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Report Highlights 10 Sites Unfairly Blocked By UK Mobile Internet Censorship 94

Posted by Soulskill
from the block-'em-all-and-let-gore-sort-'em-out dept.
Mark.JUK writes "The Open Rights Group (ORG), which works to raise awareness of digital rights and civil liberties issues, has published a new report that examines the impact of internet censorship on UK mobile networks and lists an example of 10 legitimate websites that often get unfairly blocked (PDF) by adult content filters (over-blocking). The study is important because similar measures could soon be forced upon fixed-line broadband ISP subscribers by the UK government. Some of the allegedly unfair blocks include censorship of the 'Tor' system, a privacy tool used by activists and campaigners across the globe, and the website of French 'digital rights' advocacy group 'La Quadrature du Net.'"
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Report Highlights 10 Sites Unfairly Blocked By UK Mobile Internet Censorship

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  • by TallDarkMan (1073350) on Monday May 14, 2012 @03:59PM (#39998503) Homepage
    You know, I've watched all the things you listed happening over the last few years, and I wonder to myself if Britain is like a test-bed for all the things that the United States would like to do to it's citizens (and is trying at every turn). I can just see the (US) government's response to outraged citizens going something like, "We are inacting these measures for your protection, and they have been proven and accepted in the United Kingdom, so get with the program...otherwise we'll be left behind by those darn Europeans!" (...right, as if we aren't already at the bottom of the barrel in innovation, education, and on and on....)
  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:18PM (#39998717) Homepage

    The idea that the UK is some kind of surveillance state is a myth propagated on Slashdot by people who don't know better. If I recall correctly the "highest density of CCTV" meme comes from an article in the Daily Mail (aka Daily Fail). They counted all CCTV cameras, including all private cameras, in one very small and specific part of London. Despite the fact that these cameras are subject to the data protection act and typically not even connected to a communications network, they then extrapolated that small area of London to the entirety of the UK and asserted everyone was "being watched all the time", which is about as accurate as saying your email is always being read (by automatic spam filters).

    Internet censorship proposals keep getting floated every few years by "save the children" types in the UK, whereas the idea is taboo in the USA. That's good for America. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean there's no censorship in the states. US residents and citizens are subject to a comprehensive and effective system of financial censorship instead. For example, when politicians there decided that internet poker was bad, they decided to censor online poker sites. Rather than do it via DNS or IP blocking they commanded banks and payment processors to block financial transaction to those sites instead. The effect was the same - Americans cannot use these sites.

    The financial censorship system operates the same as you would expect from an online censorship system. There is a large blocklist [treasury.gov] of questionable accuracy - it includes companies and people who do not exist and performs matching by name only. There is no right to appeal and no evidence is required to be added to the list. It is subject to political manipulation as we saw with the WikiLeaks blockade. It requires pervasive monitoring, implemented via government access to banks financial records. Foreign financial transfers are also available to the US government via the "Terrorist Finance Tracking Program", which basically dumps every wire transfer, credit card transaction etc into a giant database that is queried hundreds of times per day - essentially the equivalent of deep packet inspection.

    Of course, like any form of censorship, ways around the system are also censored. Whilst attempting to evade online censorship is typically not treated as a serious crime even in places like China, attempting to evade US financial blocklists is considered to be money laundering and can result in imprisonment for up to 20 years. In fact, being used by third parties as a way to evade this type of censorship is also money laundering even if you're simply an unaware middleman! The original formulation of these laws had a "mens rea" requirement, ie, to be guilty you had to actually intend to break the law and have a guilty mind. Virtually all money laundering cases fell because of this, so Congress simply removed the requirement.

    Finally, because censorship systems have to be global to be truly effective, the USA has been persistently "harmonizing" this system onto the rest of the world since its inception. It gets tiresome to read posts from Americans trashing the UK for being some kind of censorship crazy surveillance state when the depressing reality is the reverse.

  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday May 14, 2012 @05:58PM (#39999883) Homepage

    Not really. Just forbid the government from spying on everyone with cameras in public places for any reason. The government doing it and individuals doing it are quite different things, as individuals aren't everywhere at once like the government's cameras.

    Perhaps my original post was not clear enough, or you did not read it. There are very few "government cameras". There are a lot of cameras put in places by the owners/operators of that place. Eg at railway stations it's the station operators who pay for, install and operate the cameras with the police having no special or unusual access beyond what is allowed via law. Therefore the UK government is already unable to "spy on everyone with government cameras" because there is no legal or technical mechanism for them to do that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2012 @06:26PM (#40000189)

    Let's not forget the infamous Scunthorpe problem [wikipedia.org]. Does anyone, anywhere, know of a time when blocking domains actually did anything useful?

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