Act today to stop the Daily Mail's campaign to establish opt-out censorship in the UK

A group of UK MPs, the Daily Mail and religious pressure groups are pushing for a law that would require all new Internet subscribers to opt out of an unaccountable censorwall, which will silently block a secret list of websites from their Internet connections. This is bad enough. Unaccountable block-lists are an attractive nuisance -- as we saw with the Swedish and Danish child porn filter leak, 98.3 percent of the material on the secret blacklist wasn't child porn.

But it gets worse: once the legitimacy of secret, privately maintained censorship lists has been integrated into UK Internet service, it will be trivial to add new censorship to the service without fanfare or debate. And as we've seen, this won't stop kids from seeing porn, but it will incorrectly block non-pornographic material because of incompetence and/or malice.

The Open Rights Group needs you to write to your MP today to stop this absurd, evidence-free push for national, Chinese-style censorship in the UK.

Some MPs and religious groups are mounting a campaign to push 'default on' network level blocking on the UK Internet.[1] [2] There is now a public consultation considering this idea.

However well meaning, we know from our own research [3] what happens when ISPs put blocks on the Internet. Through accident or abuse, censorship leads to lots more content being blocked than originally intended.[4][5]

Sites will get blocked if they casually mention sex. Sexual health sites will get caught.[6] The websites of clubs and bars, personal blogs and community sites get filtered. Chat sites may be banned – because they might not be sufficiently “policed”. In short, if you’re small and independent, you will suffer.

Innovation and free speech are threatened by this clumsy website blocking. And the government is considering turning this on by default.[7] You may be presented with a list of ticked “filtered” categories, and have to untick them if you want to avoid the filtering.

And if this happens at the network, then future governments can easily extend what gets filtered without having to ask you. Mass censorship would be couple of clicks away.

Stop opt-out “Adult” filtering


  1. “require all new Internet subscribers to opt out of an unaccountable censorwall”

    I’m probably wrong about this, but wouldn’t it require the subscribers to “opt in” rather than opt out?

      1. Duh!  I see — you subscribe and the filter goes into place…you want to remove it and you have to opt out…well that’s pernicious.

    1. That’s precisely the kind of confusion they’re trying to create by redefining “opt-in” to mean “opt-in to not having the filter turned on”.

      I’m surprised that spammers haven’t tried that one yet: “Of course we’re running an opt-in service; you have to opt-in to not receive our spam!”

    1. The Right-hand column on the mail’s website is affectionately nicknamed “the creepy uncle of the internet” due to their penchant for using the phrase “all grown-up”. It’d be pretty funny seeing them fall prey to the fruits of their own campaign.

  2. The strange this is that the Daily Mail comments all hate the idea, because the right wing hive mind believes that “proper” parents should look after their children and not rely on the state to do it for them.  If the readers hate the idea then it can only be Paul Dacre, their editor who is driving this.

    1. I wonder if Daily Mail readers know that a nationwide morality filter scheme is almost exactly like the one being advocated by islamic extremists in iran? Could Paul Dacre be a sleeper agent? (Dear English libel lawyers, I’m just asking questions here…)

      1. It’s the time we live in: technology has made a global economy possible, bringing people closer together, making the world flat (“to coin a phrase”), bringing ideas and ideologies into collision…to the chagrin of many. Consequently and predictably, many would like to use technology to create or re-create social and cultural boundaries. People…err, most people hate change….no I’m going with the sweeping generalization: People hate change. We all just have different ideas about which part of the status quo we’d like to preserve….and politics is born.

        1. Fuck me. Ms Melanie ‘it’s all an anti-Semitic Islamic plot’ Phillips was right all along. I almost wish it were true just to fuck with her head.

  3. “Hello ISP. I would like to opt out of the censorship”
    “Ok, what is your reason for opting out?”
    “Because boobs”

    Wouldn’t this end up blocking British tabloid sites because of the topless photos they have?

  4. How many of you have actually taken a thorough look at the figures in the report before commenting?

    One thing I noticed was that even though only 1.8% of the sites were found to be actual kiddie pr0n content, the combination of “Deleted content” and “Domain not registered” amounts to a whooping 94,6%.

    Now, ISPs who are asked to take down accounts containing kiddie pr0n, they do so, in all civilized (and even some not-so-civilized) countries (after verifying that the account in question indeed has such content).

    So I’d assume the majority of the kiddie pr0n that actually gets found, ends up not only in these filters, but also result in suspended web accounts or seized domains whilst at it.

    To add to that, those who administer the filters might not even be setting aside enough time for vetting the already blocked content for any updates as to whether the filtered site as a whole, or the illegal content hosted on it, still exists.

    I wish I could chime in on the “Stop censorship” motion, as I too want to see an open and free Internet, but in this case, there are just too many unanswered questions.

    1. there are just too many unanswered questions

      Yes, and foremost in my mind right now is the question of what exactly you’re talking about and whether it can be legibly communicated in English.

  5. What the UK government, and its associated right-wing factions, want is to basically rewind Britain to the end of the Second World War. They are fundamentally opposed to all progressive steps that have occurred since that time — education reforms, technological progress, the welfare state…

    Sadly they have no interest in recreating the jobs market of the 1950s: since there are no industrial or manufacturing jobs available for 16-year-olds to enter, it is essential for young people to stay in college as long as possible earning worthless qualifications that increase their employment prospects not one iota.

  6. Another problem that doesn’t seem to have come up yet: once the filter is in place, it will be much easier for these groups to demand that nobody should be allowed to turn it off.

    Or am I just being paranoid?

    1. Well, they’ll go about it more surreptitiously at first: demand that the ISP’s disclose which accounts have opted out, then make that information public and reported in the local news — because, after all, you wouldn’t want your kids to visit a friend with an opted out internet connection would you? Because the only reason you’d want to opt out is to look at kiddie diddling isn’t it, you sick ****.

      Similar to the openings of “Contemporary” magazine stores and “Adult” stores where the local rag will photograph all the visitors on opening day to shame these immoral scum.

      1.  They’ve already started banging that drum. I’ve seen at least one article in support of this filter which started off talking about the dangers of exposing children to pr0n, and then threw in a comment about how most child molesters started with regular pr0n before “graduating” to the sick stuff.

        They didn’t quite say it outright, but their implication was obvious: anyone who looks at, or has ever looked at, regular pr0n is probably going to abuse kids.

    2. You’re not being paranoid. I was thinking that we might end up with no internet just lots of intranets (like the Iranian Islamic intranet) with access denied or permitted according to status or ability to pay.

  7. The first seven words of the this article’s headline make a perfectly reasonable rallying cry all on their own.

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