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UK looking to block Extremist Websites, but what does Extremist mean?

by on01 December 2013 2160 times

The slippery slope of Censorship that many predicted when SOPA, PIPA and other IP protecting laws first hit the scene is starting to come true in the UK. After winning a battle to apply network (ISP) level filters for Pornographic and File Sharing sites the UK government is now moving on to what they are labeling “extremist” web sites. On the surface they claim they want to stop extremist rhetoric on the internet (which is still not a good thing) and are working to bundle this in with existing laws that allow for the blocking of pornography and file sharing.

The original push for this level of filtering started with a shove from the copyright industry as a way to block popular file sharing sites like The Pirate Bay. The blocks, although primitive, are DNS (Domain Name Service) look up filters that are able to block access to the site by domain name. On top of this there is a classification filter that allows ISPs to block sites (through DNS) by content. Customers of these ISPs are required to make a choice about installing these filters. All ISPs in the UK will have presented this choice to their users by the end of 2014.

Now some would say that filtering (and monitoring) content at the ISP level is ok since it provides the user with a choice (install or not). However, it seems that even if you do not install the filters they are still tracking and monitoring your content as there are still ISP level blocks for some sites regardless of the status of the filter. There is also much evidence to show that both the UK and US use this monitoring data (legally or illegally) to spy on their citizens browsing habits.

The powers that be in both the US and UK are still trying to hide behind protecting children and jobs as they continue to push the limits of what their “safeguards” are used for. As we said above we have moved from file sharing, to porn and now we are headed into a very vague category of “extremist” websites. In late October, the Prime Minister stated: “We have had repeated meetings of the extremism task force—it met again yesterday—setting out a whole series of steps that we will take to counter the extremist narrative, including by blocking online sites.” He then goes on to praise Facebook for their removal of some extreme videos (beheadings) from their site.

Taken in context it would seem that the British Prime Minister is talking about Islamic extremist sites, but he is not clear on that at all. There also seems to be some sort of legislation that will be introduced soon that even ISPs are not privy to. Now while I do not agree with the extremes in any religion (or political party) they do have a right to state their views. They should not be censored because someone does not like the message. Instead give people the opportunity to make that choice on their own. Of course, the counter is that this will protect children from graphic images and dangerous messages. The question I pose in response to that is: shouldn’t parents be the ones monitoring and filtering (if needed) the information their kids see on the internet, TV and movies? There are tons of tools (many free) that allow this and can protect kids from the danger of the internet, sadly most parents are very disengaged and cannot be bothered to deal with this.

If we let the government (and government) run this we could begin to see any site that is in opposition to the existing government labeled as extremist and blocked. At that point the only thing that people will hear or read will be what the government approves. This type of monitoring is what they (the government) rails against in China and many other oppressive countries. How can they tell us what is happening in China is bad and do the same thing here? It is also interesting to see how they do not understand how much of a financial impact this will have. In the US technology companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others are paying the bill for their cooperation with the NSA as consumers dump them in favor of home storage and other services that are not open to NSA collection. All of them are having to make massive (and expensive) changes to stop the bleeding and to bring customers back into the fold. We hope that this type of filtering/blocking will not pass in the UK or reach over to the US and that, with enough support, the consumer can start to take back the internet from the people that want to control it and what we can and cannot view.

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Last modified on 01 December 2013
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