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United Kingdom Censorship The Media

TorrentFreak Blocked By British ISP Sky's Porn Filter 171

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the slashdot-unsafe-for-any-age dept.
judgecorp writes "TorrentFreak, a news site covering copyright issues and file sharing news, has been blocked by the porn filter of British ISP Sky. As TorrentFreak points out, the filter is provided by Symantec, and doesn't block Symantec when the company reports malware news: 'Thanks to their very own self-categorization process they wear the "Technology and Telecommunication" label. Is their website blocked by any of their own filters? I won’t even bother answering that.'" From the TorrentFreak article: "Our crimes are the topics we cover. As readers know we write about file-sharing, copyright and closely linked issues including privacy and web censorship. We write about the positives and the negatives of those topics and we solicit comments from not only the swarthiest of pirates, but also the most hated anti-piracy people on the planet."
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TorrentFreak Blocked By British ISP Sky's Porn Filter

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  • The question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erikkemperman (252014) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:08AM (#45885535)

    The question is whether this was always the plan. First put in place the infrastructure for censorship -- eek, porn! -- and then slide on down the slippery slope.

    • Re:The question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:26AM (#45885589)

      Yes. Next question?

      • Yes. Next question?

        What are we -- well, the Brits in this case -- going to do to prevent that?

        • Re:The question (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gutnor (872759) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:25AM (#45885763)
          We are supposed to drown our sorrow by consuming a little bit more.
          • by erikkemperman (252014) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:28AM (#45885771)

            Glad to hear you've formulated a plan. Cheers!

            • Re:The question (Score:5, Insightful)

              by gutnor (872759) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:14AM (#45886337)
              1. Write your MP and express your outrage. Stop using a provider using filtering. Write your new provider CEO and explain why you joined them. Write your old provider and explain why you quit them.
              2. Get some friend interested and mount an official protest in front of Westminster Palace. Get all of those people to stop using the bad provider too. Ignore the DailyMail labeling you as a kiddie porn addict wanting to destroy the economy and force toddler to watch hardcore porn and terrorism training video on internet.
              3. Continue, get more people on board, get traditional/real media interested. Ignore government promises to oversight the filter list, claim of transparency, ...
              4. Continue get more people on board and create your own party. Win the election, change the law.


              People do that all the time - like for war, animal abuse, ... If the subject is more popular than important for the government, it works. There are organisation that will help you through that, there are MP that will support you. (see Pirate Party, Touche pas ma pute in France, ...)

              If you are cynical about that approach use my previous response.
              • That sounds like a more effective strategy, thanks. I will look into it just as soon as the effects of your previous suggestion wear off.

              • Re:The question (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:55AM (#45886847) Homepage

                1. Write your MP and express your outrage.

                Receive a vague, mostly irrelevant canned reply.

                2. Get some friend interested and mount an official protest in front of Westminster Palace.

                Be sure the apply for the relevant protest permits first and to do it in the designated area (which isn't visible from any important palace windows).

                3. Continue, get more people on board, get traditional/real media interested. Ignore government promises to oversight the filter list, claim of transparency, ...

                Gradually find out you're in the minority of "people who give a damn".

                4. Continue get more people on board and create your own party. Win the election, change the law.

                Har!

              • by jalopezp (2622345)
                At last, a leader has spoken out! When is our next protest, then?
              • Re:The question (Score:4, Interesting)

                by MrNemesis (587188) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @11:43AM (#45887879) Homepage Journal

                Stop using a provider using filtering.

                Catch 22 here unfortunately. The government basically said to the big ISPs "implement a filter voluntarily or we'll force you to do it via draconian legislation", and the ISPs reluctantly agreed. Small/niche ISPs weren't going to have it forced on them as it was seen as implementing a mandatory filter would have a disproportionately high capital outlay for the smaller firms, so almost all of them don't implement (and many, such as AAISP [aa.net.uk], wear this as a badge of pride) but of course many of them provide the option of safety filters/software as an optional service.

                However, the threat is basically there that if there is a groundswell of people flocking to unfiltered ISPs, they'll no longer be considered a small ISP and the government will start breathing down their necks.

                The writing's been on the wall for years now (what with the histrionics generated by the Daily Heil and Mumsnet [who have since recanted I believe] amongst others) so a great many geeks have been using VPNs and alternative DNS servers for quite some time. We'll have to see how far the thumbscrews get tightened in that regard.

                Fuck knows what Cameron et al see in this other than a blatant power-grab via pandering populism, but sufficiently advanced malice is indistinguishable from stupidity.

              • Little bit of a problem with point 1 there. Lots of people went to O2 / Be broadband as it was not shaped or filtered. Guess what? Sky bought them.

        • Re:The question (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AmiMoJo (196126) * <.ten.3dlrow. .ta. .ojom.> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:11AM (#45886313) Homepage

          I've been working on a USB flash drive loaded with software to bypass the filtering. Pre-configured portable Firefox installation, Chrome extensions, maybe even a portable VM with Tor. Flash drives are really cheap on eBay now so I might buy a load and give them away.

          I wrote to my MP, who didn't seem to understand the problem, and forwarded my concerns (as well as others about GCHQ) to the relevant department. I eventually got an extremely vague response that could be accurately summarised as "fuck off, pleb". I think I'm basically at war with my country now.

          • by sabri (584428)

            I wrote to my MP, who didn't seem to understand the problem, and forwarded my concerns (as well as others about GCHQ) to the relevant department. I eventually got an extremely vague response that could be accurately summarised as "fuck off, pleb". I think I'm basically at war with my country now.

            I don't own any firearms, but I believe this is the primary reason for the second amendment of the U.S. constitution...

            Pierce Morgan, back to the studio.

        • Well I, for one, am going to try to get as much of the internet blocked as possible to highlight the censorship. If I keep mentioning explosive bombs and masturbation, then maybe I can get Slashdot banned as well.
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Yes. Next question?

        I realize you're jesting, but that's only because you haven't seen the list of blockable things:

        http://bt.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/46809/kw/parental%20controls/c/346,6679,6680/related/1 [custhelp.com]

        ie. It's not just "porn".

        TorrentFreak *is* covered by that list and was therefore blocked.

        • by Muros (1167213)

          Yes. Next question?

          I realize you're jesting, but that's only because you haven't seen the list of blockable things:

          http://bt.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/46809/kw/parental%20controls/c/346,6679,6680/related/1 [custhelp.com]

          ie. It's not just "porn".

          TorrentFreak *is* covered by that list and was therefore blocked.

          I just looked at that list, and cannot see a relevant category.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            I just looked at that list, and cannot see a relevant category.

            Try again...

            "Obscene and Tasteless - This category will block sites that offer advice on how to commit illegal or criminal activities, or to avoid detection."

            Torrentfreak often has articles on using Tor and proxies to hide your online activity (Random pick: this one [archive.org])

            Oh, you were expecting them to be covered under "File sharing"...? Silly rabbit.

            • by Muros (1167213)
              Obscene and tasteless? Ok, fair enough, I just looked at the headings so I missed the "avoiding detection" bit, but that is ridiculous.
              • by Joce640k (829181)

                I just looked at the headings so I missed the "avoiding detection" bit

                You're starting to grok it...

            • by dr_blurb (676176) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @12:14PM (#45888157)

              Obscene and Tasteless - This category will block sites that offer advice on how to commit illegal or criminal activities, or to avoid detection.

              The trick is to combine things that parents will obviously want
              to block (in that category: "how to commit murder, build
              bombs, " and "gruesome or even frightening content such as
              shocking depictions of blood or wounds, or cruel animal
              treatment.") with stuff that the MPAA/government etc. want to
              block: "Sites with information about illegal manipulation of
              electronic devices, hacking, fraud and illegal distribution of
              software will be blocked along with ..."

              ... in the same category!

              "Illegal manipulation of electronic devices, hacking" is nice and
              broad as well, so plenty of sites to block.

              Why is hacking "obscene and tasteless" anyway?

              • by Joce640k (829181)

                Why is hacking "obscene and tasteless" anyway?

                Or "lock picking" ... I wonder how the guys at toool feel about being classified as obscene/tasteless by the UK government?

            • by number17 (952777)

              Torrentfreak often has articles on using Tor and proxies to hide your online activity

              And yet we have been promoting the use of Tor for circumventing the use of censorship by oppressive governments https://citizenlab.org/tag/tor/ [citizenlab.org].

              Perhaps the UK will be added to the list, or have they been on it the whole time?

        • by jalopezp (2622345)

          Do you mean File Sharing? Because they define file sharing like this:

          This category will block sites used to illegally distribute software or copyrighted materials such as movies, music, software cracks, illicit serial numbers, illegal license key generators and sites used as a direct exchange of files between users without dependence on a central server.

          Which TorrentFreak is not. But maybe you meant Obscene and Tasteless, which they define like this:

          This category will block sites that offer advice on how to commit illegal or criminal activities, or to avoid detection. These can include how to commit murder, build bombs, pick locks, etc. Sites with information about illegal manipulation of electronic devices, hacking, fraud and illegal distribution of software will be blocked along with content that may be offensive or tasteless such as bathroom humour, or gruesome or even frightening content such as shocking depictions of blood or wounds, or cruel animal treatment.

          Once again, TorrentFreak does not fit the category. It does not help anyone commit any criminal activities or evade detection, despite all its biases towards the pirates.

          • by nschubach (922175)

            I love this part:

            direct exchange of files between users without dependence on a central server.

            It's almost as if it's saying, "If we can't shut it down, it's not permissible!"

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            Once again, TorrentFreak does not fit the category. It does not help anyone commit any criminal activities or evade detection, despite all its biases towards the pirates.

            So why did they put "torrent" in their name?

          • by Smauler (915644)

            This category will block sites that offer advice on how [...] to avoid detection.

            Any site that offers advice on anonymity on the internet, which includes torrentfreak, falls into this category. Mere mention of Tor could be construed as advice on how to avoid detection. Note this is not "avoid detection while committing illegal or criminal activities", it's just "avoid detection".

    • by mSparks43 (757109) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:36AM (#45885623) Homepage Journal

      With any luck they'll block the BBC soon.

    • Re:The question (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gweihir (88907) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:41AM (#45885643)

      I think they decided to not even bother to hide it and to start blocking copyright-terrorism, deviating opinion sedition and independent thought treason right from the beginning. They seem to feel very sure nobody will be able to protest effectively.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        They'll just block the protest sites, too.

        Add in TV censorship, put out a few press releases about how many children have been saved ... everything is happiness and smiles. What an awesome government we've elected!

    • by runeghost (2509522) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:51AM (#45885675)
      Anyone calling it "Hadrian's Firewall" yet?
    • Re:The question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:53AM (#45885681)

      The question is whether this was always the plan. First put in place the infrastructure for censorship -- eek, porn! -- and then slide on down the slippery slope.

      They always said it was. The thing is most people just got stuck on the "think of the children and didn't look at the rest. The list includes: [newstatesman.com]

      "violent material", "extremist related content", "anorexia and eating disorder websites", "suicide related websites", "alcohol" and "smoking", "web forums", "esoteric material", "Web blocking circumvention tools", and "sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle, contraceptive, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy."

      • Thanks, I did not know that. Must be because I've only ever heard it referred to as the "porn filter".

      • Wow, "web forums". That's just absurd.
      • by fa2k (881632)

        (sorry, couple of keys are fucked). Wow. I was coviced it was a joke util i read the referece. This is mad. Last item's proaly worded like that from the list provider to distiguish from por, the cesors had to go ahead ad check that ox for some reaso

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Esoteric, adj. intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.

        What... the... fuck? So any child interested in something non-mainstream should be blocked from educating themselves. This term would appear to apply to virtually anything anyone wishes to block.

      • "think of the children and didn't look at the rest. The list includes:

        And now, Slashdot:

        (o)(o)

        Damn, I haven't had a use for that since 300 baud.

    • Re:The question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by michelcolman (1208008) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:54AM (#45885843)

      In other words, porn is an ideal lubricant for slopes.

    • Re:The question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfr ... t ['om.' in gap]> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:55AM (#45885849) Homepage Journal

      First put in place the infrastructure for censorship -- eek, porn! -- and then slide on down the slippery slope.

      Censorship is about power. There is no "infrastructure" needed for censorship so much as simply giving someone the power to stand between the public and certain types of information.

      Power has been granted and it is being used for the purpose it was always intended: silencing those who people in power do not like.

      The public did not call for or approve blocking child pornography, obscene content, etc etc per se. The public -- and the public is to blame here more so than politicians -- approved granting power to censors to shut-up malcontents and misfits. This is what those supporting censorship actually wanted; duct tape around the mouths of Lefties, wingnuts, geeks, gays, and truth-seekers. Pornography hardly entered the equation except as an emotive wedge.

      A large segment of the public supported this, and played along with the pornography red herring. This mentality of a large part of the population is rarely ever acknowledged, much less discussed or analysed. But a five minute conversation with a on an innocuous topic such as, say, lolcats, will reveal that there are a many people who would be happy with seeing the vast majority of web-pages shut-down by fiat.

      • It's funny to me the asymmetrical public interest involved in "protecting people." I remember years ago -- with no surprise -- there was a revelation that the majority of "I'm offended" complaints to the FCC came from about 4 people and a small AstroTurf company. You'd think some of the networks would at least start to recognize "angry caller #4" by voice after a while.

        With this current "protection" we are to believe that there are offended people (OK, I do believe they exist), that might be burdened with t

      • by MrNemesis (587188)

        I've quoted an excerpt here from a book, Country of the Blind by Christopher Brookmyre, that I've always thought summed up the issue rather succinctly. People clamouring to have something banned have almost never seen it. The only enjoyment I ever get out of Moral Panics has been playing Spot the Idiot Who Hasn't Even Seen What They're Complaining About and in the UK I grew up through the panics on "video nasties", video games in general and Night Trap especially, US wrestling, Teenage Mutant Hero* Turtles

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      The question is why are you even asking this question.. of course it was part of the plan.

      • Rhetorical question? As is obvious from all the "of course it was" answers like yours.

        About your .sig, do you mean John Wilkes Booth? If so, well then you won't care what I have to say since I am not a big fan of slavery. If not, I am probably not the first to be confused.

        • by ancientt (569920)

          He does mean John Wilkes Booth. Some people believe that Lincoln acted as a tyrant and counter to the goals that the United States was founded on. Slavery is a tangential issue just like porn is to the censorship debate. People who object to the censorship are conveniently labeled as supporters of porn and people who object to the suppression of states rights are conveniently labeled as supporters of slavery. However, supporting states rights doesn't make you a supporter of slavery just like decrying censor

          • Well, okay, to each his own. I just remembered the name vaguely from a history lesson, and I can't really comment on how tangential the slavery issue was for this Booth character. Wikipedia does say this in the first paragraph:

            He was also a Confederate sympathizer, vehement in his denunciation of Lincoln, and strongly opposed the abolition of slavery in the United States.

            source [wikipedia.org]

            Either way, still seems a bit odd to me that someone would decide whether or not anyone is worth conversing with on any topic based on just this one snippet of ancient history. Maybe that's just me though.

            • by nurb432 (527695)

              Either way, still seems a bit odd to me that someone would decide whether or not anyone is worth conversing with on any topic based on just this one snippet of ancient history. Maybe that's just me though.

              See that is a trap, i never said you had to agree solely about my feeling about Booth being a patriot ( for the record i base this on him willing to give his life for his country, even if his country was short lived ), but what i state in general.

              • A trap.. Well I totally fell for it! I still don't really understand, but that's probably because I tend to prefer discussions with folks who don't agree with me. I'm guessing I'm not the first who misunderstood your sig, though, but glad that it's not the slavery bit that makes you admire the guy.

        • by nurb432 (527695)

          Yes, John Wilkes. No, the war really wasn't about slavery.

    • by Soluzar (1957050)
      That's a question, to you? The only question I have is just how long until the friction preventing you from opting out of the filters begins to increase.
  • Works for me (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Mr_Silver (213637)

    Well, I'm on Sky and I just clicked on the torrentfreak link and ... lo ... their article appeared.

    Looks like it was a short-lived mistake.

    • Re:Works for me (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr_Silver (213637) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:12AM (#45885553)
      Ignore me. Turns out the blocking only occurs if you have the under-18 filter turned on - which I managed to get from the article :)
      • Re:Works for me (Score:5, Informative)

        by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @06:47AM (#45886027)

        Ignore me. Turns out the blocking only occurs if you have the under-18 filter turned on - which I managed to get from the article :)

        True, but it is the default for all new internet connections. Many people just leave things at the default, and may not even know that you can have it disabled.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          The government wants everyone to be asked if they want the filter on or off. Otherwise they can't build an accurate database of known perverts.

        • by nurb432 (527695)

          Or are afraid to ask, since they assume it also lets in all the 'bad stuff'.

  • Since the requirement was pushed for by politicians (the "won't someone think of the children" view), then the websites of all political parties should be blocked under the same filters until they realise that automated blacklist/whitelist filtering will never work 100% of the way it is expected.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes I look around at the backwards American hick town I live in and wish it were more like ultra-progressive Europe.

    And sometimes I don't.

    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:40AM (#45885635)

      It's not Europe. It's UK. The country that likes to take the worst of the US, the worst of the EU, mix them together and implement.

      • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:36AM (#45886203)

        And then blame Europe for it when the public complain.

        It's Europe's fault prisoners may have to be given the vote!

        No it's not, it's our fault for deciding that human rights might be something worth actually giving a damn about and recognising that denying prisoners the vote and then imprisoning political opposition is a common tactic for seizing power that we may wish to avoid in our country. All Europe has done is confirm to us what we've said we agreed with previously. It's not their fault we can't get our message straight, that we legislate one way and then bitch, moan, and complain that we want it another.

      • It's not Europe. It's UK.

        UK is part of Europe (and EU).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gweihir (88907)

      You do realize, the UK is far more like the US than like Europe, right?

      • Perhaps you might want to visit the US and Europe. Churchill may have said "divided by a common language" but there is more to it than that.
        • by gweihir (88907)

          Perhaps I have visited the US, the UK and am a European citizen? Perhaps I have some idea what I am talking about?

  • The NewStatesman is a well known left wing magazine and it'll take any opportunity to take pot shots at the Cameron government. Now I don't agree with the porn filter at all, but the assertion that its *currently* being used to block people off from a large part of the net is frankly b0ll0cks.

    However, what the filter may be used for in the future is another matter. Once power is available to politicians they will inevitably use it.

    • by horza (87255)

      Well it has some facts quite easy to check. For instance is Childline really being blocked? The Cameron-filter was touted as stopping children "accidentally" coming across images of hardcore pornography. In which case why are "Web blocking circumvention tools" censored? There is too much of a discrepency between what Mr Cameron described to us why it was needed and what it actually does. Either Mr Cameron lied or the ISPs have radically over-reached in the level of national censorship. Some investigative jo

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Viol8 (599362)

        "though the only paper brave enough to print the truth these days is the Guardian"

        For various definitions of the word "truth". I wouldn't trust the Guardian any more than any other newspaper with this sort of story - they all have an agenda.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "though the only paper brave enough to print the truth these days is Andrex"

          Fixed that for you!

      • by Jahta (1141213) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:04AM (#45886299)

        Either Mr Cameron lied or the ISPs have radically over-reached in the level of national censorship.

        Have a read of this article - David Cameron's internet porn filter is the start of censorship creep [theguardian.com] - and make your own mind up. For example this quote:

        "The category of 'obscene content', for instance, which is blocked even on the lowest setting of BT's opt-in filtering system, covers "sites with information about illegal manipulation of electronic devices [and] distribution of software" – in other words, filesharing and music downloads, debate over which has been going on in parliament for years. It looks as if that debate has just been bypassed entirely, by way of scare stories about five-year-olds and fisting videos. Whatever your opinion on downloading music and cartoons for free, doing so is neither obscene nor pornographic."

        • Interestingly "Stephen Ward - the Musical" has just opened in the West End.

          Personally, I can't wait for a musical version of the Lady Chatterly's Lover trial - perhaps featuring the cast of Mama MIa? (Cast of Umoja might be more fun!)

  • by bugnuts (94678) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @06:02AM (#45885869) Journal

    I claim, preemptively, that such claims are bullshit. The censorship is intentional, and will get reversed, but it will be cited as a mistake. Mark my words.

    Smaller sites that are just as innocent will get blocked, but won't get unblocked because not enough people will complain. This causes real damage. It costs site owners real money.

  • And so it begins....
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:59AM (#45886515)
    So the UK is slowly removing itself from the Internet by censoring itself. No loss. And "OMG it has the word torrent in it, it must be evil!".
  • This ISP is actually called "sky"? Do they not have the movie terminator in the UK? The irony...

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