ISP Blocks For Copyright And Porn Denying Access To All Sorts Of Important Information

from the failure dept

Just as copyright maximalists are declaring victory in claiming that there's no problem at all with having ISPs censor the internet, reports are flowing in concerning all sorts of serious problems. Over in the UK, ISPs have begun implementing the mandatory porn filtering that Prime Minister David Cameron has been pushing, and the results are about what you'd expect: all sorts of non pornographic sites are being blocked, including important sex education sites and, more troubling, rape and sexual abuse information sites (while plenty of porn is getting through).

Among the sites TalkTalk blocked as "pornographic" was BishUK.com, an award-winning British sex education site, which receives more than a million visits each year.

TalkTalk also lists Edinburgh Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre website as "pornographic."

The company also blocked a programme run by sex education experts, and taught to 81,000 American children, that has been in development for more than 20 years.

TalkTalk's filter is endorsed by Mr Cameron but it failed to block 7% of the 68 pornographic websites tested by Newsnight.

Meanwhile, blockades concerning copyright are wreaking similar havoc. Users of Sky Broadband recently discovered that the megapopular imgur image hosting site (which we use to host many of our images) was completely blocked in a moronic attempt to try to block access to a torrent site. Because both the torrent site and imgur used the same CDN (one of the most popular ones), Sky mistakenly blocked it all.
Sky employs an automated blocking system that polls torrent sites’ DNS records in order to quickly re-block them in the event they switch servers or IP addresses.

“Sky regularly pull IP addresses listed on our DNS servers and adds them to their block list. This block list is then used by an advanced proxy system that redirects any requests to the blacklisted IP addresses to a webserver that the ISP owns which returns a blocked page message,” YIFY explains.

Therefore, when YIFY began using CloudFlare servers in Australia, Sky pulled these IP addresses and blocked them in the mistaken belief that they were YIFY’s. Since Imgur uses the same IP addresses, Sky’s automated blocking took the site offline, to the huge disappointment of countless customers.
Of course, these obvious over-blockages are merely the tip of the iceberg of what people were talking about when they noted that site blocking would "break the internet." They never meant that the entire internet would shut down, but that certain basic functions of the internet would not work properly, including important security tools like DNSSec. But the fact that even beyond that, these attempts at blocking content at the ISP level are flubbing so badly seems like pretty clear evidence that blocking is not a solution, but rather an even bigger problem than expected.

Of course, governments have been warned repeatedly about what a bad idea such blocking plans are, but when you deal with technologically illiterate politicians and pro-censorship extremists, they seem to think that it's the perfect solution, without realizing just how much harm they're doing, not just in the collateral damage, and in guaranteeing that basic internet functions (like DNS) don't perform the way everyone expects them to, but also in general access to important health and safety information.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    Normally...

    I'd expect Reddit to be all over this, but after what the mods in /r/science did, they probably have no room to stand on.

     

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

  2.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 6:14am

    Plugins to get around Cameron's porn censors started to show up within 24 hours. Many of them seem to be named in Cameron's honor.

    I wonder how much malware will be hinding in the unblocking software that is going to become insanely popular in the UK.

     

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

  3.  
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    Ninja (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 6:33am

    They don't care it breaks stuff or blocks content by mistake. The framework for censorship has already been established.

     

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

  4.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 7:18am

    Gosh... really???

    all sorts of non pornographic sites are being blocked, including important sex education sites and, more troubling, rape and sexual abuse information sites (while plenty of porn is getting through).
    Well it's not like that was in any way a 100% certainty and open to any kind of prediction or anything...

    Oh, wait... never mind.

     

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

  5.  
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    DannyB (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 7:19am

    They don't care

    ...when you deal with technologically illiterate politicians and pro-censorship extremists, they seem to think that it's the perfect solution, without realizing just how much harm they're doing
    They may very well realize how much harm they're doing. It's not like they haven't, are being, and will continue to be told this. It's just that they don't care how much harm they are doing.

    It's all about control. Self righteous censors and defenders of copyright see themselves as the good guys, not as the monsters they are.

     

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

  6.  
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    DannyB (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 7:21am

    Re:

    The framework for censorship has already been established.
    I think it is more of a framework to control information. A necessary step in a totalitarian regime and police state.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    'they seem to think that it's the perfect solution, without realizing just how much harm they're doing'

    they realise only too well that it isn't and will never be a perfect solution, but the truth is, they dont care! they dont give a toss what other websites are blocked or what other businesses are hit and economies hurt. the important thing is, because they are the 'top of the crop and must be obeyed, cannot ever be wrong' they are getting what they want done, ie, blocking certain sites. Cameron has made such a complete screw up of the way he has influenced certain decisions made in the UK, including in the courts (all because he cant do enough to stay in Obama's good books), no one is in the least bit surprised. when, however, it comes to doing what should be done over internet content, he shrinks back like a little violet, too afraid to say anything because of what retorts he will get. like so many other powerful people, he takes notice of the ones handing out the biggest incentives, not the ones who make the most sense and can do the most good to both the country and the people! fucking idiot!!

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 7:47am

    Re: Normally...

    It's getting hot in here, which means it's actually getting cold. err wait I mean I'm going to cool his hot heart with an icy.. nono I'm going to warm his cold heart with a, bah fuck it.

     

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

  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 7:55am

    Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    gin up another fanboy frenzy with reminder their pornz are being blocked, reports are flowing in that all problems are minor -- really, characterizing a temporary no access to a web site as major is just laughable lunacy.

    Settle down, Mike, it'll be figured out. Just because NEW, you 20th century relics go ape.

    Mike is a professional troll: he has no visible purpose other than to gin up controversy to draw eyeballs.

    03:55:12[d-026-3]

     

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

  10.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:06am

    what a tangled web we weave...

    ...when we practice to deceive

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    Am I the only one who thinks this is disturbing?

    "This block list is then used by an advanced proxy system that redirects any requests to the blacklisted IP addresses to a webserver that the ISP owns which returns a blocked page message."

    Am I the only one who thinks this is disturbing? If my computer makes a request to a webserver, it should go to that webserver, not to somewhere else. Redirecting is much much more disturbing than simply blocking.

    If you own a website, please make it https-only (301 redirect from http to https plus Strict-Transport-Security on the https side). This at least turns the creepy interception of your users' requests into a less disturbing certificate mismatch.

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    Re:

    Mike is a professional troll: he has no visible purpose other than to gin up controversy to draw eyeballs.


    And what exactly do you think it is that YOU do here?

    Hell, you've even admitted to "grifting" off of Mike's hard-earned viewership with this statement:
    So what exactly is the draw to Techdirt? I like it because a small forum where I stand out, which leverages my rants without the bother of my own web-site... (Source)

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    Lets make this simple

    You "generally" get what you DESERVE... this is the very law of Karma!

    When you VOTE in a pack of buffoons to run your country, your deserve the buffoonery you receive on their behalf.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    the overblocking is not a bug, it is a feature. once people get used to this "accidental" overblocking, who is going to notice the information that are willfully withheld? perfect plausible deniability for the crooks in power.

     

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

  15.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:14am

    But if there's no porn, then nobody will want to have sex, so we won't need things like sex education and sexual abuse centers. It can all happily go away and nobody will touch each other ever again.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:31am

    Re:

    Yeah! Not a chance horny teenagers without access to porn or sex education information will just experiment and spread disease and babies right? Right?

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:57am

    Tin-Pot Dictators.

    Well, the problem is that, constitutionally speaking, England is not a democracy. It is merely a 51% dictatorship. Woody Allen's famous movie Bananas (1971) applies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bananas_(film)
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066808/

    Considered as a tin-pot third-world dictator, David Cameron is fairly typical: crazier that Hugo Chavez; not so crazy as Robert Mugabe.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 8:58am

    Blocking an entire IP address that may represent multiple hosts to prevent access to a single website is as stupid as collecting data on every single phone call because one person might be talking to a terrorist.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Me, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:01am

    Work Filters

    My old employer had this sort of ridiculous filter a decade ago. One time I went to look up a speech at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum (http://www2.illinois.gov/alplm/) and it got blocked for "Racist and Offensive Hate Speech".

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:13am

    Re: Tin-Pot Dictators.

    Considered as a tin-pot third-world dictator, David Cameron is fairly typical:
    Indeed, but he's got a lot of catching up to do to be as crazy as tin-pot dictators like Barak Obama...

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:24am

    ADAPT and EVOLVE

    Guess some of these businesses will have to ADAPT AND EVOLVE to the reality of the new marketplace... hmmmm... I'm sure like anything there will be market DISRUPTION in the beginning - but it'll get worked out.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re:

    wow - tinfoil hat much?

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Re: Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    Exactly... let the screaming begin. Any honest reporting is buried by tinfoil hat conspiracy theories... good lawd.

     

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

  24. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:28am

    hahahahhahahahahaha

    hahahahhahahahahaha

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    Re: Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    Ya hear that Mike? Drawing traffic to your website is now a sign of being a troll...according to a troll. *Shakes head*

     

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

  26. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    Masnick has to scream about temporary accidental outages, as he knows site-blocking is the end game for his precious piracy sites.

     

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

  27.  
    icon
    OldGeezer (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 9:51am

    Our libraries in Kansas here installed blocking software and among other things it found that you couldn't research information about breast cancer. I think they ended up dropping the software.
    A place I worked at wouldn't even let you get on Facebook but believe me, those guys could still find porn.

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Jon Jones, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 10:06am

    Interesting how every newspaper apart from the Daily Fail covered this story.

     

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

  29.  
    icon
    Jon Lawrence (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    When can the "wrongfully" blocked sites start litigation?

    I wonder if the wrongfully blocked sites and services can sue the ISP's for blocking them and directly harming their revenues?

    Hey! Maybe if the ISDS resolutions in TTIP and the like get through, then companies can sue Cameron's government directly for the "lost" revenues due to erroneous blocking.

    This whole situation is nuts.

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    Yes, site blocking always works so well.

     

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

  31.  
    icon
    beltorak (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re:

    nope! none at all!! abstinence is 100% effective! (eh, ok, well, 99.999999999% - thanks Mary ಠ_ಠ.)

     

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

  32.  
    icon
    beltorak (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 10:24am

    Re: When can the "wrongfully" blocked sites start litigation?

    that's a bit like disinfecting with napalm... and it will only work one site at a time. eventually the government may realize it's a bad idea, but lack the funds to repeal it.

     

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

  33.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Re:

    Are those libraries run/funded by state government? If so, they're bound by the First Amendment and cannot block. I remember hearing of a similar case where it was found illegal for libraries to block porn on their computers.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Re: Normally...

    You do realize that subs are all sperate right? That /r/science is just a very funny subset of the site and that it's not just one monolithic entity?

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    dont worry people, idiot Cameron is going to say 'SORRY' tomorrow, so everything will be fine!!

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    JEDIDIAH, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 11:29am

    Sooner or later we catch up with the crazy.

    What rock have you been living under? Ever heard of the NSA?

     

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

  37.  
    icon
    Geno0wl (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 11:30am

    If I was in charge of the ISP blocking...

    If I was in charge of a British ISP and this was being forced on me, I personally would do exactly what this article is reporting.
    I.E. I would purposefully block things that are not porn and let others go through. Maybe even block Youtube for several hours once a week or so when the system runs an "update".
    Why?
    To make people complain.
    That is the only way to get these idiots to stop on their censorious power trips. Get people mad.

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    observer, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    New? It's censorship, something that's been going on ever since the very first time a government got too big for its boots. Even internet censorship is nothing new: ask the Chinese or the Iranians.

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    observer, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    Hurrah for politicians, lawyers and beancounters twatting around with the workings of the internet. It's like seeing a toddler trying to drive a car. No way it possibly go wrong, is there? Meanwhile, anyone who knows what they're doing can get around a site block in no time, and anyone who doesn't can ask someone who does.

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    mixmaxmin, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 1:01pm

    Hammers!

    Politicians are all hammers - one would not rise to the top in politics otherwise - so all problems are nails!

     

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

  41.  
    icon
    OldGeezer (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re:

    I believe they got sued and that was the reason that they had to get rid of it.

     

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

  42.  
    icon
    John85851 (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 3:14pm

    Well, duh...

    People like us say, "Well, duh, we told you this would happen", but politicians say "That's collateral damage. Better to have 1 research site go down than have 20 porn sites."

    Yet people who want porn will find a way, but people who need the educational sites may or may not be expert enough to know how to install work-arounds or patches. And why should a rape victim who needs a counseling service have to install anti-filtering software to find a nearby counseler?

    And when will people rise up and say enough of this? I sort-of understand the mentality of "it's not happening to me, so I don't care", but what about all the people who use the sites that are now blocked? Will it take the government blocking Facebook or Twitter for people to realize these filters are a bad idea?
    Seriously, how long will it be until someone on the site-blocking committee sees an article about breast cancer on Facebook and decides the government needs to block it? Or, worse: Apple isn't playing nice with the EU, so let's block all of their IP addresses and shut off people's access to iTunes.

     

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

  43.  
    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 6:26pm

    Re: Re: Tin-Pot Dictators.

    Well, of course! The difference is that in the United States, we presume the President to be crazy, and we have a system of checks and balances to control his activities. The President's crazy ideas become illegal, when he tries to carry them out. Granted, it doesn't work perfectly, but officials who promote the President's illegal designs put themselves at risk of a prison sentence, al la Watergate.

    The British presumption, on the other hand, is that the Prime Minister is a composite of Winston Churchill and Clement Atlee, and maybe David Lloyd George as well. When he turns out to be Tony Blair or David Cameron, disaster ensues.

     

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

  44.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 10:05pm

    Re: Am I the only one who thinks this is disturbing?

    It's actually much, much worse than it may at first seem.

    With a system like that, a hacker only needs to compromise one system per ISP, place some malware/virus/other malicious program on the page, and then watch every single person who ends up redirected to that page get their computer infected.

    So yet again we have a 'for your own good' measure put out by the government screwing over people and putting them in an even worse position than they were before.

    Aren't the current nanny/police governments just grand? /s

     

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

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2013 @ 10:08am

    Re: They don't care

    Aye. I don't believe for a second that they don't know the harm they're doing. In fact, I believe a good many of them are still of the old anti-internet school. If filtering breaks the internet, so much the better as far as they're concerned.

     

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

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2013 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Tin-Pot Dictators.

    "...officials who promote the President's illegal designs put themselves at risk of a prison sentence, al la Watergate."

    If Watergate were to happen today none of them would go to prison.

     

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

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2013 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "I believe they got sued and that was the reason that they had to get rid of it."

    Did they turn around and do it again (possibly under a different policy name)? That's what often happens.

     

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

  48.  
    identicon
    Dave, Dec 21st, 2013 @ 10:59am

    Re: Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    Oh dear. OOTB has the blinkers on again. Can't see the far-reaching implications of ANY site being "mistakenly" blocked. How about if you had one, OOTB? (Or DO you?). How would YOU like it blocked as collateral damage? Your misguided rantings and ramblings are enough to make any sane person throw up.

     

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

  49.  
    icon
    OldGeezer (profile), Dec 21st, 2013 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Tin-Pot Dictators.

    And Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein would have to flee the country to avoid arrest for whistle blowing.

     

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

  50.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Dec 22nd, 2013 @ 2:58am

    Re: Re: Just as copyright abolishers masquerading as copyright supporters,

    No, I'm sorry, but I have to reply to this because what you said just isn't logical. No way on God's green earth would OOTB have a website blocked as collateral damage, it would be blocked on its merits! ;D

     

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

  51.  
    icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Dec 22nd, 2013 @ 6:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Tin-Pot Dictators.

    we presume the President to be crazy, and we have a system of checks and balances to control his activities
    How's that working out for you guys at the moment?
    Largely it looks like those "checks and balances" are about as fictional as the supposedly "cabinet government" of the UK.

     

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


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