bodies. In other words, pretty much all of them have it.

  • and system better past the breast cancer test!

  • The scheme was never really forcing an opt-out. Despite Vaisey's rhetoric it was only ever going to be basically an attempt to formulate an industry standard feature (and a shared expense) and ISPs would then choose which way to set the default (opt-in or opt-out).

    Given that some people evidently do want to block porn, for reasons that are frankly none of my business, I don't see what the problem is with the concept. I don't see why others can't have the choice just because it doesn't appeal to me. Bear in

    • by EpsCylonB (307640)

      then why can't the free market take care of this?, if there really is such a demand for ISP level filtering.

      The only effective way to filter is to locally whitelist sites you allow your kids to visit, if this is too much hassle then you are not a very good parent.

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