Free Your Mind

Why Blocks Are Bad

Overblocking is the key reason why blocks and filters are bad. Within days of the Filters going live the BBC was reporting that rape support and domestic abuse support websites had been blocked. Can you imagine the impact that would have had on people who were reaching out for help?

There are plenty of other reasons too;

In the Words of Andrews And Arnold

It is not our role to try and censor what you do with the internet. We do not try and log or limit what you are accessing. It is your responsibility to stick to the laws that apply to you. We have no intention of putting in place any censorship systems or using censored transit feeds.

“then they came for me and there was no-one left to speak out”.

Censorship systems are usually introduced under the guise of some emotive topic such as stopping child abuse which nobody could argue with. Such systems are very very unlikely to have any actual impact at all on the actual problem they claim to solve. Such systems often break or hinder the normal working of the internet, as seen by wikipedia recently. They are usually easy to circumvent. If they work at all then they just drive the offensive use underground and using encryption so making it harder to find and deal with. They are also the thin end of the wedge as once a system is in place then adding more is easy. Bear in mind most ISPs using such systems then have no control over what is censored or why. If we accept censorship for child abuse, then we have to accept it for terrorism, and then maybe political extremist views, and then maybe not so extreme views, and maybe wrong thinking or pictures of policeman (oh wait, they just tried to make that illegal too!)

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Who will construct such lists? Will they be commercial companies, who frequently both under and overblock content (including one service which censored ORG’s own discussion of the Cameron announcement)? If they block by keyword, those filters will have to intercept and inspect, in real-time, all the content of a user’s communications.  

When the British Prime Minister announces that default-on censorship will be easy as “One click to protect your whole home and keep your children safe,” he is not only grandstanding, he is being dangerously misleading.

If so, how will they “protect” users from adult content, when the default encryption of services that relay “adult” content like Facebook, Google, and Youtube, and millions of other sites? And how will they separate the subtle difference between a site that is pruriently discussing, say, sex issues in adolescence, and a site that is sharing medical or psychological advice on that experience?


A secret blacklist can have no transparency; an unregulated filtering system will have no oversight; and the long and sad history of attempts of Internet censorship show it will be a specious distraction from the real problems.

The Register Article

In a statement to El Reg the Internet Service Providers’ Association had this to say:

We’re pleased the government recognises and has welcomed the considerable work ISPs are already doing. They are investing a great deal of time and expertise into offering customers a choice over installing free and easy-to-use content filters.

However, filters, which can lead to over and under blocking and can be easy to circumvent, are only part of the solution. As recommended by the last government review, a more holistic approach involving retailers and manufacturers is required, along with an emphasis on education, awareness and parental mediation.

Feature Creep

When cleanfeed was introduced people were apprehensive but were assured it would only be used for extreme images etc. Within a couple of years Courts started mandating its use for Copyright too

In July and again in October 2011, the UK High Court ruled that British Telecom must block access to the NewzBin websites, which provide a search service for UseNet content, which includes movies and other pirated material. These High Court rulings at the request of Hollywood studios could set a precedent for widespread blocking of illegal filesharing websites in the UK.

In response, NewzBin has simply distributed a special application that allows their customers to access the site as before.