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Friday, 20 April 2012 10:29

Agony Aunt helps UK committee sort out net censorship

Written by Nick Farrell



Nothing like asking an expert


It appears that an Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection might have had a few difficulties finding experts  when it came to the thorny issue of internet censorship.

The committee, which recommends that ISPs should censor internet content, to save children from trolls, er terrorists, sorry paedophiles, got its answers by asking Sun agony aunt Dear Deidre. “Dear Deidre” Sanders was the Inquiry’s first expert witness. She told the committee that kids should be protected from online pornography, but it was OK with children looking at Page 3 girls because “the Editor of The Sun thinks it’s okay” and because 9 million people read it.

So that sorts that out, we expect a comic book style strip with two couples in their under wear to explain the point. Generally the report makes amusing reading and is probably a good reason why politicians should not be allowed near technology questions. For example the committee Chairman Claire Perry MP appear to think that TalkTalk’s network-level filter would work on an ISP's server  without question or an alternative view.

TalkTalk’s HomeSafe doesn’t stop kids looking at whatever they like via smartphone apps and only blocks browser traffic.  It uses filters websites against a blacklist.  Ironically this means that it would censor Perry’s website which hosts the report. The committee also thought it would be easy to censor the internet in the UK based on the same standards that Ofcom and the British Board of Film Classification use. So now a blog will be rated in the same way as a movie.

Of course the Censor has to look at a few hundred flicks a year, when, if Perry gets her way, the Interent will mean ranking a few hundred billion. The report does point out the concerns about two of the biggest ISPs on the grounds.  But it writes these off saying that “their main objections appeared to be ideological, not commercial”.  In other words the idea of censoring the connections of millions of British internet users is not something that should trouble UK politicians.  

Nick Farrell

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