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Censorship The Internet United Kingdom Technology

UK Govt's Censorware Blocks Tech, Civil Liberties Websites 148

Posted by timothy
from the but-you-must-give-it-time-you-see dept.
A few days ago, we mentioned that the UK's ISP-level censorware software not only does a poor job of its stated job (blocking porn), but blocks at least some sex education sites, too; now, reader badger.foo writes to say that's not all: "It fell to the UK Tories to actually implement the Nanny State. Too bad Nanny Tory does not want kinds to read up on tech web sites such as slashdot.org, or civil liberties ones such as the EFF or Amnesty International. Read on for a small sample of what the filter blocks, from a blocked-by-default tech writer."
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UK Govt's Censorware Blocks Tech, Civil Liberties Websites

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  • by ganjadude (952775) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:23PM (#45762177) Homepage
    I mean, where will the people in the UK get their week old news from!

    I kid but in all seriousness this is exactly why the filters should be done by the individual, We dont need the government telling us what is best for us, especially when the filters cant seem to tell the difference between "porn" and slashdot. I guess we can all blame AC for posting goatse every day
    • by 32771 (906153) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:53PM (#45762387) Journal

      > I mean, where will the people in the UK get their week old news from!

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/ [theregister.co.uk]

      Duh!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      try on the O2 url Checker: http://www.childline.org.uk/

      I find:

      Parental Control
      (opt in u12 service) Blocked

      That implies that both O2, and the UK government and David Cameron (PM), either condone abuse or are using the impreciseness filtering or are using it as an excuse for other matters political means.. "oops we banned an anti-child abuse website, we clearly didn't mean to do that, we also didn't mean to do freebsd.org"..

    • by Trepidity (597)

      We dont need the government telling us what is best for us

      I thought that was the whole idea Thatcher was trying to push. What good is a goddamn anti-government party if they don't even believe that?

  • Our hobby site got blocked by Googe/SafeBrowsing twice this months. No, we weren't hacked. No, we weren't hosting malware. We just happened to use the same advertising broker, that was fooled into showing malware ads earlier.

    If one wanted to make a good case, they could point out, how you can disappear from the Internet for mere association with someone else — and how suspicious it is, that that "something else" just happens to be a direct (if small-scale) competitor to Google...

    No, I don't like governmental censorware — as Heinlein put it in several of his books, the real danger comes not from content, but from the government's attempt to tell their citizens, that they can not be trusted to view it. That UK is doing just that is an outrage. But the fact, that the automated censor happens to be mis-categorize some content has nothing to do with it — the censorship is scandalously wrong whether or not it functions as designed.

    • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:34PM (#45762251)

      We just happened to use the same advertising broker, that was fooled into showing malware ads earlier.

      Maybe you should use a different "advertising broker", this sort of thing is something that "advertising brokers" should be very very very very very very up on not allowing to happen... You know, like number one thing...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 22, 2013 @06:20PM (#45763033)

      Their is nothing scummier than the owner of a website complaining about THEIR inconvenience when someone attempts to protect users from malware put onto users machines by that site.

      Here's a message for you, you CRETIN 'mi'. You, and YOU ALONE are responsible to your users for the actions of ANY affiliate you allow to operate via your website. If you make money from serving ads, you are 100% responsible for any damage caused to users by those ads. And if an ad 'broker' has engaged in sickeningly criminal activity by placing malware on a users machine at ANY time, your use of that ad broker is a direct attack against your users.

      The ONLY ads you should permit are those filtered through your own servers, and limited to JPGs or similar.

      I'll be blunt. I would happily see the law changed so people like you, mi, do serious jail time if you, or any agent you contract with, serves malware via your website, or actively seeks the potential to do the same. You have ZERO right to make advertising revenue at the expense of risking serious criminal damage to your users' computers.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mi (197448)

        Their [sic] is nothing scummier

        Oh, yes, there is. Posting illiterate insults as "Anonymous Coward" — to avoid the beating to what little karma there is — is an example.

        complaining about THEIR inconvenience when someone attempts to protect users from malware put onto users machines by that site.

        Except our site didn't do it. The ad-broker did not do it either. The broker was blacklisted by Google, because at some point earlier they were fooled by a malicious ad. Google blacklisted them, and ever

  • Me too! (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) *

    ...blocks "sex education" web sites...

    Yeah, that's how I feel about xHamster [xhamster.com], too.

    • by _merlin (160982)

      You could've at least linked to one of your favourite informative, educational videos rather than dumping us at the random smut-of-the-minute on the front page.

    • The rules of humor state that simply linking to a porn site is too plain and crass, but variations can be acceptable:
      - Linking to something that looks like a porn site from the address, but is actually not. Eg, penisland.net
      - Linking to something that is porn, but not in the sense most would expect. Eg, fchan.us, https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=wetriffs&tbm=isch [google.co.uk]

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        The rules of humor state that simply linking to a porn site is too plain and crass, but variations can be acceptable: - Linking to something that looks like a porn site from the address, but is actually not. Eg, penisland.net - Linking to something that is porn, but not in the sense most would expect. Eg, fchan.us, https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=wetriffs&tbm=isch [google.co.uk]

        Got it. In a single go, like this porn [experts-exchange.com] site.

        • No, pointing out that this stupid blacklist catches the dbags at EE is NOT a good enough reason to let it slide.

          It's not, it's really not. We need to stay strong!

  • Apparently... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:36PM (#45762277)

    They blocked the BNP website. (I don't agree with the BNP or anything those racist thugs stand for, but I don't condone political censorship.)

    Also the PPUK website.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's also blocking sites about homosexuality and LGBT rights.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Some people consider that a sin. Some people think they shouldn't even tell children about it for fear of "confusing" them. They are idiots of course, but you can very they will complain when the filters don't block that stuff.

        That's the problem. You can't please everyone, and sometimes a child's right to an education overrides the parent's wishes.

    • It also blocks the DNC (democrats.org). And the british labor party (http://action.labour.org.uk/) I think that all politics is forbidden to kids.
  • Useless Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Afty0r (263037) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:39PM (#45762295) Homepage

    He states, based on a single "URL checker" from O2, that every website he tried to check including slashdot, other tech news/resources sites and his own blog are "blocked by a parental controls regime - according to the URL checker".

    But a little testing would have shown him that disney.com is blocked on this. As is www.gov.uk - the UK governments own official site. The parental controls he's ranting about are bunkum. He should have researched his subject, and posted from an informed viewpoint, instead this article is a waste of time.

    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:48PM (#45762351) Homepage

      This.

      Every single site I tried was either not listed or "blocked by the parental control regime".

      I don't agree with filters, but this particular one (the parental control) is an opt-in filter which just seems to block everything by default.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The u12 (Under 12) list is actually a whitelist, so you're correct on that, and this entire article is severely flawed in that way.

    • Re:Useless Article (Score:5, Informative)

      by leuk_he (194174) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:51PM (#45762383) Homepage Journal

      What is relevant is that the default nanny state setting is “Default Safety“. Almost everythin is blocked in the parental cotnrol setting. I think as a parent you have to manuall add sites to that filter to have anything that resembles the internet.

    • Re:Useless Article (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Okian Warrior (537106) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @06:46PM (#45763185) Homepage Journal

      He should have researched his subject, and posted from an informed viewpoint, instead this article is a waste of time.

      No, he shouldn't have.

      We need to start using the tactics our opponents use. Let the public get the impression that the UK system is bad, by any means. If the UK government has to take the time to patiently explain why the article is wrong, it puts them on the defensive and puts a sliver of doubt in the mind of the public.

      It doesn't matter if it's inaccurate or if it's immoral or unfair or anything like that. What matters is whether it's effective.

      To quote an old geek saying, it's not enough to be right, you also have to be effective.

      A widely-read article that's well written, facially correct (everything he says is true), and casts doubt on the UK filters. That it isn't a fair assessment is immaterial - it serves the right purpose.

      Let the UK government respond - we shouldn't be helping them justify the system.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        I hate to say it but I have to agree. I was thinking we could do something like they did to that Santorum guy in the US. Redefine "Cameron" as pissing inside someone while having sex with them. Maybe giving someone a Tory could mean safety pins thorough their nipples. Get those terms on the bad word block lists, make them hard to Google.

        Is there a submission page for the blocklists? we should start submitting Daily Mail pages in bulk for a mix of child porn and hate mongering. And racism and religious hatre

        • I hate to say it but I have to agree. [...]Maybe giving someone a Tory could mean safety pins thorough their nipples. Get those terms on the bad word block lists, make them hard to Google.

          You mean like Prince Albert, yes?

          "My love, when I die I want my name to live on as a museum [wikipedia.org], a library [westerncape.gov.za], and something uncommon".

          "What uncommon thing, dear?"

          "Oh, I don't care - surprise me [wikipedia.org]".

        • From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

          The campaign for "santorum" neologism started with a contest held in May 2003 by Dan Savage, a columnist and LGBT rights activist. Savage asked his readers to create a definition for the word "santorum" in response to then-U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's views on homosexuality, and comments about same sex marriage [...] The winning entry, which defined "santorum" as "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex". He created a web site, spreadingsantorum.com (and santorum.com), to promote the definition, which became a top internet search result displacing the Senator's official website on many search engines, including Google, Yahoo! Search, and Bing.

          Let's totally do this!

          I'll donate $50 towards prize money for the winner of the contest.

          This should be done by a Brit. Any takers?

      • by JackDW (904211)

        I see what you're saying, but here's how I think that would actually play out.

        If this gets further than Slashdot and Reddit, the government's PR will point out the nature of the mistake, and there will be articles on the BBC News about how a blogger got it wrong and the whole thing went viral before anyone checked any facts. Which is absolutely true.

        But next time - when there really is some censorship, when Amnesty International really is on the blacklist - the government's PR will say that once again, it

  • by BringsApples (3418089) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:39PM (#45762297)
    http://genki-genki.com/ [genki-genki.com]

    Because I'm trying to figure out if that's even porn or not.
    • by leuk_he (194174)

      Wel.. NSFW, that is for sure. That kind of site is the result of the censoring of dicks in japan. So they decide to show something else there. tentacles are not forbidden.

      • Because I'm trying to figure out if that's even porn or not.

        Your answer: tentacles are not forbidden

        BRRRRP! Wrong answer. The answer that we were looking for was:
        It's not even porn, it's odd porn.

        Seriously though, jap-fap porn is hard to come by.
        Thank-you, thank-you. I'll be here all week.

    • And now I feel ill

  • Terrifying... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:46PM (#45762339)

    Its fucking ridiculous. State-controlled internet filtering is unacceptable in *any* case. Given how we more-or-less live our lives on/via the internet now, I'm shocked that more people aren't vocally objecting to this.

    • I can understand /. getting filtered, there is a lot of fucking cursing going on here. Myself, I find it disgraceful!
    • Maybe all protests are censored as well.

    • There is a lot of ambiguous or misleading commentary going around here.

      The main child safety/evil censorship* tools making the news in recent weeks are being adopted by the top few largest ISPs in the UK. If you don't like it, for now you can still choose another ISP that doesn't do this sort of thing. No need to vocally object, just vote with your wallet, and if you feel like it, tell others that they can do the same.

      I suspect that if the government actually tried to institute compulsory censorship, at lea

      • Something like that. There are a few strongly pro-filter ISPs - the campaign was started by Claire Perry, and really took off once Cameron himself threw his weight behind it. They probably have the influence to pass a law mandating filtering if they really tried, but it would take months of debating and cost political capital when they could instead work on other things. So instead they used that possibility to pressure ISPs, effectively presenting a simple choice: If every major ISP imposes voluntary filte

        • The thing is, I'm not sure they do have the political capital to pass a law mandating this. Cameron clearly has significant problems keeping his back-benchers in line. In this case a politician hardly anyone had ever heard of before is drumming up a bit of attention by shouting "think of the children". Cameron has gone along with it by holding meetings and by making press statements, all the time carefully leaving wriggle room if it becomes a headline issue for the wrong reasons.

          The reaction I've seen so fa

    • by sjames (1099)

      Perhaps they are and you can't see it on the web.

  • by gnoshi (314933) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:49PM (#45762359)

    So, what he's saying is that the blocklist labelled "Parental Control (opt in u12 service)" - i.e. Opt In Under 12 year old - blocks a lot of stuff. Pretty much everything, in fact.
    That would be scary, except that it isn't the default opt-out list, and it is apparently intended as a whitelist of known ok sites. Any whitelist based system will block most stuff, because that's kind of the point.

    I liked this guys post called Content filtering is stupid, but you are stupider [johnband.org].
    To quote: "However, and unfortunately, most of the last couple of days’ Twitter chat about content filtering has involved gibbering idiots who know fuck all about fuck all talking embarrassing nonsense.". I think that sums the OP nicely.

  • It also blocks the Tory's (also known as Conservatives) own web site: http://www.conservatives.com/Splash.aspx [conservatives.com] under Parental Control. The irony is delicious!

  • Too bad Nanny Tory does not want kinds to read up on tech web sites

    Kinds of what?

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:56PM (#45762427) Homepage Journal

    Information which helps circumvent filters has to be blocked by the filters, for the filters to work. So yeah, thats why lots of other stuff has to be taken out and its why the filters won't work.

    Also there's the other thing about webmail. In my experience a lot of casual porn gets delivered by yahoo mail, etc. So are we going to block webmail now?

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      So what everyone needs to do is put the URL of unblocking information in their signatures. In fact, just put the info in there directly. Post it in every discussion on every mainstream website. Those sites will then be blocked.

      Remember those censorship badges you could put on your website out in your forum signature? We have to do everything possible to undermine these filters.

      • Yeah but I don't think you need to. It only takes one post about getting around the filters to get slashdot.org filtered.

  • by toshikodo (2976757) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @05:09PM (#45762497)
    I just checked to see if the filter would block children from accessing the website of the UK's most important helpline for children, childline [www.childline.org.uk]. Guess what? It does - you really really really couldn't make this shit up. Lets hope the little darlings aren't feeling suicidal as a result, because it also blocks their access to the Samaritans [www.samaritans.org]. Speechless!
    • by julian67 (1022593)

      I just enabled the Kids Safe filter on my TalkTalk broadband. It takes about a minute to take effect after being toggled on or off or the settings changed. I checked that it is active by trying to visit an online betting site. The filter blocked it and informed me that it had done so.

      Next I visited http://www.samaritans.org/ [samaritans.org] and then http://www.childline.org.uk/ [childline.org.uk]

      Both pages load perfectly normally and are fully accessible. Anyone in the UK with an ISP that offers this filtering can check this for themselve

      • Different filters. The filter the page checks against is the strictest setting, not the moderately-strict default.

  • But don't worry, Slashdot still allows any poorly researched knee jerk blog post onto the front page.

  • Oblig xkcd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @05:42PM (#45762723) Homepage Journal

    Oh, wait, even XKCD [xkcd.com] is blocked according to http://urlchecker.o2.co.uk/ [o2.co.uk]. Even wikipedia is blocked.

    Probably the people behind this wants that the UK population be at least as stupid as them. In the race to the bottom there is no winner.

  • by julian67 (1022593) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @05:56PM (#45762847)

    The article is bunk and the language used is deceitful and apparently deliberately so.

    I'm in UK and my ISP is TalkTalk, the first ISP here to introduce such a filter. It is entirely optional. The *account holder* controls it, not the government or the ISP or anyone else. I can switch it off or on at will and it takes just a minute or two to take effect. It is even customisable, for example I can allow/disallow any of the following categories:

    Dating
    Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco
    Gambling
    Pornography
    Suicide and Self-Harm
    Weapons and Violence

    The above are default blocked *if* I enable the filter and don't deselect them. Additionally I can add:

    File Sharing Sites
    Games
    Social Networking

    Using the term "censorship" implies that something is redacted, withheld or forbidden or otherwise placed off limits in a way that is outside of the user's control. That is absolutely not the case. The account holder is fully able to switch the filter off or on as they see fit. I was informed of the availability of the filter via email from my ISP and tried it in various options in order to satisfy curiosity and then decided it can remain permanently off.

    What the government has done is to require the major ISPs and telcos to implement a filtering system that allows the account holder to opt in or out and even to have fine grained control. Basically this means that adults control their accounts as they like but that children whose mobile phones and internet access is the responsibility of their parents are obliged to defer to the responsible adult.

    Allowing adults full discretion is not censorship by any stretch of the imagination. Parents having some say in what their children consume is also not censorship - it is part of parenting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrbester (200927)

      No. What this is is a default on filter that you specifically have to opt out from in order to see such subversive content as Childline. Alternatively, it could be stated as a system where you have to specifically opt in to see the same sites as you did yesterday (like Slashdot). Now they have your name and the knowledge that you are a disgusting immoral piece of pond scum of the type the hysterical mouth foamers of the hypocritical Daily Mail would advocate stringing up if they thought they could get away

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by julian67 (1022593)

        You use words and phrases such as "pond scum", "mouth foamers", "cunt", "shrill bitch" yet you claim *others* are hysterical?

        It's this kind of huge exaggeration and irrational and maniacal reaction that makes discussion futile, or at least too boring and wearisome to pursue. I assume this is intentional as it serves to obscure the facts and clears the field of rational actors leaving the discussion in the hands of people with an axe to grind.

        The funny thing is that in your reply you perfectly fulfil the de

        • by mrbester (200927)

          It already is in the hands of the axe grinders. They have been far more vocal than a rant on a forum. And, yes, I am intolerant of those who arbitrarily decide what adults can see using any form of the "think of the children" bullshit *and advocate that it is applied by default*.

          Porn mags are sold to children. It's illegal but still happens and is the fault of the newsagent. Should every adult who wants to buy one put their name down on a list - and thus be marked - so the innocent kiddies don't get their m

        • He was using them in representing the manner in which hysterical people thing. Perfectly common writing device.

      • by gnoshi (314933)

        No. What this is is a default on filter that you specifically have to opt out from in order to see such subversive content as Childline.

        No it isn't. It's opt-in parental controls for under-12s to limit access to only whitelisted sites.
        By all means, get angry about opt-out filters affecting adults which achieve nothing and restrict access to political speech and information, and indeed porn. Just save your anger for cases where they really are opt-out filters which affect adults.

        When you are getting angry, though, you may want to present yourself as less of a raving nutbag; otherwise you'll just do the anti-censorship side damage.

        • by mrbester (200927)

          Is it opt in when it is set by default by the ISP? Or do you consider it to be "implied" opt in, just like Summary Care Records and the care.data transfer, where if you don't even get informed that it happens you are deemed to have agreed to it?

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          These filters are for under 12s, but his point about the global filters is correct. The government is building a database of perverts. What husband or wife would date turn the filter off, if their partner might find out? How long until opting to see violent/pornographic sites is grounds for divorce?

          You already get scary warnings when doing legitimate searches. I don't advise trying it but Bing warns you not to be a paedo when you search for words like"lolita", even though it is a normal girl's name, a Frenc

          • I'm waiting for the first time it is brought up in a child custody case. "My ex disabled the child safety filters, clearly demonstrating a reckless disregard for the wellbeing of our child."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Tony Blair even created an agency to train loyalists to shill for his initiatives throughout the UK- an agency called 'COMMON PURPOSE'.

      The censorship systems universally applied to mobile phone access to the Internet in the UK were designed to prepare fro similar draconian systems that would apply to ordinary ISP services.

      -mobile phone censorship was specifically designed to have as wide a reach as possible, introducing default categories of restrictions that ban all but mainstream media outlets (like those

      • by julian67 (1022593)

        To enable or disable my ISP's filtering I log into my account on ISP's www site using my username and password. I can then switch filtering on or off in a couple of clicks. The changes take effect within a minute or two.

        This remains the case whether you call me nasty names or not.

        I looked up Common Purpose on Wikipedia and it is apparently a "a British charity that runs leadership development programmes across the UK." which employs 125 staff. I'm not one of them, nor had I ever heard of them until just

    • by tepples (727027)

      Parents having some say in what their children consume is also not censorship - it is part of parenting.

      Is it likewise an acceptable "part of parenting" for an abusive parent to prevent a child from accessing information about child abuse?

      • by julian67 (1022593)

        Would that by any chance be one of those straw men, a leading question, heavily loaded with bias and expectation?

        It's good to see that the well worn but always emotive "think of the children!" is a straw clutched by those people of all persuasions who prefer to carefully avoid dealing with such boring and troublesome things as facts and reason.

        • by tepples (727027)
          It's a reaction to the report [slashdot.org] that ChildLine is blocked, plus guessing at a reason why a parent would want to leave it blocked.
          • by julian67 (1022593)

            Here are two amazing facts:

            1) A telephone can actually be used to make voice calls! The childline number is 0800 1111 and is accessible to anyone with a telephone! Doh.

            ") Here is an even better fact: I have enabled the "Kids Safe" family filter and checked that it is active by trying to go to a gambling site betuk.com. The filter blocks the site and informs me it has done so. Next I search for childline and follow the link to the official site http://www.childline.org.uk./ [childline.org.uk] It loads as normal.

            CHILDLINE

    • They screwed up there. By putting 'file sharing' on the list, they demonstrated that they have the capability to block it. Soon the BPI is going to start threatening to take legal action against ISPs if they don't make blocking of that category manditory.

      Easy enough to justify: Pirates generally consider pornography just another class of media to share. They don't segregate it.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @06:41PM (#45763149)

    just wait for one the block by default systems to mess up systems in odd and unseen ways

  • There's many parental control packages out there, both built into Internet Security suites and stand-alone packages. There are even home-use hardware solutions. Why does the government need to mandate something the market has already taken care of?

    It's a shame parents are under the belief they need to keep their kids "pure and innocent" from sex, as if it's some great evil that they grow up to enjoy. No matter how many filters you put up, it doesn't matter because there are still print magazines full of

    • by gnoshi (314933)

      Re: parental control packages, I agree - they already exist.

      Your second argument, though, is not so good. First, there is a large gap between "pure and innocent" from sex and viewing double-anal online. Similarly, because it is much easier to legislate rules on printed media, there are indeed print magazines full of naked women, but notably less printed magazines available with double-anal.

      So, in summary.
      (Scale approximate)
      Pure and innocent Not pure and innocent Printed nudie mags Dual-arse-fucking video

    • There's many parental control packages out there, both built into Internet Security suites and stand-alone packages. There are even home-use hardware solutions. Why does the government need to mandate something the market has already taken care of?

      Acclimation to the censorship and spying capabilities. At the ISP level they're supposed to just see IP addresses. However, now they've gone and associated IPs to content. So, that's one step closer to peering inside each packet. You roll out new systems slowly and get users acclimated to the boiling water slowly, otherwise they jump out before you can cook them.

  • O2 messed up by releasing this tool without explaining what it means, and also by having a whitelist blocker that's so restrictive it's entirely useless. But in some ways this whitelist is a distraction from the main issue of whether anyone should have the right to carry out this censorship, against young people who are in some cases old enough to be having sex. And who has the right to define what is porn, what is sex education, and what is "mature" content, particularly when there are grey areas that sha

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