TR – UK porn filter: 5 reasons it won’t work

August 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

From a technological standpoint, the new pornography laws don’t stand up…

Pornography will be blocked from every UK home and across public Wi-Fi services according to plans announced on Monday by Conservative prime minister David Cameron. Those still wishing to access pornography will need to speak with their Internet Service Provider (ISP) to opt back in.

In a speech Mr Cameron said the move was taken to crack down on child pornography as well as limiting access to pornography to “protect our children and their innocence.”

David Cameron TR   UK porn filter: 5 reasons it won’t work

In addition to the block, Mr Cameron said videos streamed online will be subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shops. Search engines have until October to implement stronger filters to block access to illegal content, and police and experts from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) will have greater powers to trace illegal content and examine file sharing networks.

The new laws will come into practice for all new ISP customers by the end of 2013 while existing customers must be contacted by their ISP and asked whether they wish to use “family-friendly filters” or not.

Since the announcement supporters and objectors have been in strong voice. Supporters backing the protection they argue it will give to children and less technologically aware families. Detractors citing the evils of censorship, the moral stigma created by opting against the filters, the shifting of responsibility from good parenting and the hypocrisy of the government’s funding cuts to CEOP last year.

We have a bigger complaint: the new laws suggest politicians don’t understand technology. Consequently – for better or worse – the measures taken to enforce them will fail. Here are the reasons why:

Reason #1: Filters don’t worktor onion TR   UK porn filter: 5 reasons it won’t work
Tor The subject may be controversial, but we have been here before with another equally polarising topic: piracy.

Due to legal rulings, ISPs were last year required to block access to prominent piracy sites and for search engines to filter results.

While this may dissuade the most casual of pirates, a quick search will reveal numerous ways to get around these blocks from VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), DNS patches, web proxies, alternative addresses to access the sites in question, browser extensions, anonymous browsers like Tor (simplified version of how it works pictured above), smartphone apps and even via a hack using Google Translate!

The result? In April, illegal downloads of Game of Thrones broke piracy records.

In short, even effectively deployed filters are easily bypassed whether it be for piracy or pornography.

Reason #2: ISPs are an ineffective police
The final sentence to Reason #1 is particularly pertinent here because even though “effectively deployed filters” are easily circumvented, most ISPs are in no position to effectively deploy them in the first place.

The prevalence of pornography has fuelled the new laws, but prevalence also reflects demand and no ISP has the resources – either in manpower or financial – to keep a lid on it all. “It’s technically not possible,” said Trefor Davies, chief technology officer at ISP Timico to the Telegraph. Furthermore, what isn’t blocked rises straight to the top and most likely stems from the darkest and least well trodden areas of the Internet.

Equally problematic are the mistakes that will happen. “Blocking lawful pornography content … will lead to the blocking of access to legitimate content” argues Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of ISP industry body ISPA. “It is only effective in preventing inadvertent access.”

Reason #3: Free software does a job better
Moralists will argue that taking the responsibility for what children surf away from parents and placing it on ISPs encourages neglectful parenting. Whether or not this is true from a technological standpoint the bigger concern is it will push more effective, free filtering software into the background.

To their credit much of this software is already supplied by the majority of ISPs including Virgin Media (Virgin Media Security), BT (NetProtect Plus), Sky (McAfee Parental Controls), TalkTalk (HomeSafe) and many more. There are also family filters built into Windows and Mac OS X as well as the majority of smartphone platforms.

In addition, most third-party routers have integrated parental controls these days and Cloud platforms like Linksys Smart WiFi and D-Link’s mydlink can be controlled from any location with a web browser. Furthermore, all these services let parents tailor settings to their own preferences, limit content based on time of day, specific devices and so forth.

By contrast, the new laws tell families to either block pornographic access for everyone in the household or grant access to everyone in the household. It is a blunt instrument that risks giving parents a false sense of security when better control is already at their fingertips.

Reason #4: Impacts net neutrality
DatainOneMinute TR   UK porn filter: 5 reasons it won’t work

DomoThe secretary general of ISPA has already said the new laws “will lead to the block of access to legitimate content” and this means a system of white listing innocent sites must be undertaken.

Where the line is drawn – soft pornography, lads’ mags, tabloids, lingerie shops, galleries, social media websites… – is already a problem, but it also favours the larger sites who will be vetted more quickly.

The concern is this creates a two tier internet where there is no hope of vetting every possible website that may sail within touching distance of a ban. How not? According to Domo (graphic right) last year there were 48 hours of new YouTube video, 571 new websites, 347 new WordPress blogs, 27,778 new Tublr blogs, 3,600 new Instagram photos and 684,478 new pieces of content uploaded to Facebook every minute.

As such only broad strokes can possibly be used with the major corporations getting preferential treatment while a small online gallery specialising in artistic nudes, for example, may go out of business.

Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the internet is treated equally by ISPs and governments. As battered as it is by search engine rankings and piracy blocks, it cannot remotely hope to exist under the new pornography laws.

5. Private networks are child pornography’s distribution system

While minors’ inadvertent access to pornography is deeply concerning, child pornography is clearly the deeper evil and it is hard to see from a technological standpoint how the new laws can better control it.

“[Child pornography is] invariably shared over private networks and not found by a simple image search,” argues Daniel Foster, founder of web hosts 34SP.com. “History shows us that they will be quicker at keeping this target moving than law enforcement will be at catching it.”

Where the new laws may have some success, however, are the greater search powers given to both CEOP and the police to examine file transfer networks, but they will likely run into strong opposition on privacy grounds.

That aside it is hard to see how the majority of the new laws can successfully address child pornography or children’s access to pornography and they may in fact do more harm than good.

To read the original article @ TrustedReviews click here

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