Cameron has been shouting loudly from the rooftops that he wants to protect children and to limit access to pornographic material (while providing little or no help to the people who are actually doing this work), primarily by bullying ISPs into compliance. Well, now we're seeing exactly what's coming out of this; valuable websites providing good and helpful information being blocked. BT have launched their own filter, and it covers a much, much wider set of sites: those that show pornography (and we still don't have a legal definition of exactly what this is), refer to illegal drugs, those that promote self harm, the ability to block nudity, social networking and gaming for example. It's also possible to block access to sex education sites and search engines.
Now, you may well say that there's no real issue with that, but what's also getting blocked are sites such as bishUK, which provides sexual advice to teenagers, and Edinburgh Women's rape and sexual abuse centre which is blocked as 'pornographic'. Sexual Health Scotland, Doncaster Domestic Abuse Service, and Reducing the Risk of Domestic Violence are also blocked. Now, we could write this off as collateral damage - mistakes do occur and they can always be put right. That's true, but it may be too late for some people who need information there and then; saying 'oops, sorry' to an abused person isn't terribly effective. But let's look further - the BT filters supported blocking "sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle, contraceptive, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy." According to the New Statesman, BT has now removed the words 'gay and lesbian', which is rather too little, too late. Does this mean that filters have changed? The reference was gone overnight, and BT are using a third party to produce their filters, so I'm doubtful that much has changed, other than the wording.
Who created the list of 'gay and lesbian' lifestyle sites? Why? What control is there over such discriminatory organisations, and who thought it was a good idea to do it in the first place? This is not collateral damage - this is a deliberate attempt to block access to perfectly legal and acceptable material. Once there is a process in place to block access to material - of any sort - it's far too easy to extend its use into any subject area. Of course, if it's done by a private company that we can't control, the Government can wash its hands; 'nothing to do with us guv'.
However, there is a vague solution in the form of a Google Chrome extension called 'Go Away Cameron'. This doesn't keep a list of blocked sites, it can simply be activated if and when you run up against a blocked site. Clicking the bookmarklet unblocks the site, allowing you to view it. The extension is a private proxy service, which isn't illegal to use, but it does require a level of trust with the person providing it, since the extension needs to access Chrome's tabs and browing activities, but since just about all of us don't have that many issues with people like Google and Bing watching what we're doing, that's not a real problem. The real problem is a Government that wants to set up an infrastructure that allows state censorship at any level, at any time through the backdoor method of unregulated service providers.