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Mobile internet blocking is rife

Warning from Open Rights Group and LSE Media Policy Project
Mon May 14 2012, 14:22
Web site blocking is bad and rife

RESEARCH BY PRIVACY CHAMPION the Open Rights Group (ORG) and the LSE Media Policy Project paints a bleak picture of mobile internet browsing, suggesting that it is subject to increasing censorship.

The two groups have released a report on mobile web blocking that they said should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that we should roll over and accept opt-in adult internet filtering like that proposed by the MP Claire Perry.

The report, entitled "Mobile internet censorship: what's happening and what we can do about it" (PDF), looks at how and where the internet is filtered, and what problems that can cause. In statements the groups said that they had uncovered a heavily walled mobile internet with widespread overblocking, transparency problems and inflexible systems.

Its findings are based on reports to a web site called Blocked.org.uk that is monitored and run by the ORG. In studies carried out earlier this year if found that personal and political blogs, restaurants and even the BBC have been reported as being blocked in the UK for vague reasons.

For example, the seemingly innocuous St Margarets Community web site (www.stmgrts.org. uk), described in the report as "a community information site created by a group of local residents of St Margarets, Middlesex," was "Blocked on Orange and T-Mobile on 8th March".

Also blocked during the period was the web site of French privacy group La Quadrature Du Net. The ORG said that this was blocked by Orange, but added that the ban was swiftly lifted.

The concern here is that with such a slapdash approach to online filtering much more than adult sites will be blocked by default by the main UK ISPs.

"What's most troubling is the breadth of the material blocked by these systems. The categories of material blocked is far broader than just 'pornography' - which is often what the debate focuses on. And the inevitable mistakes add to this problem that far too much material is being blocked," warned Peter Bradwell, campaigner at the Open Rights Group.

"The idea that we can just easily define 'adult' material and simply switch if off just doesn't match reality." µ

 

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