recent decision by MNHQ

(508 Posts)
NetworkGuy Wed 02-Feb-11 23:33:00

Please, MNHQ, do have a read of this thread and consult your Tech people so they can give you the answers as to whether your support for this campaign and the Minister's plans are worth going on with.

I would hope you not only reverse your position but assuming you get sufficient technical reasoning in 'Plain English', that you go public and explain how unworkable the proposal is likely to be. I feel sure journalists at Computer Weekly and Computing will be able to provide confirmation that filtering is a hiding to nothing and can be very costly because of the millions of GB of data flowing through the bigger ISP networks.

For anyone baffled, and wondering if I'm a nut case, this concerns a proposal to get ISPs to "filter out" all porn, unless a customer "opts in". For numerous technical reasons the idea is never likely to achieve filtering without blocking access to legitimate sites or not blocking access to better than say 95% reliable, thus making it a costly exercise in futility, while parental vigilance and filtering software at the home would still be essential for peace of mind.

(Incidentally the wording of the campaign page implies the parents need to ask, at the same time as someone wanting not to have censored content needs to ask - it is one or other, but not both that would need to contact ISP. )

plupervert Thu 03-Feb-11 09:47:43

Another danger of segregating the internet is that if you "opt in" (in order to be able to access grown up content which is not "adult" content in the censorship sense), you might be confronted with even more stuff.

So much porn-like material comes in the form of spam these days (not even images, but keyword-composed scenarios that I personally find disgusting), yet censoring our e-mail is an even scarier step than censoring "the internet" (that is, the stuff which is "out there" rather than the stuff being pushed into inboxes.)

I totally agree about making censorship social. For children, the censorship will be external (carrying out their own browsing publicly, interaction with their parents about general life "content"). For confident adults, censorship can be discretionary. For example, I examine the search results of Google and don't click on what I'm not sure of. Norton Antivirus also lets me know which sites are freighted with computer threats. If there is a grey Norton Antivirus symbol opposite a site I think I do need information from, I use Google's "cache" of the page, so don't ever hit the unknown server. Incidentally, this accessing sites through the cache is a technique used by people under authoritarian regimes which filter internet pages.

Sites which promote hatred, spread lies, cause harm (e.g. porn or torture sites which promote images created by harming someone) and invade privacy are a SEPARATE ISSUE.

and discretionary (once individuals have been socialised to know what level of swearing or smuttiness they can handle).

Eleison Thu 03-Feb-11 09:59:30

I am too technically ignorant to assess the issues that are discussed here. I support the objectives behind the policy MNHQ is endorsing, but I don't know whether or not it is a good policy technically.

I do really strongly wish that there was some means for MNHQ to distinguish in the public mind between what it supports, as the owner/management of a talkboard, and what the talkboard supports. Failure to make that distinction amounts to lying.

plupervert Thu 03-Feb-11 10:23:23

Excellent point, Eleison.

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 10:43:10

Eleison - what I found curious but interesting was the wording in part of the campaign page mumsnet.com/campaigns/porn-default-filter

"Parental controls just aren't working – it's time to try another approach. We're delighted that Ed Vaizey agrees - and now we'd like him to increase the pressure on the industry to act."

The curious part to me is that this boils down to parental action (or lack of it) and cannot simply be made a burden for the ISPs.

It's like saying that Royal Mail has a duty to protect us against anything illegal being put in the post - how would they do it? - by opening every item and putting knives, porn, drugs in the bin.

The ISPs and the phone lines / mobile networks are merely a method of getting data to you, from the internet. If anyone has heard of 'distributed processing' (eg for analysis of medical data, or trying to detect new stars and black holes, etc) by sharing our the work across thousands and millions of home PCs for them to 'number crunch' whenever they show a screen saved during coffee breaks etc.

It is be obvious that the (censorship) load is small when processed on a home PC but massive when processed centrally (at the ISP).

BadgersPaws and others put some excellent technical arguments together as to why getting the ISPs to filter would be a costly exercise and still leave sufficient holes that parental monitoring / PC software would still be needed anyway

Some parents would be lulled into thinking nothing could get through and drop their guard!

As is clear, the ISPs won't pay for this (I think it was dittany who suggested they'd absorb the cost) but simply pass it on to us customers.

maryz Thu 03-Feb-11 10:49:27

You know, I don't usually get involved in mumsnet campaigns (usually they are UK based and I'm not), but I find this very worrying.

If the suggestion is really an "all or nothing" then I would be very against it - I don't want to be seen to be "opting in to all porn" simply because I decide to do a research project on something, or decide to let my 18 year old son watch over 18's films, or even if I want to do some online shopping or look at some questionable mumsnet links.

Wasn't there a problem here a while ago, where mumsnet had been cited as a "bad" site due to some sort of technical thingy (sorry, I have no idea exactly what happened), and the whole site was classed as "not safe" until hq managed to get the decision reversed? Surely the same could happen under this system - a thread with a couple of dodgy comments could be reported and all of a sudden I have to opt in to all porn to access mumsnet.

It doesn't seem to be a very well-thought-through solution hmm so should we really be backing it at all?

maryz Thu 03-Feb-11 10:51:06

Another point about parental control - surely if we are talking about houses where parents don't bother with control, these will be the houses where the opt-in will be done either by an adult who can't be bothered to sort out the computer every time a site is blocked, or by a computer-savvie child who knows more than the parents anyway.

Caring parents already have computer controls - at home.

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 10:53:50

plupervert - "For example, I examine the search results of Google and don't click on what I'm not sure of. Norton Antivirus also lets me know which sites are freighted with computer threats. If there is a grey Norton Antivirus symbol opposite a site I think I do need information from, I use Google's "cache" of the page, so don't ever hit the unknown server."

I too use the cached copy of some pages, primarily to check content without being likely to leave a footprint (one of my internet connections has a fixed IP, so my monitoring of competitor web sites would easily be spotted) but I have grown to not trust the warnings from some of these security services.

It only needs a few false positives to make them report a security issue (a few weeks ago there was a situation >LINK< where lots of threads were being classed as 'infected' because of some advert appearing on those MN pages).

Sites like StopMalware.org have good intent but when they go wrong the results make people lose confidence. Blocking Wikipedia for one photo is overkill and the IWF had to back down and their over-reaction made them even more of a laughing stock.

LeninGrad Thu 03-Feb-11 10:57:32

What about the .xxx domain idea? Would that work, a bit? I know there are a million ways around it but just as a categorisation/ know what you're going to or what to block at home/ via an ISP kind of thing?

Although Google safe search seems to work well enough for me.

I don't know, I do not want appalling images passed around on mobile phones between young kids, some stuff once seen can't be unseen. How can that be prevented?

Watching this with interest. Have to admit to being a bit techy-thick, and generally thought the opt in idea was a good one. I'd not considered all of the very good points raised about categorising etc.

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 11:02:04

It doesn't seem to be a very well-thought-through solution so should we really be backing it at all?

THANKS maryz - it is precisely what more technical people than me (in IT 30 years but still learning new things each day) have said on that first thread I linked to. This so-called solution of getting the ISPs to attempt to filter stuff is prone to failure, an administrative nightmare, and unlikely to be a cheap one, yet not for the first time a government minister has suggested there be ISP-based monitoring/censorship.

This latest idea was suggested in MP Claire Perry's election campaign (see BadgersPaws post 22-Dec-10 16:08:59 about the background to the 'get ISPs to block porn' idea she promoted)

Over 12 months ago a Labour minister was suggesting each web page be given a classification (like the films are) and was laughed at, mainly because of the number of web pages, but also because it only needs user contributions to change a clean page into one holding porn - just an upload of 1 'dodgy' photo would do it, so how would that be 'reviewed' and banned from under-18 viewing ?

maryz Thu 03-Feb-11 11:03:10

This won't stop the mobile phone issue leningrad - you only need one unprotected computer to download the picture, then they pass it around by bluetooth.

In any school there will be one set of parents who don't keep their computer secure or one child who can get around the controls.

I think part of the problem is that Porn isn't just available on "Porn websites" - it's every where.

So you make all the big commerical porn sites xxx domain - but then you're still left with millions of websites that arent' "ddicated" porn sites that are still available.

Google safe search works for me in one direction (I've only eve seen one dodgy image on "moderate"). But then I've had to take the safe search totally off (not pleasant hmm) to find pictures which by all accounts I would deem as "moderate" or "safe".

I'm not sure if child A has managed to access pornagraphic images/material on their phone there is any way of stopping it being passed around. I'd hazard a good guess that picture messaging and bluetooth have absolutely no connection to the ISP's from where it was downloaded.

ahh x posts with marzy about bluetooth ec smile

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 11:04:49

LeninGrad - yes the .xxx domains idea finally got approval last year (after 5 years of about-turns by ICANN) but still has not got the approval of all governments, and I suspect it would need legislation to force porn sites to switch from .org, .biz, .com to .xxx (and then they would complain "their" name has already been taken if there are different owners of pornovideos.com pornovideos.us pornovideos.biz - made-up-name before anyone wonders!)

Snorbs Thu 03-Feb-11 11:07:23

The big problem with the .xxx top-level domain is that for it to be of any real use it would a) need to be taken up by the whole world, b) you'd have to persuade a significant majority of the porn-hosting sites to move to it, and c) you'd need a global consensus on what constitutes porn. It's a technically elegant idea but the politics are awful.

If only a small proportion of porn sites moved to .xxx and were then automatically blocked, they'd soon notice that their .com competitors were becoming more popular whereas their own traffic would nose-dive. So they'd then just move back to their original addresses and .xxx would be empty.

And getting a global consensus of what kind of sites should be in .xxx would be frighteningly hard. How can you get a common view of what is, and is not, porn between (say) the USA, Holland, Saudi Arabia and Japan?

Eleison Thu 03-Feb-11 11:08:36

"should we really be backing it at all"

"We" aren't backing it. The limited company that owns the software we use to talk is backing it.

It is astonishing that MNHQ are, partly for genuinely benevolent reasons and partly to publicise/monetise their brand, routinely speaking for the talkboard. I know that the often say in interviews etc that there is never a consensus on MN. But time and again they act as spokespeople, "summing up the sense of the meeting" (that's the phrase used to describe the PM's power in Cabinet govt btw) on the basis of a reading of the site that is necessarily filtered by their PR objectives. They rarely make more than a flawed chat-based gesture at consultation. It is just staggeringly cavalier.

maryz Thu 03-Feb-11 11:11:28

Surely it is only the "legal" or "ethical" sites that would move anyway - you would still have a huge number of backstreet come and go businesses on different domains to evade the authorities anyway - none of the really appalling sites would come out into the open and admit they are port sites at all confused.

So legitimate porn (if there is such a thing) would be replaced by much worse.

Sorry, I'm not making much sense - but in this kind of industry I would have thought that voluntary codes of conduct just don't work. The sites they really want to stop have no moral or ethical base at all.

LeninGrad Thu 03-Feb-11 11:15:56

Well, just got to hope my DC are strong enough to say 'no I don't want to look at that'.

Agree there is no point backing something that just isn't going to work. I know what I can do for our home PCs and I hope I'll be able to buy a phone with a network service that prevents access to this stuff for the DC when the time comes.

Snorbs Thu 03-Feb-11 11:16:25

You're absolutely right maryz. The Internet is global and policing it to make sure that porn sites can only appear with a .xxx TLD would be effectively impossible.

LeninGrad Thu 03-Feb-11 11:21:02

The info on the link www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/porn-default-filter is pretty depressing though.

What could be done if not this?

Snorbs Thu 03-Feb-11 11:24:33

Lenin, Vodafone offers opt-out content filtering for under 18s. They claim to exclude all adult sites as well as gambling sites. It's far from perfect but it's good enough for the purpose.

DS has a Vodafone mobile and he knows that if I catch him accessing dodgy stuff then Internet connectivity on his phone will be disabled entirely.

I'm less bothered by content filtering on mobiles than that on home broadband though. If my DS tries to get to a particular site on his mobile and it's erroneously blocked then, if he really wants to get to it, he'll try from home. At that point I can make sure that the site is appropriate for him (or not, as the case may be). And I can then update our home PC's filtering to include/exclude that site as appropriate. An ISP-level filter won't be able to offer that kind of flexibility.

LeninGrad Thu 03-Feb-11 11:27:31

So how come Vodafone can do that for phones but other providers not for home internet access?

LeninGrad Thu 03-Feb-11 11:28:05

And how are they doing it? White and blacklists?

maryz Thu 03-Feb-11 11:34:10

And if they do it by blacklisting how will they do that?

Because if it's done by reporting it will all go bellyup, as there will be malicious reporting of sites all over the place. After all, one person's joke is another's porn (thinking TerryWogansCock here, for example).

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 11:34:12

Eleison - I am not sure this would be any 'good thing' for MN, siding with a disastrous and inept attempt at blocking porn.

At worst I would consider it thinking it is backing a worthwhile idea, but until someone from MNHQ comes to the thread it seems like their full views on why they believe it to be a workable solution won't be known.

I do again urge MNHQ to talk with the Tech support people and see what they come up with. I don't know exactly what they will say, but would hope they'll steer MNHQ away from supporting the Minister.

I'll be expecting red faces at MN if this goes through Parliament, gets as far as the ISPs, and then costs go up so some families are excluded from the internet, yet actual porn sites are still 'visible' for a while and (eventually) parents think it was a poor attempt, and they had to pay for the dubious privilege of an unsuccessful trial.

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