UK's Anti-Porn Filtering Being Handled By A Chinese Company

from the we-didn't-want-to-appear-censorious-so-we-outsourced-it dept

UK Prime Minister David Cameron's anti-porn activities have been well detailed here recently, including his insistence that search engines enable child pornography and that ISP-level porn filtering should be on by default. Despite lacking the comprehension of the technology he's regulating or the inherent limitations of his proposals, Cameron has boldly moved on into the porn-free future, all the while claiming these moves have nothing to do with government censorship.

(We can also start taking bets on whether "opting in" to porn [by contacting your ISP and asking to be placed on the perv list] will have an effect on UK divorce rates -- after all, the filtering begins at the pipe and isn't something you can have available on some devices but not others. Let the awkward conversations begin!)

There's no censorship here, Cameron claims, while touting the porn filtering wonders of Homesafe, a filtering system built by TalkTalk and... Huawei.

On Monday the Prime Minister said TalkTalk had shown "great leadership" in setting up its system, Homesafe, which it has offered to customers since 2011.

TalkTalk told the BBC it was comfortable with its relationship with Huawei, and that the service was very popular.

Homesafe is a voluntary scheme which allows subscribers to select categories - including social media, gambling and pornography - that they want blocked.

Customers who do not want filtering still have their traffic routed through the system, but matches to Huawei's database are dismissed rather than acted upon.
That's right. Huawei, a Chinese firm, is performing the actual filtering for UK web traffic. No one knows filtering better than the originators of the Internet Great Firewall, and even though Huawei is not a state-run company, due to its nationality, there will always be questions as to its overall allegiance. Huawei, to its credit, has been very open about its operations and has invited critics, including the US government itself, to investigate it if it thinks Huawei's such a threat to national security.

The UK government has had its own issues with Huawei.
But Huawei's position was recently the subject of an Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report. It criticised the lack of ministerial oversight over the firm's rapid expansion in the UK.

The committee said "the alleged links between Huawei and the Chinese State are concerning, as they generate suspicion as to whether Huawei's intentions are strictly commercial or are more political" - but added that it had not found any evidence of wrongdoing.
So, it's more or less above board, apparently. Should UK citizens be concerned their web traffic is being filtered by a company from a filter-heavy nation? Or should they be more concerned that control over content is being handed to a third-party private corporation rather than an independent organization that would be ultimately accountable to Parliament? Either way, it doesn't seem like this revelation will endear the new filtering system to the British public.

TalkTalk certainly recognizes the potential downside of this relationship as is evidenced by some earlier tap dancing it did around the subject.
Initially, TalkTalk told the BBC that it was US security firm Symantec that was responsible for maintaining its blacklist, and that Huawei only provided the hardware, as previously reported.

However, Symantec said that while it had been in a joint venture with Huawei to run Homesafe in its early stages, it had not been involved for over a year.

TalkTalk later confirmed it is Huawei that monitors activity, checking requests against its blacklist of over 65 million web addresses, and denying access if there is a match.
Interesting. While it's unfair to declare Huawei synonymous with the Chinese government, it's not unfair to question why the politicians pushing for this filtering system weren't more concerned about who would be handling the dirty job and perhaps steered the monitoring away from a contractor that would give the system the appearance of being more censorious than it is already.

But not to worry, Cameron's keeping an eye on the whole thing:
Mr Cameron said that the actions of ISPs would be monitored to ensure filtering is done correctly.
What.

The ISPs are being forced to implement this filtering. They're not in charge of "doing" the filtering. The actual filtering is being done by third parties, one of which is a Chinese company. It looks as if Cameron's more concerned ISPs might treat some customers like adults and flip the switch without making them fill out the appropriate "I HEART PORN" paperwork (which may include divorce papers), or just wants to be in a position to pounce if someone's underage eyes catch a glimpse of x-rated skin.

Giving the appearance that the UK government is hiring censors to help with its censorship apparently isn't as much of a concern.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 2:30am

    Cameron is sad that there is actually a free internet apparently.

    One that is beyond the reach of governments.
    The child is just the cover for the real intentions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 2:39am

    Tiananmen Square

    So when do references and images of the protests in Tiananmen Square disappear by accident from UK searches?
    /rhetorical

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    David Cameron, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 2:47am

    Interwebz is the devil.

    VPN - My little brother can set one up...
    David Cameron - VP what?
    Encrypted files - The same.
    David Cameron - Encrypted files? Isn't that the TV show Dean Cain host?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Tim Griffiths (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 2:51am

    The most worrying thing

    Is the fact we will be forced, in and out, to route through this 3rd party. Evening having a VPN (which I'm actually going to invest in come pay day) this could mean major, national, level issues.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 2:58am

    this censoring is just the start. i have no doubt whatsoever that there will be expansion so the democracy in the UK is going to disappear. in doing so, it will take away freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom to privacy amongst other things. it is also going to criminalise all those that want to 'opt out' of the filtering because as soon as there is any sex-related crime' near to where those people live, there will be knocks on the door from the police. it doesn't matter what Cameron says, this is going down the same road as any country that has censorship. the ridiculous things are that
    a) he says people can still choose which publications they buy, without having porn banned at bookstalls etc
    b) the porn he wants to stop is going to be forced underground further because those that are into this stuff dont search the internet in conventional ways
    c)the job of finding, catching and convicting those involved in this stuff is going to be much harder, not just for UK police forces but for International forces as well. leaving it alone, out in the open gave them a chance. that will soon be gone
    this is just adding to the censorship that is already taking place in the UK, brought on by the stupid claims of the US entertainment industries. they refuse to compete with all aspects of the internet, preferring to kill it off completely. i cannot believe the mentality of some people!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 3:15am

    Re: The most worrying thing

    It's especially egregious when you consider that this is the Porn party, which has had infinitely more sex scandals than a Monica Lewinsky impersonator convention.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 3:25am

    And yet The Sun will continue to publish page 3 and magazines like Mayfair and Escort will not be censored.

    Cameron's vendetta against the Internet is plain for all with a brain to see.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 3:51am

    A blog asking questions about the new filter just got blocked because it obvious mentions the word "porn" a lot. Genius!

    http://paulbernal.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/my-porn-blocking-blog-post-got-porn-blocked/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    DS, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:01am

    Am I alone in thinking that Huawei was deemed "suspicious" was because either they didn't want to play nice with the NSA, or the fear that if they knew what it meant to play nice with the NSA would reveal more information to the Chinese government than the NSA wanted them to know?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Getefix, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:04am

    Killing the competition

    An interesting thing I discovered when helping a woman in China try to get to various websites was that her ISP was filtering far more sites than the official firewall required be filtered. Many of them were service providers that had competitors in China. So if you have a business competitor it may be in your interest to send a polite inquiry to the filter company as to how much it would cost to get your competitor on the blacklist. Since the filters aren't perfect you have excellent plausible deniability for this, too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:05am

    Re:

    Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:06am

    Do they also know what you are viewing?

    If your browsing runs through a filter, can they not also log it? Does this mean China knows what all Brits are surfing?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    H, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:06am

    Think of the children!

    In my country we have internet censorship ostensibly for the eradication of porn. Of course, porn seems to include anti government sites, blogs, and even some file sharing sites.

    Now, as I'm rather opposed to having my browsing curtailed, I obviously use VPNs and proxies to get around it. Of course, many of these give you porn pop ups. As a fairly conservative muslim woman, I'm not particularly happy to have live Jasmine popping up every time I want to check the news...but I live with it.

    However, I know there are kids running around with such software on their USBs sharing it amongst themselves (every one at my school knew how to circumvent the school's firewall and when the gov censorship came into play we all knew how to get around it within a week, my younger brother tells me it's the same at his school) and the fact of the matter is, I'm sure far more children have been exposed to porn simply because of this censorship.

    Why not just have parents turn on Google safe search? It's about as effective...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:07am

    Re:

    Seriously though, this is the problem with these blocks. They are totally ineffective at stopping what they are supposed to stop and it is inevitable that innocent sites get caught up in the net.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:07am

    Re:

    not at all

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    David Bennett, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:39am

    filtering

    Can't wait for the overall result.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:44am

    Re: Killing the competition

    Now THAT is a slippery slope if I have ever seen one!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    RyanNerd (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:46am

    UK Loves Obummer

    Mainly because Cameron and Obummer are buddies. This keeps Cameron traveling to the US often so he can't mess things up in the UK as much. I guess he hasn't been able to come to the US as often (maybe because Obummer has been busy on vacation so much).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Vic, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:56am

    Am I the only one thinking that this is an obvious ploy to make a play for the next election? I am seriously looking for somewhere else to live... Latvia or Zambie looks good right now ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:06am

    Well if there is anyone who knows how to censor things it's China. The irony here is astounding in that U.K Government will throw the stop sign up at Huawei over security concerns but allows them to run the sensor filter.

    The mere fact that the Obama administration seem to be controlled by the MPAA and RIAA when it comes to copyright protectionism and has used that to force other countries to comply with Hollywood's copyright enforcement demands is starting to get ridiculous.

    Britans citizen should be allowed to make their choice of wther they want to see porn or not, lord knows they don't need big nanny government to force a ban on those who don't want it.

    What's next, telling people the missionary position is the only government authorised position unless it's tax time then your allowed to bend over and take it?

    The mere fact that the U.K. government is even considering this is pure stupidity. I recall an effort to ban porn happened in the U.S. in the 90's by some politicians wife, and the porn industry banded together to fight it in the court and a lobbying effort.

    People that don't want to look at porn wont, and those that want to keep their family at home from looking at it can filter it by blocking sites and content on their computer.

    Yes I know there are ways to circumvent this, but honestly, if your looking for it, you will find it, if your not trying to, you wont. We don't need the government doing it for us.

    I am amazed at the effort they are putting into this, if they put this much effort into all the financial crime hitting business and consumers with botnets malware etc etc a good chunk would be gone.

    They can pressure other countries to enforce copyright laws, but cant do squat to get the guys behind finacial crimes like payment processor hacks, and what not.

    What a waste of time and effort this will be.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:13am

    Re: Re:

    Fuck now I can't read Techdirt....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:24am

    "That's right. Huawei, a Chinese firm, is performing the actual filtering for UK web traffic."

    Ahhhh Hahahahaha.

    That is too funny.
    What a bunch of maroons, what an embezzle

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's not helping, buddy. ;P

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:29am

    Don't worry. China is a free and democratic country just like UK. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:39am

    So both the USA and China are monitoring my web browsing etc, bloody hell I never thought I was that interesting

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:48am

    Simple tip for Parents 1#

    move the computer from the bedroom to the living room.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:49am

    Re: Tiananmen Square

    Cameron is probably the biggest moron ever. If I was a citizen of the UK, I would be worried that the chinese now have a back door into everything people in the UK are viewing online.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:06am

    "... nothing to do with government censorship. "

    Sing it with me... "It's just another brick in the wall!" }:P

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:34am

    Re: UK Loves Obummer

    Cameron/Obama
    Blair/Bush
    Thatcher/Reagan

    The so called 'special relationship' between US and UK heads of government goes way back beyond the current administration and, sadly, will continue long after it is gone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    PlayNicely, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:40am

    There are technical questions as to what should be blocked. IPs? Domains? Subdomains? URIs? Given how the internet works it is almost impossible to block at a level that won't either block far too much or far too little.

    Does anybody have an idea on what level such a block would have to be implemented to work?

    And what about as-of-yet unrated content? Is it a whitelist or a blacklist? In the first case no new content will get past the filter without hours of delay, in the second case the offending content could be reposted regularly to circuvent the filter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re:

    Well if your site does get blocked, I imagine appealing to foreign private corporations to undo the block and fix the damage done will be easy peasy lemon squeazy. Right Dave?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    PlayNicely, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:49am

    Is there even a single shred of evidence to support the notion that porn is in any way harmful?

    Given the wide availability of even really weird hardcore content on the internet shouldn't we see a significant rise in whatever undesired effect porn is supposed to have?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Why do I get the idea that Chris Dodd is going to jump on this and insist on his wet dream of China-style censorship?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Tiananmen Square

    Honestly, that sort of fear mongering is both detrimental and absurd. Huawei is a multi national company that has it's head quarters in China. They also have offices right here in the US. Link Apple products are also made in China as well as Cisco, in all reality it's hard to find an electronic product without some manufacturing in China. With the recent Snowden announcements, China themselves are suggesting that we are spying on their companies/universities for trade secrets, but at least they have proof. Given, I will say Huawei was fined for copyright infringement and patent violations for using Cisco's code and design in 2003, and I think there was some other cases against them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:24am

    Huawei's PRISM

    Customers who do not want filtering still have their traffic routed through the system, but matches to Huawei's database are dismissed rather than acted upon.


    So, everyone will be spied upon whether they opt-out or not. So there's actually no opt-out at all, it's just an illusion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:29am

    Here's the funny thing if people really want the porn its still possible to find. They just made it more annoying to do so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:15am

    Re: Think of the children!

    If you want your kid to surf the net without any dangers the first and most important step is to be WITH your kids while they surf. If by any chance some porn pops-up act like a grown up adult and explain what is happening and why the kid should not be accessing that at this early age.

    What you said is true. Kids will get exposed to porn sooner or later. No amount of filtering will ever be enough. Why not let the parents do the parenting?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Tiananmen Square

    Have you not been following the NSA stories. Why would China not exploit Chines Companies just like the US is exploiting US companies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    imbecile ? ? ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Re:

    why would i want my kids fapping in the living room, that's sick...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:44am

    Re:

    He is just appealing to the daily fail readers who are stupid enough to think this is a good idea.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Think of the children!

    But, that would require work, it would mean that parents would have to... interact with their children, rather than just dumping an electronic device in their hands or in front of them and forgetting about them!

    Think of the parents man!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:46am

    Re: "... nothing to do with government censorship. "

    "He's just a prick with no balls" you mean.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:58am

    Re: Think of the children!

    I recommend pop-up blockers. There are very few sites that will tell you anything important on a pop-up anyway.

    Here in the US, all the databases are managed by Christian morality organizations, so that anti-gay hate sites remain accessible while academic sites on Satanism (or radical-left sites or sites critical of Christianity) are blocked.

    There's a lot of the Scunthorpe effect, and it hasn't changed much over time despite our awareness.

    During the reign of the Communications Decency Act, it was a swanky rebellion to add a porn block (usually a love scene from classic literature) to the bottom of your emails.

    I recommend the Fifty Shades Generator. Below, since I'm too lazy to make a proper anchor.

    http://www.fiftyshadesgenerator.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    yousillygoose, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 1:39pm

    Re:

    >maroons


    That made my day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:06pm

    Re: Re:

    Bugs Bunny

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Jul 28th, 2013 @ 10:22pm

    Real motive?

    Is it just me thinking this, or is David Cameron's real motive to prevent victims of Atos and Unum from connecting and protesting? After all, these are primarily done online.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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