Church Site Blocked By Mobile Networks, Classified Under 'Alcohol'

from the demon-drink dept

Against a background of the UK government teetering on the brink of imposing an opt-out Web filter "for the children", here's yet another example of how automatic categorization of sites for blacklists gets it wrong, as recounted by the UK's Open Rights Group (ORG):

someone used blocked.org.uk to tell us about another church (St. Mark's in Southampton) that is blocked -- this time on [the mobile operator] Vodafone. We have confirmed that it is also blocked by Orange. The site is blocked on O2's highest blocking setting, but not on their 'default safety' service.

Using O2's very handy 'URL checker', we have established that they classify the site as 'alcohol'. It is likely that this is the category that has led to its blocking on other networks, but this is not confirmed.
So why might a church be classed alongside sinful purveyors of alcoholic beverages? ORG has a suspicion:
It is likely that the reason for this categorisation is the use of the word 'wine' on the church's website. The church is part of the 'New Wine Network of Churches'. Their website explains that this means they "have the aim of 'Equipping Churches to see Jesus' Kingdom Grow'". Their use of the word 'wine' is not related to selling or the use of alcohol.
Although it seems that the site has now been unblocked, that's only because it was "manually reviewed". As ORG points out:
It's yet another example of how internet filters make simple and costly mistakes which often result in 'over-blocking.' Our report from May this year collected more examples of this. Since then we have seen political parties, technology news websites, and more recently a number of maternity health sites all blocked by mobile networks. It can be tricky and slow to get sites removed from block lists (although mobile networks say this is improving).
That last point is important. No system is perfect, and errors will always be made. But what matters is how quickly the mistakes are corrected. Unfortunately, the evidence so far is that not only are such automated filters unreliable when it comes to evaluating sites, but the correction mechanisms are pretty awful too -- a worrying combination.

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Filed Under: church, filtering, free speech, uk
Companies: o2


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  1. identicon
    The Old Man in The Sea, 9 Jan 2013 @ 3:57pm

    Bad Speech ..................

    Everyone has their own pet peeves. As has been said many times, you need to watch out for what you wish for, you may just get it.

    I don't necessarily want to listen to or read a lot of the views expressed by others (since I am opposed to such views), but what they believe is up to them - they have responsibility for their choices.

    I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, I have attempted to bring up my children to be the same. Two of my sons have chosen a different lifestyle (with which I do not agree) but that is their choice and their responsibility. They are adults and fully responsible for their decisions and the consequences therein. I am saddened they have chosen their respective lifestyles but that is still their responsibility and choice.

    They are still my sons and I love them but the consequences are their own not mine. We live in a society that teaches people have rights but what we should be teaching is that people have responsibilities and privileges.

    One of those responsibilities is treat others are you yourself want to be treated.

    People choose to believe what they want and quite often get upset if you disagree with them even to the extent of murder (or if they have no moral compass, terminating with extreme prejudice).

    Just remember that you as an individual are responsible for your own actions, reactions and choices and the consequences that follow on from that.

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