Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Seriously, censorship of communications is bad

Once again Cameron is meddling. See wired article. The EU have started "Net neutrality" which is designed to ensure that communications is "clean", and does not have interference from commercial or other interests to block or slow or preferentially treat some communications over others. This is important to ensure communications systems continue to provide the invaluable framework for business and personal communications to grow and boost the economy.

The problem is that ISPs filtering porn (apart from the logistic and technical impossibility of doing such a thing) is that it goes against net neutrality. It is ISPs specifically blocking some traffic - and not even illegal traffic at that.

I have to admit I am at a total loss as to why the government have latched on to "porn" as the target here. It is a legitimate and legal industry, but just something that our social taboos mean we try not to discuss. I can only assume that the government have latched on to it, not because they think that actually a lot of people are against "porn" but because a lot of people will say they are against it, or agree with such policies because of such social taboos.

The whole "think of the children" angle is just designed to try and get the popular and vocal support of parents, grandparents, and well, anybody who quite sensibly has concerns over children. I have five kids and two grandsons now, but I think this is crazy. The whole thing is the very definition of "nanny state".

Young kids have no interest in porn, and it is a good idea to try and ensure they do not accidentally find porn - this is a simple task for parents to do these days with operating systems including various parental controls in the control of the parents. Search engines have the same with "safe search" settings. There are also simple streps at network level such as controlling DNS and using free services like openDNS to control some access. Of course, actually supervising kids is another good idea!

None of this will stop someone who actually wants to access porn - all such systems are trivial to bypass. I would have to include adolescent children in that. Porn has always been available, and I would be shocked if any MP did not access porn before they were 18 (not counting dead pigs).

The side effect of trying to ensure all ISPs filter porn, or at least have the large scale systems to filter porn by default, is that it allows more and more to be censored, and not just porn. The list of sites that are blocked will not be managed by ISPs themselves in most cases as it is a massive task - porn is a legal and well funded industry (that has no interest in kids accessing porn anyway) so they can easily ensure they stay ahead of filters. This means you have a handful of companies in control of the censorship that applies to most Internet connections - companies that the government can pressure to include sites they do not like, and "wrong thinking".

We already see massive blurring of "extremism" and "freedom of belief" and "freedom of expression". No matter how crazy people may be, they have a right to their religious beliefs and freedom to express that. You need that freedom in any democratic society.

Even so, with all his meddling, I seriously doubt that we (A&A) will not be able to offer an unfiltered service. Every bill Baroness Howe has tried to introduce has so far had no impact on us, and with which we already comply. We offer a choice, but we simply refuse to provide service to anyone asking for filtering. Simples.

8 comments:

  1. A blast of sanity. Thank you for sticking to your guns despite the intimidation. I don't need this government building a second Great Firewall of China for my benefit.

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  2. As a matter of interest... *has* anyone asked for filtering since you brought that "option" in? Did they go away when you said you wouldn't provide it? (I'd be astonished if anyone did, but perhaps some people who've forgotten their own youth or think their children should have it as bad as they did have done so...)

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    1. I do not actually track that - the order page will not complete if you do ask!

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  3. Can you include a Baroness Howe filter on your order page?

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  4. Seen that: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-to-be-given-powers-to-view-everyones-entire-internet-history-a6714581.html

    Obviously lack a bit of details, as HTTPS you don't have URL at best you could get host/domain from certificate snooping. Sounds enough to profile population (political orientation based on newspaper, sexual orientation, etc...) and absolutely 0% chance of finding any dangerous terrorist (anyone connecting to "http://www.jihad.org/bomb.html" is not smart enough to be dangerous).

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    1. If, as seems likely, they make it a legal requirement for telecoms and internet service providers to retain all of the web browsing history for all customers for a period of 12 months, what stance would A&A take? Would you be able to get away with the "we don't have any systems in place to log browsing history" response? Or would you be legally compelled to put a snooping system in place, no doubt at considerable cost with a probable increase in prices?

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    2. Very difficult to tell until we see the details - we don't have anything to do this, and we have systems that do not make it easy to do it either. Traditionally, imposing such things on a telco would mean that we get paid for the extra burden imposed, TBH I cannot see them wanting to deal with every tiny ISP that there is. As for intercept in BT Wholesale - maybe - but depends on wording - bear in mind they are not selling "internet access" or even "IP" - they sell Ethernet or PPP point to point.

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  5. Nice pig in the photo on this article, and then there's the animal...

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