from the inadvertent-perfection dept
The warnings were there from the very beginning. Installing any sort of internet filtering is doomed to fail. First, it's often easily circumvented. Second, it's never as accurate as its proponents claim it will be. Filtering overblocks, sealing off access to legitimate sites while simultaneously allowing targeted material to leak in around the edges.
The UK's national porn filter is already a failure, even before the mandatory 2014 implementation deadline. A single coder has created a Chrome extension that allows the blocked to circumvent the filter with ease by automating proxy access. The filter has also blocked off access to legitimate sex education sites as well as sites offering help to victims of rape and sexual abuse.
But the most fitting collateral damage has finally occurred. Tim Worstall at Forbes points out (via the Independent) that the overenthusiastic filter is sealing off access to the very people and entities who pushed so hard to make this catastrophe a reality.
"The opt-in filters also deny access to the Parliament and Government websites and the sites of politicians, including Claire Perry, the MP who has campaigned prominently for the introduction of filters."Claire Perry's site being blocked is perhaps the most desirable outcome of this entire debacle. Perry has been a tireless crusader for the government control of the internet and now that she's achieved her goal, her own constituents aren't allowed to access her site. We'll see if Perry finds someone else to blame for this comedy of errors. Her grasp on how the web works seems to have been cobbled together from PM Cameron's assertions that "Google=internet" and mass forwarded technopanic emails.
Given what they do with our money I suppose you can indeed decide that Parliament and the Government are forms of pornography. But it’s that blocking of Claire Perry’s site that is just so joyous. For of course the blocking has come as a result of her using that very same site to campaign in favour of the filtering. Leading to her site having a heavy usage of the words “porn”, “sex” and the like and thus being taken to be itself pornographic.
Back in July, Perry's site was hacked and filled with pornographic images. Perry's response was to accuse the blogger that covered the story of hacking the site himself, or at the very least, "sponsoring" the attack. As the blogger wryly noted then, "At least her website will be blocked when the new rules go into effect…" Eerily prescient, even considering the cleanup effort that followed the discovery of porn on Perry's site.
As has been noted before, filters don't remove content. All they do is erect flimsy, indiscriminate walls that see legitimate and "illegitimate" content as virtually indistinguishable. If filters succeed in blocking unwanted content, it's only because they're equally as "willing" to block content that shouldn't be blocked. No filtering system can do the impossible, and yet do-gooding politicians get a lot of mileage out of claiming they can -- and that society will somehow be bettered by allowing the government to decide what it can and can't have access to.
UPDATE: Techdirt reader Duke points out that the filter blocking Perry's site isn't the mandatory "porn filters" that are being deployed by UK ISPs, but rather a "whitelist" filter crafted by O2.
This is a whitelist filter, unlike the new blacklist ones, so blocks every site apart from a few "approved" ones. Thus it is no surprise that it blocks any particular site as it blocks nearly all of them. This is a distinction that has been missed by most of the reporting in this area, including in both the Forbes article linked, and the Independent one it cites.