Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Mentioned in The House of Lords

It seems A&A got a mention in the Lords yesterday

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: "Self-regulation, for example, provides no means of dealing with the likes of Andrews and Arnold where default filters are concerned. Its closed loop system does not provide for proper age verification and the mobile phone code all too often—and at very real cost to children—has not been respected. If we believe that child protection is really important—and I have every belief that your Lordships believe just that—we must introduce robust statutory measures to help prevent children accessing this material."

I am pleased to see that some of my good work has been noticed, and I would love to have the opportunity to try and explain things to the Lords or Parliament.

I am, however, somewhat concerned at the comments that have been made. "age verification" seems an odd one, as we do not sell to minors (and ask people to confirm they are over 18 when buying as well as expecting a bank account with Direct Debit). I am not sure what "mobile phone code" means in this context either.

Indeed, we have no "age verifications" when a child uses a telephone to make a call, and no checks on the words spoken in that call. Similarly no "age verification" for a child to receive post.

As a father I am very interested in the "very real cost to children" this causes, and I would love to see a reference to any credible study of the impact of access to pornography by children and how it has affected them. I wonder how many MPs saw some porn when still a minor? I don't believe I know any man who did not, at some point, when a minor, see porn. I am sure such clear evidence must exist, or else Baroness Howe would not have used such strong words as "very real cost". I am always interested to learn.

However, with the comment "we must introduce robust statutory measures to help prevent children accessing this material." I do wonder what the objective here is.

I see two issues, one is younger children happening across something unsavoury when unsupervised accessing the Internet. This is, of course, easy to address, and many tools exist already, such as alternative DNS servers. Some ISPs (Andrews & Arnold included) will happily help parents set up alternative DNS servers on customer equipment or even pre-configure the equipment supplied to make use of such free services.

The second case is where a child wants to access "such material", such as a teenage boy (or girl, lets not be sexist here!). This is, of course, impossible to stop. None of the blocks in place by ISPs stop such access. The blocks in place do little more than stop accidental access and have lots of side effects with technical issues and over blocking. There are already people selling USB sticks pre-loaded with TOR+flash browsers to bypass all logging and blocking with one click.

But really, if this is such a real cost, why not make a law "It shall be an offence for any child to access porn on The Internet, over the phone or by post" - there you go - job done? Perhaps better would be "It shall be an offence for any parent or guardian of any child to allow that child to access porn on The Internet, over the phone or by post". That is a very simple law.

Or is it that such a law would be totally ineffective? Just like a law suggesting ISPs should block communications would be totally ineffective. I suppose we could cripple all communications in the UK massively by making the Internet some sort of white list only set of web sites you can access and no more - that could have a fun impact on the economy - I am sure that will be good for our children!

All the current ISP porn blocks do is give parents the false impression that the Internet is now "safe"meaning they supervise children less.

The recent blocks on The Pirate Bay, a single web site, being so ineffective that the Dutch courts have reversed the bans, just shows how ineffective blocks are. That was just one web site and not an attempt to block an entire, well funded, and legal industry.

If you are not convinced, go order one of these USB sticks and try, or better still ask a 12-15 year old, as an OFCOM report confirms that 1 in 5 of them know how to bypass filters, and that is a survey that pre-dates the recent introduction of filtering by major ISPs.

I do think the Baroness needs to think a little more on exactly what she is asking for here, and why. As I say, I am more than happy to come and explain things and can be contacted through the A&A press email address.

Update: As someone commented, we have been mentioned earlier and she even quotes our web site!

Interestingly the Baroness's actual proposals, having read them, would do nothing to our service as all of our customers have already opted for an unfiltered Internet connection and are over 18, so the service would remain exactly the same and we would simply not take on customers that ask for network level filtering.

Update: I see we are not alone in our views, comment from Lord Lucas.

My letter to the Baroness.

27 comments:

  1. You're actually mentioned by her earlier - see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/140128-0002.htm

    "Given the force of this argument of principle, it is not a surprise that when one examines the practice of self-regulation, significant problems quickly become apparent. First, although the big four ISPs have a self-regulatory code that provides for default filters, this still leaves between 5% and 10% of the market—well over 1 million households, and therefore hundreds of thousands of children—unprotected. Indeed, at least one ISP, Andrews and Arnold, has publically stated that it will not introduce default filters. Its home page proudly proclaims, “Unfiltered internet for all”—including, presumably, for all children. Clearly it has no intention of introducing default filters, and will do so only if required by law. If we had a statutory approach to default filters, as set out in my amendment, all ISPs, including all those that service the remaining 5% to 10% not covered by the big four code, would have to introduce default filters."

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  2. Her statement there completely changes the almost positive reference you made in the first place! She is actually targeting you, not praising you

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    1. I know that! What I am pleased at is that we are finally being noticed at all. Now, having been noticed, we need them to notice what we are actually saying!

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    2. She's not interested in what you are saying, she's simply incensed that you can flout her crusade and wants the full might of the law to come crushing down on you.

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    3. Well, indeed, but her proposals would not even effect us - apart from maybe extra tick boxes on "age verification" on ordering. We'd still only offer unfiltered Internet as that would still be allowed. So crazy she picked on us. We already do all she wants done!

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  3. One of the many factors I looked at when choosing an ISP was whether it was filtered or not, and A&A came top of the list when all was said and done. I'd be very unhappy if the government forced all ISP's to filter traffic. It should be opt-in, not opt-out, and if there is no opt-out, then I would be very unhappy!

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  4. The debate is enlightening.. "One of the most illuminating findings was about those parents who did not have parental controls installed. One in eight said that it was because they were not aware that they existed or did not know how to install them"

    So.. 7 out of 8 parents who didn't have parental controls installed new about them and how to install them. ie. parents, mostly, don't want filtering either.

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    1. Speaking as a parent, I don't want them, and most of the parents I know decide they don't want them once they understand what the filters can and cannot do for them.

      The issue is that what we want is a filter that would block all content we deem inappropriate, while letting through all content we deem appropriate; this has to cover not just web pages, but things like SnapChat photos our children take of themselves.

      Given that such a filter is a strong AI, and does not exist, we'd prefer no filtering at all, and the knowledge that unsupervised access to the Internet is as safe for our children as an unsupervised weekend in London, to a filter that gets it wrong, leaves our children sometimes unable to access important resources (e.g. http://www.childline.org.uk/ which has significant discussion of child abuse), and still doesn't block everything we want blocked (e.g. our children sending naked photos of themselves to their classmates).

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  5. I may write to her as a mere customer. I will be very nice, but firm.

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    1. Please do, others have already. The more the better.

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    2. I've dropped her a note, but on paper. E-mail seems to have eluded them in the House of Lords.

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  6. Does she think aa sells payg sims or something?

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    1. I did wonder. Obviously we do sell unfiltered data SIMs, but you have to say you are not under 18, and pay by Direct Debit, and we charge 2p/MB which is not cheap for some kid. Actually, her proposals would not cover our SIMs anyway, even if sold to a minor, as they have no "telephone service", LOL:

      (2) Where mobile telephone operators provide a telephone service to subscribers which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

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    2. Ah, hang on, that would still be covered by (1) which covers ISPs, so why does she even need clause (2)??!?

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  7. I don't want to pay aa for a censorship service which will not censor all evil and yet will increase aa's costs which will have to be passed on to me.

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  8. I see in my friends and relatives some very strange attitudes towards censuring their children's access to the world.
    Many will say they want to protect their children and will stop them watching porn movies. Sex is something the kids learn about in great detail in school and one day will be allowed to perform in real life, and in fact many do before they are legally allowed to.
    The parents also know about video games ratings and film ratings yet will allow their children to watch movies which can feature significant amounts of violence and gore. The children will never be allowed to perform these acts of violence in real life, fortunately unlike under age sex, most don't carry out the violent psychopathic acts featured in video games.

    I add that I censor and monitor my children's access to video games, the internet, and check on IMDB the age rating and the reasons for the age rating of a movie. I don't blindly follow age ratings (some old movies are quite tame for example), and I don't rely too much on automated filters.
    Unfortunately my 10 year old son sees his friends not being controlled at all and questions the need. I ask him what he would do if he were a father.

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  9. Her mild attack on "the likes of" A&A here is just another example of the now numerous nanny-state power trips the UK government deems it has to enforce on people. It is no wonder I have no interest in voting any more, because it is a complete waste of my time doing so.

    I genuinely wish the government would go away and mind its own business. If I had kids, it would be my decision entirely as to how I bring them up. I don't need regulations and statutory acts, filtering and anything else done for me to make that happen. How I bring up my kids is my business, and no one else's.

    Unfortunately, this is where the deluded public are screwed over, for the mere fact of registering your child's birth transfers ownership of that child to the state. Hence why social services can and will take your child from you should they get wind of anything bad going on.

    Further more, I genuinely believe that MPs and Lords are not living in the reality that 99% of the rest of us experience on a daily basis. That being the case, they cannot and never will make good informed decisions that benefit the vast majority of the population, because they just simply either do not understand, or do not care. In terms of censorship, this is one of the big problems we all now face; they do not understand the internet, they do not appreciate how it works, and they do not know the technical challenges of making ISPs implement filtering systems, and the consequences of doing so. Every time I hear one of these MPs/Lords spout off about stuff like this, my eyes roll. Baroness Howe's splurg here is no different.

    * Parents are responsible for bring up their kids, and everything that entails. End of. That means they are responsible for what they access online. If they do wish to filter content, but can't do that themselves, they should pick ISPs with appropriate filtering options. This is a choice, not an enforced law. If parents have the technical knowledge to do this themselves (myself as an example, since I work in the industry), they should implement this filtering on their own home systems as an alternative solution.

    * (re: above) - of course, I have noticed that this is clearly not the case anymore, as some parents seem to be ever more punting off their parental responsibilities to the state. One reads about this every day. Well, maybe that is the core reason why the UK is turning into a nanny-state (comprende?).

    I am sick and tired of this Government, and continue to witness the mounting ball of repression rolling onward and upward every passing year. It's getting worse and worse every day. I swear there needs to be a revolution soon so a hard-reset is done on all this bull-crap.

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  10. An ISP could offer web filtering, But to those who want it, and associated costs could be passed onto those who used a filtered service ,& not those who don't want or need a filtered service,
    I personally see what the government is trying to do as infringing my privacy and my human rights , I also don't believe that this filtering bs is about protecting children ,but will be used to censor other web sites, only recently they wanted to block some so called extremist group's web site, So they basically want an internet where only web sites that comply with what they want us to see are available so they can further distort the truth and hide some things from us for their personal gain

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  11. The small isp's could all offer filtering as a choice , and all associated costs to the isp's for implementing this nonsense would have to be met by those customers who signed up for a filtered internet service, that way the remainder of customers wouldn't be subsidising something they don't use or want

    My current isp currently doesn't yet have optional web filtering , it subscribes to the IWF , and occasionally blocks sites like imgur.com without justification IMO ,We have recently lost direct access to the Piratebay web site my isp say that they aren't blocking/filtering it but due to traffic being routed over BT peering it gets blocked by presumably their clean-feed filtering , even though my isp hasn't been named in any court order , problem is the isp don't appear to be bothered as lots of proxies can be used to access the site ,which is a crap attitude IMO

    If the day ever arrived where they internet became so broken and all we had was a walled garden, i would cease to have an internet connection, and if the tv companies stopped broadcasting over the airwaves and became internet only, then i wouldn't watch tv either , I like most of the people of the uk don not want or need this bullshit filtering /censorship , the more that government seek to erode what freedoms we have ,alienate the people further from government , it really is a case of them and us camerloon lied to the nation with that bull-crap about us being it it together , as IMO we are in nothing with them they most of them have no clue what it's like to be poorer than them or what a days hard work actually is ,i could go on but it wouldn't be relevant to this subject

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  12. If they insist on A&A providing a filtered service, you could always offer one which only passes 0.0.0.0/0 and 2000::/3 :)

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    1. Now that I like. Because it is almost inevitable they will make the filters mandatory at some point. So you choose filtered on A&A and you block everything (using the sound reasoning that you never can tell what might or might not be porn).

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  13. Unfortunately, @Mark Hedges , and I'm not saying this is your situation, but bad parenting can do lifetime damage to the children and then damage to the wider society.
    Neglected and abused children become a burden on the state and thus other citizens, either in providing financial support, antisocial behaviour or crime.
    Unfortunately, the cycle then perpetuates because those children grow into adults with no parenting skills.

    It is not the case that the courts take removing children from dysfunctional families lightly, they have specific guidance which says to only remove when the parent(s) are completely incapable of raising children even with help. Sometimes the parent(s) can only cope with one child and the others have to be saved.

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    1. @previouslysilent Thank you for confirming that we are indeed living in a nanny-state. I agree with your points entirely, but in my opinion, it is society that has carved itself into the corner it now finds itself in (over the last 50-100 years), in terms of parents who are "unable to cope" or "incapable of raising children" because society now makes it impossible to live without both parents pulling an income, and without more time spent working to pull that income. Both of these reduce freedoms and result in less time and money for the potential for parents to be "good parents", who can cope, who do have time for their children, and are not worrying about debts and bailiffs knocking at their door.

      It is for these core reasons that the UK is now a nanny-state. In my opinion, it really does boil down to one thing. This country is heading down the toilet, and a complete reform (revolution) is required to restore some sanity back into society and our "rules" (statutory acts, etc) because, unfortunately, the UK is a corporation, it DOES have a credit rating and government continues to run it like one with an attempt to increase its "revenues" and "profits". This is capitalism, and not a society I wish to a be a part of.

      Please remember, every piece of documentation that comes through your letter box is an "invitation to contract". This includes, but is not limited to, registering on the electoral roll, registering your child's birth, and registering for a TV license. Once you sign your name on these things, you have agreed to be subject to the terms of these "contracts". But there is no common law that says you have to any of that.

      All this censorship bull-crap is a result of power hungry individuals who are at the top of their game. They sit on green or red seats in a building in London, and don't really realise what they are part of, what their job actually is, and where their responsibilities lie. Also, they are not in the reality that 99% of the rest of the country is in. Until this changes, I see more psychopathic legislation being introduced, just like this one. This means more ludicrous rules and ideas, censorship, control, dumbing down, and ultimately, nanny-state like care-taking behaviour. This is bull-crap, and it is repression. If you can't see that, you need to open your eyes, ASAP.

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    2. @previouslysilent

      The problem is, there is no clear idea of what "bad" or "good" parenting is. Some would argue that overly restrictive parenting can have bad effects, for instance. Some would criticise religious parenting (even accusing that of being "abuse") while others would criticise irreligious parenting. And so on.

      The major problem here is that it has been the received wisdom since Victorian times that there is something damaging about the young being exposed to sexual material- catastrophically so- though if you ask people, nobody is really very clear on what they think that damage is. Just a presumption that there is some great damage.

      We know the Victorian justification. They believed that chastity is an ideal, and so if you shielded young people from anything unchaste, they would grow up to be pure in spirit. If not, they would degenerate into corrupted creatures from a Peter Jackson movie. Literally; masturbation would cause degeneration, madness and death.

      We all agree now that this is nonsense, but the beleif that there must be some kind of harm remains. And so the great and good spend their time ruinously and futilely chasing their tales with all this nonsense, trying to prevent the unpreventable and purify the world of unchaste influences.

      There is no actual reason- let alone any evidence- that seeing porn has any specific and quantifiable harmful effect on anybody. It may lead to a less puritan view of the world, but that is not harm, it's just a different opinion. This whole crusade is basically a total waste of time.

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  14. Lord Lucas seems rather switched on to technology and his blog talks about Cisco and iPads - I like it! :)

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  15. I'm off to switch my provider to you guys.

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