UK ISP Fears Expansion of “Ineffective” Porn Filter

UK ISP Fears Expansion of “Ineffective” Porn Filter

Trefor Davies, chief technology officer for the UK ISP Timico, says that a porn filter is “technically not possible,” that “you end up with a system that’s either hugely expensive” or ineffective at dealing with the millions of sites that exist. The real threat, he says, the potential for the govt to expand the filter to include other content the govt doesn’t want you to access.

A few days ago I mentioned how UK MP Claire Perry had called for the creation of a mandatory ISP-level porn filter of the Internet. Adults who wish to access porn can opt-in after verifying they are over the age of 18.

“This is a very serious matter,” said Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. “I think it is very important that it’s the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children. I’m hoping they will get their acts together so that we don’t have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.”

Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the Internet Service Providers Association, said the industry already blocks illegal content like child porn, and believes filtering legal porn would be “less clear cut,” would likely mean “blocking of access to legitimate content,” and would only prevent “inadvertent access.”

Trefor Davies, chief technology officer for the UK ISP Timico, told the BBC that a porn filtering regime is just “technically not possible.”

The problem is that there is just too much pornographic content available on the Internet and that there is no way to filter it all. There’s simply too many sites to block access to and no way to maintain a credible blacklist of them all.

“You end up with a system that’s either hugely expensive and a losing battle because there are millions of these sites or it’s just not effective,” he added. “The cost of putting these systems in place outweigh the benefits, to my mind.”

Davies also worried that a Net porn filter could serve as a precursor for filtering other types of content the govt doesn’t want you to see or access.

We’ve seen it before in Australia where a proposed “voluntary mandatory” Internet filtering regime to “protect children” quickly deteriorated. The govt added “inappropriate content” and “offensive and illegal material to the list, as well as legal pornography, gambling, and even P2P traffic.

“Blanket censorship option will either be too ineffective, or too restrictive, for most people,” says Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group. “And it hands new powers to the government, to request new types of sites are blocked by default. Perhaps tomorrow it will be extremist websites or Wikileaks.”

Even if such a plan is able to filtering some pornographic content from people’s ISPs, children will still be able to bypass the filter with the help of a proxy, P2P network, free VPN service, or Wi-Fi piggybacking.

Stay tuned.

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