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.

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Comments on “ISP Blocks For Copyright And Porn Denying Access To All Sorts Of Important Information”

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52 Comments
Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

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.

DannyB (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘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!!

out_of_the_blue says:

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]

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: 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)

observer says:

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.

Dave says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

That One Guy (profile) says:

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

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

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.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

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.

Jon Lawrence (profile) says:

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.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

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.

John85851 (profile) says:

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.

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