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recent decision by MNHQ

(509 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. )

Valpollicella Wed 02-Feb-11 23:36:03

NetworkGuy, could you give a precis of how this might affect MN?

yogididabooboo Wed 02-Feb-11 23:42:26

will it mean we can no longer link to naughty pictures?

My technical knowledge is so low i barely understood your post op.

NetworkGuy Wed 02-Feb-11 23:52:02

The main problems are
a) who defines "pornography" - would it include text, still images, videos
b) what would happen to educational/medical information sites
c) would nude paintings considered classic art be blocked from site, or whole websites ?
(as an example, Wikipedia had an album cover photo which caused the whole of Wiki to be blocked for a time, on the decision of a non government organisation, the Internet Watch Foundation)

There would need to be a lot of computer hardware to do this filtering, and it would not "get it right" 100% of the time, but worse, it would have to be paid for by the ISPs, and guess who they would charge - you and me - whether we actually want a filtered censored feed, or not.

Australia and China have had filtering. In the case of Australia, someone leaked the fact that lots of different websites (political, etc) had been put into the blocked list. Any sites which reported the list of blocked sites started to get banned too.

China has attempted to block western web sites, but "where there's a will, there's a way" and people develop methods to bypass filters, just as school age youngsters have found ways past some of the filtering running on school computers.

DuelingFanjo Wed 02-Feb-11 23:55:04

is this a government thing? Sounds like another completely unworkable thing which probably won't get done anyway as it's never going to work!

NetworkGuy Wed 02-Feb-11 23:56:26

With the tens of thousands of photos placed on different websites, and hours of video being uploaded from mobile phones, etc, the processing power to just monitor new additions will be significant.

At some point a site must "tip the balance" and be deemed a pornographic site, but if is needed, say, 100 "naughty" photos to trigger a ban, then on a site where 10,000 photos a day were uploaded, an error rate of 10% (ie where innocent photos were considered to be porn, eg men with shirts off, mistaken for women bare to the waist) would be filtered out because the required 100 was exceeded, simply because of software not being as accurate as a human (and no humans would cope with viewing tens of thousands of photos a week).

NetworkGuy Wed 02-Feb-11 23:59:31

It would be the Government proposing it be implemented by ISPs. So the cost and work would not fall on Government, but we customers would find our monthly bills went up as the ISPs would need to borrow a small fortune to implement. Oh, and with increasing volumes of data, they would need to upgrade every few months, so don't expect the cost to be paid off, ever. I would expect every ISP to add 5 to 10 pounds a month for every month this was in force.

Fibre optic connections will allow 10 times the quantity of data to be downloaded, and it will all need to be "filtered", so the costs just rocket as the internet gets faster.

plupervert Thu 03-Feb-11 00:05:56

Where is the decision? Sorry, I couldn't see it on site stuff.

Porn issues aside (though I do take them seriously, as a good feminist), what about swearing?! Or violence? How the hell do you censor violence, except on a case by case basis. Violence is almost inevitably dynamic, and the complications of analysing the relation of one image/ word to another - to determine whether violence is being expressed - are only for the divine to contemplate (the truly divine, not false prophets).

Is the "only solution" to have pre-moderated forums?!

BaroqueAroundTheClock Thu 03-Feb-11 00:08:21

I'm guessing the "porn" thing could mean shopping on-line at "la senza" or ann summers could be rather problematic.

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 00:12:38

'decision' - MN supporting the Minister by making this a new Campaign.... er

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 00:16:18

Probably just Ann Summers, depending on what "toys" are displayed, Baroque, and the US store includes 10" jelly dildos, so could be filtered censored under this proposal !

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 00:17:06

Hmm try

goldenticket Thu 03-Feb-11 00:21:09

I'm missing something I think - I'd be quite happy for my ISP to filter out anything dodgy for my computers which are accessed by my children. Opt in sounds a great plan.

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 00:25:32

There are already, apparently, some ISPs that will do filtering. I've asked the other poster which ones, but 3 years ago I think they were charging 30 quid a month (while other ISPs were generally a tenner or more cheaper).

My ISP (PlusNet) is charging me under a tenner a month and I would not be willing to pay even a fiver more for filtering I &do not want/need^ but if they are forced to put a filtering mechanism in place the cost would be on every user, like it or not.

Should all ISPs be forced to spend thousands or hundreds of thousands and be forever recovering the cost from customers, even if a third (or more) had no wish for the filtering anyway ?

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 00:26:54

Problem is, what happens when you may seek information on (say) "breast cancer" and the site is blocked, either because the word "breast" caused it, or some photos ?

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 00:32:07

I would strongly urge people to view the thread linked to in the original post. Quite a number of views on both sides, and I only spotted it when I came across the campaign page (having seen previous comments outside MN about the idea).

I also need to do things for clients, and some of the likely questions/comments might have already been made on that thread with far more eloquent responses than I can make right now

Snorbs Thu 03-Feb-11 00:46:29

It's unclear, as yet, who or how they will be defining what would be blocked and what wouldn't. They'll probably use a commercial system such as those offered by Websense or Bluecoat. Let's take an example based on Bluecoat (as used by Vodafone's under-18 content filtering system):

You're an adult woman who wants to buy a vibrator. You've heard, courtesy of many recommendations on mumsnet, of a great web site called You try to access that site to buy some vibey goodness.

You find that access to is blocked because it's classed as adult/mature content.

You've now got a choice. You can either decide that there will be no vibration-based loving in your life unless you visit Ann Summers in person.

Or, you decide to contact your ISP and ask for access to 18+ services to be turned on. They do so. Maybe they also make a mental note that you must be some kind of sicko porn-hound. Who knows?

You can now access and buy your buzzy toy of joy. But now anybody accessing your Internet connection such as, eg, your children, will be able to access any and all kinds of porn on the Internet. ISP-level filtering cannot distinguish between what you as an adult want to do and what your child who happens to be using the same Internet connection should be limited to doing. It's either on or off.

If you have filtering software on your home PC rather than an ISP-level filter, you can set it up so that different users on your PC will get access to different sites. You can also add or remove sites from that list yourself. An ISP-level filter will not and cannot be that flexible. It will either be on for everyone using your Internet connection, or off.

If you want to find out what a Bluecoat-based system would likely block, put your website addresses in here. If it's rated as adult, an ISP opt-out filter will almost certainly have to block it. Bluecoat's ratings can be regarded as representative of the content filtering industry.

Snorbs Thu 03-Feb-11 00:54:17

Worryingly, I've just been playing around with the link in my previous post to see what Bluecoat would and would not block. - a site that has got some appalling images and text on it - is rated as both "newsgroups/forums" and "open/mixed content". The former is the same rating as many entirely innocent forums, and the latter is the same rating as, eg, YouTube.


I think this quite clearly demonstrates the issues surrounding this idea.

Motherfunster Thu 03-Feb-11 01:09:49

<Coff> interesting bit of writing by John Naughton on the matter.

Moral panic historically has been used as a covert way of devising the mechanics of political censorship of any new media.

As a kid in the 80s we found porn dumped in bin bags in hedges and other kids I went to school with got abused.

Take it back a few thousands years and there drawing nobs in charcoal by the light of a mammoth oil impregnated torch.

Parents must take responsibility for where there kids are on the internet, Just like when there out side in RL.

I don't let my DD have a FB account till shes 14 and I monitor where she is because she only surfs in the same room as me until she old enough to wonder around in there by her self.

They will be talking a bout a internet kill switch next.....

BaroqueAroundTheClock Thu 03-Feb-11 01:29:09

sorry have posted on the other thread - I'm unclear (despite reading the entire thread) would this be a blanket "yes to porn" "no to porn" thing - or you could ring up and ask for access to certain websites??


" I'd be quite happy for my ISP to filter out anything dodgy for my computers which are accessed by my children. "

Mumsnet would be filtered out......(in either situation)

Motherfunster Thu 03-Feb-11 01:35:01

Who is John Naughton? writes for the Obsever and is professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University.

Hes Director of the Wolfson College, Cambridge Press Fellowship Programme, also Academic Advisor to the Arcadia Fellowship Project at Cambridge University Library and an Advisory Board Member at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

He wrote 'A Brief History of the Future: Origins of the Internet'

Motherfunster Thu 03-Feb-11 01:46:01

I wonder what the swearing on MN would do to a filter?

How the Australians have approached this australia-internet-filter

NetworkGuy Thu 03-Feb-11 02:18:25

Baroque - it's "all or nothing" unfortunately, whereas with a computer at home having parental controls, it can more easily be tailored to suit which sites are permitted. If all parents put in the effort to monitor a bit more, then this would perhaps not be under discussion.

However, if it has to be done at ISP level then as Kaloki explains in one of her posts, you have to set the threshold at a level where the strictest parent would not permit access and as a consequence everyone either gets a degree of filtering they would not choose, or "opts in" to receive an uncensored service and then has to use parental controls to achieve the degree of restriction they deem necessary.

This isn't a solution, it's a costly burden that might do a poor job on a good day, and when a parent could achieve a similar or better control over what sites can be used, it seems only to do a poor job (and requires a lot of processing power and slows down the traffic) where the overhead on a home PC is minimal because it is only needing to filter what comes to >>> that <<< aingle PC, not every possible download made during the course of each month by hundreds of thousands of customers.

There's a good explanation of the downside of having the ISP filter by KalokiMallow on 22-Dec-10 at 17:14:51 in that first linked-to thread.

It follows some 'different views' over the suggestions that UK ISPs host porn (highly unlikely!) and other assumptions made a few hours earlier - see posts by LadyBlaBlah on and before 13:47:00, and dittany earlier commenting on the controls used in China.

BaroqueAroundTheClock Thu 03-Feb-11 02:28:46

ahhh yes - I did read the whole thread - but eyes were glazing over a bit by the time I came to Kaloki's explanation.

So basically it would be that if I wanted to opt-in so that I could put something together on traffiking and slavery in the 21st century (I did something similar recently actually) - many of the websites that contain good quality information on the issues surrounding it are, sadly, by nature some what on the graphic in descriptions (and also some images sad). Also google images got most confused over "domestic slavery" hmm and I had to take the safe search off shock

However, in order to do that to do a decent project for adult viewing.........I would then have to allow any "porn" material through - nice!

Snorbs Thu 03-Feb-11 07:28:24

At the moment Bluecoat rates mumsnet as a safe site. But someone could report mumsnet as an adult-only site and point the reviewer to some of the more salacious threads. It might get re-rated to something less child-friendly. They might do that for malicious or genuine reasons.

After all, I don't let my DCs read mumsnet, mainly due to the fucking swearing and the graphic threads about sex. That's why I keep an eye on what my children are up to on the Internet rather than relying on dubious technical solutions to social problems.

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