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Open Rights Group finds that one in five websites is blocked by an ISP filter

Overzealousness on a censor list
Wed Jul 02 2014, 09:53
Policeman in front of no entry sign

AN INTERNET STUDY performed by the Open Rights Group (ORG) has found that one in every five websites that it looked at is blocked by one ISP censorship system or another.

ORG looked at some 100,000 websites and found that around 20,000 of them are unavailable through some service providers. This one in five figure is high, and the group found that some seemingly innocuous webpages are filtered.

"The government is promoting filters to prevent children and young people from seeing content that is supposed to be for over 18s. This includes pornography and sites that talk about alcohol, smoking, anorexia and hate speech," said the Open Rights Group.

"In practice, filters block many sites that are not harmful to children. Sometimes, they are blocked by mistake. Sometimes, they are blocked deliberately. For example, many blogs and forums are blocked by default."

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock added, "Through, the Blocked project we wanted to find out about the impact of web filters. Already, our reports are showing that almost 1 in 5 websites tested are blocked, and that the problem of overblocking seems much bigger than we thought.

"Different ISPs are blocking different sites and the result is that many people, from businesses to bloggers, are being affected because people can’t access their websites."

In these cases the websites have been blocked by adult filters, a nanny-like provision that UK Prime Minister David Cameron naively cottoned onto last year.

Then we spoke to a number of experts who suggested that the filters would block legitimate websites.

"None of these systems are perfect and if you're an underwear site that's pretty close [to a porn site] and you get blocked because of this ban, that's going to cause issues," said one.

"Apart from the fact you're going to lose trade, how quickly and how you're going to get compensated for that lost trade and who's going to pay that compensation. Is it going to be the government? I very much doubt it."

The Open Rights Group website checker, and users can run their own domains through it, would rather seem to prove the doubters right. µ


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