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UK Net Porn Censorship Will Also Censor Political Speech – From Day One

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Repression

Repression

A proposed pornography-censorship scheme in the United Kingdom is going to censor political speech from day one. There is pressure from the UK Government on UK Internet Service Providers to introduce “default voluntary censorship”, which is supposed to get at “pornography”. This is a covert way of making censorship acceptable and even desirable, “for the children”, but the censorship will cover much more than that.

This discussion is about much more than just whether pornography is good or bad, and whether it is seen as harmful for children to watch. It is also about whether censorship is good or bad, or even the slightest bit acceptable, and whether censorship of political discussion is an acceptable collateral for depriving children of the ability to observe parts of reality that are deemed sexual in nature.

For the moment, let’s not go into the debate of whether pornography is good or bad. We can settle for the observation that it’s a very popular form of entertainment.

Also, let’s not go into the debate whether it’s harmful for children to watch. People have been claiming that with religious fervor since Victorian times, and been equally shouted down by people who claim utter hogwash. (For the record, I was partially brought up in a nude camp. That gives you perspective as well as a relaxed attitude to the body of yourself and others – it was only at adult age I realized most people hadn’t seen their friends of both sexes go through puberty along with yourself.)

However, let us do go into whether censorship is acceptable in any way, shape, or form as a means to fight what you deem undesirable. History answers a frank and brutal no to that question: censorship is not acceptable as a tool under any circumstances, no matter how noble your goal or intention.

Let us also discuss the degree of collateral damage. If you find censorship acceptable, which some people lacking in history may do, is collateral damage from false positives acceptable? In other words, is it better to leave one “bad” piece of information wrongly uncensored, or one “good” piece wrongly censored? This is very clearly a limitation of fundamental freedom of speech, and as such, should not be taken lightly at all.

Mistakes in the censorship regime do happen. The Pirate Party has been stuck in censorship filters twice close to elections – once in Sweden, with less than one month until the election, when public computers were prohibited from accessing the challenger Pirate Party (but could access all other contending parties), and once in Germany, where school filters censored the challenger Pirate Party but allowed all other parties.

Is this acceptable? If you know beforehand that mistakes like this will happen, where the censorship regime prevents legitimate political parties from being accessible to voters – even if it was not part of the plan, when you know it will happen as part of human nature, would it still be okay?

If you really want to put this argument to a point, consider the blogger Johanna Sjödin (in Swedish, NSFW link). She is a highly political blogger for freedom of body and nakedness, and for the right for teenagers to enjoy sex without holier-than-thou morals from self-appointed grown-ups, and she illustrates her blog with herself bare-chested in the banner (and occasional nude pictures inline). For extra bonus points, she’s 16 in the banner picture.

This is by any definition highly qualified political speech. The purpose is clearly political, the purpose is to express political views, and yet, it would be caught in a millisecond by the “pornography” censorship. This is but one example; I am certain there are many more.

You clearly cannot discuss the problems with censorship without showing the results of the process. Yet, such political discussions would be censored themselves, as they would display “pornography” – but in a political context, which makes an enormous difference.

We arrive at the important conclusion that censorship is incapable of telling the difference between political contexts and purely pornographic ones. Even if you think the latter is okay to banish from the planet, political discussion is never – never, ever under any circumstance – okay to censor.

The conclusion is inevitable: censorship is not acceptable in any way, shape or form. But those of us who have studied history of power already knew that.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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25

  1. 1
    infirit

    Another example of (un?)intentional cencorship would probably be Feman.

  2. 2

    This is certainly no “mistake”!

    The true target of this censorship is probably the political sites and forums that will be described as “collatteral”.

    The purpose of this IS to prevent freedom of speech, make no mistake about it!

    As it seems, the world is gearing up towards a third world war, and the people in power are acting accordingly. The process of global war started 2008 with the financial crisis, and now a line has been drawn between USA/Israel/Japan and Russia/Iran/China . It is about time to wake up to this reality. Internet freedoms will be a secondary concern to the people in power. Here is an overview over the buildup towards war:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HP7L8bw5QF4

    For a more in-depth analysis of how and why we are moving towards a global conflict, please watch and spread this excellent lecture by Fred Harrison:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLcI3jBbi6Y

    Natural resource sharing policies is about the only way to prevent global war in the first part of this decade. Europe has allways solved the problems of its dysfunctional economic system by periodical colonial/neo-colonial expansion or war. Only if we shift towards a more equal taxing system that taxes natural resources instead of production, can we stop this insanity.

    Only if we create jobs and housing for the majority of Europe and USA, will we be able to silence the drums of war. Watch this excellent documentary about the housing boubles, and how land value taxation could prevent them.

    http://realestate4ransom.com/

    Wake up and help stop the build up towards global conflict while we still have a free Internet.

    If we do not stop it, the freedom of internet will be the least thing we have to worry about!

  3. 3
    Dondilly

    What is worrying is that while they claim the filters are optional, the very fact they reside within the ISPs network is worrying as your opt out can be overridden by government dictat at any time. You also do not know what unpublished classifications there are.

    While users may be able to circumvent the blocks, if say the government wished to stifle protest, riot or for any reason, they could just hit the kill switch and block all UK access to social media. Though people may be able to get around the blocks, it would be sufficient to stop people organising effectively.

  4. 4

    From other sources I get the impression that not only pornography will be targeted in this filter according to the outspoken intent:

    http://banoosh.com/blog/2013/07/29/uk-internet-porn-censor-to-also-block-conspiracy-theories/

    According to Wired:

    “As well as pornography, users may automatically be opted in to blocks on “violent material”, “extremist related content”, “anorexia and eating disorder websites” and “suicide related websites”, “alcohol” and “smoking”. But the list doesn’t stop there. It even extends to blocking “web forums” and “esoteric material”, whatever that is. “Web blocking circumvention tools” is also included, of course.”

    What is “isoteric material”, and what is “extremist related content”?

    If someone suggest that according to evidence and facts, Mossad/Israel seems to be a very likley perpetrator behind 9/11. Will that qualify for censorship according to this new system? I bet it will!

    This is in fact something that more and more people start to believe, and the people in power who want their war fought with Iran and Syria, probably do not want this to be a widespread theory. This could be the single most important reason why they are pushing so hard to control the Internet right now.

  5. 5
    Anonymous

    you can bet your life that 5 minutes after Cameron gets this idiotic ruling in place, the ‘protecting the children’ part will go straight out the window!
    i believe the two main issues that Cameron is trying to stop are
    a) file sharing, because he dare not do as he is told by the Obama, who in turn is doing as he is told by the entertainment industries. they fund him and his political campaign and he dare not lose that! not so many months ago, Dodd, the head of the MPAA, threatened to withdraw funding. that definitely would have started some bottoms squeaking!
    b) to try to stop people using social networking sites to alert others to what is happening and where, as was happening during the riots in London a while back. he tried to get Blackberry to shut down it’s service then.
    this shows the lack of knowledge he has on the topic and how to solve it. he is just doing the usual bit of rushing in like a bull in a china shop. making noises over a topic gives him the spot light. and dont forget he is ably aided by another clueless politician in Claire perry. she is the one that had her web site hacked and accused a reporter of being the person that did the hacking. she is even more clueless than Cameron! she is now on the receiving end of a potential defamation law suit! perhaps before she spouts off in future, she will make sure she knows what she is talking about.
    apparently, she also kept interrupting a discussion involving ISPs about the child porn and the meeting ended with nothing being discussed. let alone agreed. you cant get any bigger an idiot than one that screws up a meeting about the very topic she is trying to get addressed!
    neither of them have any idea what they are doing, what the chilling effects will be and how they are trying to introduce censorship to a greater degree than they have already done, just to please an industry that refuses to offer at a sensible price the things they continue to complain about being offered for free. talk about doing as big brother (USA) tells you!!

  6. 6
    Anonymous

    would someone with more knowledge than i like to indicate why it is that there has been little, if anything, said by the EU, CHR etc about the UK filter system? surely this violates the EU rulings or whatever about having a free and open internet, doesn’t it? if so, how can Cameron get away with even thinking about this sort of ridiculous behaviour without getting knuckles wrapped?

  7. 7
    Volker

    It’s crytal clear that’s just deceit, as usually, now they claim it’s just porn,
    but then they widen the censorship in secrecy website by website.

  8. 8
    Anonymous

    In this odd way the kids are actually being harmed big time by this because they will be denied access to a huge array of websites with useful information that the big brother would consider unsuitable on political basis.
    The parents can remove the filter if they wish, it’s their choice and if they want to ignore news that contradict their politics it’s their loss.
    But the kids won’t have a choice.
    Imagine this kids growing up and only being able to see the world the way the politicians chose for them.

  9. 9

    It was never about the porn, but about establishing the filters.

    The list of things too awful for the little people to be allowed to see
    will grow rapidly once the infrastructure is in place.

  10. 10
    Jack

    It’s funny that the idea of whether it’s okay to censor political information exists at all… I mean, it’s kind of been established at this point that it’s not. And whether it is or not does nothing to change the fact that we are too technologically advanced to be able to. Even the laziest person will get off their ass if they want something enough… We already have a dark internet with NO censorship, proxy servers and VPNs that make tracking difficult, and even torch browser, a chrome based browser now offers a site unblocker built in. It’s kind of hard to believe that things are going to regress from here, and as more ways to access content become common place, the idea of this discussion becomes even more moot.

  11. 11
    Big Brother

    ” a chrome based browser now offers a site unblocker built in”

    Like Opera’s Turbo Mode?

    And why Firefox doesn’t provide something like that to bypass censorship?

    • 11.1
      Clownius

      Im sure if there is much interest a plugin or Firefox derivative can be spun of in minutes with the right coder. The joy of Open Source.

      I guess due to the fact an alternative is already available in a Chrome spinoff its not become popular yet or no ones done the work.

    • 11.2
      Scary Devil Monastery

      Opera’s turbo mode works by sending the http request directly to one of Opera’s servers which then retrieves the desired page, compresses it, and sends it to your client.

      It’s a great way of circumventing a local block, but it DOES mean you are allowing a third party the task of rettrieving and packaging your query for you.

      Firefox needs to rely on a third-party plugin for that since centralization is anathema to the entire idea of decentralization firefox was built around.

      The way Chrome does it? Yup, you guessed it, kindly old Google gets to fetch your page, read it carefully, and package it for you.

  12. 12
    Ano Nymous

    That isn’t necessary.

    People like Rick Falkvinge often say that citizen journalism is one of the great things with the internet. I agree, but I think many, many, MANY pieces of real news provided by citizens are scoffed at as “conspiracy theories”. If something is bad enough that the mainstream media is covering it up, there’s no way a majority of people reading it will believe it.

    By the way, I think the entire “war on terror” thing, no matter if 9/11 was false flag or just convenient to blame, is a preparation for some kind of police state takeover. After all, what is the difference between a terrorist and a person opening the fourth box (after all other are depleted, of course) from a government’s point of view? Exactly none.

    • 12.1

      “If something is bad enough that the mainstream media is covering it up, there’s no way a majority of people reading it will believe it.”

      This will have to change, or we will “perrish as a specie”… Currently it seems that mainstream media is the public enemy #1. All fraudulent powerstructurs depend on the public blind eye. Banks, politicians and warmongerers all need the support of media. If people just stopped believe in what mainstream media are telling them, or simply refuse to listen to mainstream media at all, we would be in a much better position to shape our future in a peaceful direction.

      We have come further along this path that some might think. “Conspiracy theories” and alternative media are having a HUGE support in the public right now. The believers of mainstream media are in risk of becomming a minority. And this is why the people in power are more and more desperate to censor the internet.

      I think this is probably what this century is all about. Replacing “pyramid” media with swarm-media will be the single most important political change to achieve in this century.

      • 12.1.1
        Ano Nymous

        ““Conspiracy theories” and alternative media are having a HUGE support in the public right now”

        What public, and how do you know? If I, here in Sweden, were to voice the opinion that the 9/11 investigation doesn’t hold water, I would be considered a conspiracy nut by everyone I know, maybe except one or two.

        Smaller things, like that the electricity prices are being artificially kept high, is accepted as truth by many, but that doesn’t go 180 degrees against what the media say. If the mainsteam media says something, that is accepted as fact. By almost everyone.

        Let’s take Ed Snowden as an example. Do you believe everything the MSM says about him? Did he copy the data, leak it, and is now on the run?

        Or was he supplied with data, maybe even partially fabricated, and paid a fat bonus to “leak” it and “run”, and will soon be “found” and “jailed forever” or “executed”, so that we all know that we are monitored and shall not leak?

        I sure don’t know, but those are the two extremes, and to me both are equally likely at the moment.

  13. 13
    Ano Nymous

    Can we assume that everyone who unchecks the “terrorism-related content” box automatically is flagged by MI6 or whatever UK agency handles web matters?

  14. 14
    Ano Nymous

    And that was supposed to be an answer to Robert W.

  15. 15

    The UK absolutely abhors the concept of freedom. So much so that I’ve actually started keeping a list of everything its outright banned or removed. (E.g. drawings of naked children, encryption, double jeopardy, female ejaculation… yes, that’s illegal here, etc.)

    Having to live in this opressive country is making me very suicidal…

    • 15.1
      goostaff

      What!?? Female ejaculation illegal? THAT IS FUCKInG ‘PRESSION! You should move to Holland, the Netherlands. There it’s MANDATORY. :)

      • 15.1.1
        Anonymous

        The reason is historical embarrassment. When the anti-porn laws were weakened (so you didn’t have to pretend to be an art student over 21), anything “extreme” was kept banned (and still is). Included in the “extreme” list was urination, and since the censors weren’t even convinced that the female orgasm existed, they claimed that female ejaculate must be urine.

        Since female ejaculation has been proven to be real (and not urine), someone raised the matter again, but were told that since the ejaculate often contained some urea, it qualified as urine anyway. Unfortunately, I don’t know if similar trace amounts of urea are also present in male ejaculate, but I’m not sure that bringing that up would be tactically sound anyway.

  16. 16
    Idee:"Your opinion is my Copyright"

    “To do this, the German Piratenpartei needs 5% in the elections on September 22 of this year. If that happens, and the kingmaker move succeeds, then there will be a majority in Europe against copyright monopolies and patent monopolies.”
    http://torrentfreak.com/a-tipping-point-against-the-copyright-monopoly-regime-is-a-lot-closer-than-you-think-130804/
    That is true. Kopimism will come. And the German PIRATES need your support, now. Any website which will be censored sooner or later should do some pirate advertisement for the “Bundestagswahl 22. September 2013″.
    This kind for example:
    http://www.movie2k.to/#en
    AND there is another reason i see in the near future in Europa. It is already common law in USA:

    Your Opinion is my Copyright!

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/07/dentist-who-used-copyright-to-silence-her-patients-is-on-the-run/
    Background
    Dentists do dental fillings with gold for patients shiny smiling. But some can’t afford the metal costs. And dentists can’t pull them out of mouth, once it is implanted. So they have to check their solvency before. Patients have to sign contract with dentists, so they can collect reasonable financal data. There are already firms to offer dentists a software. With it the dentists get instant a green, yellow or red sign. Red is: Don’t treat this patient, he can’t afford you. Yellow: Patient can afford treatment. Green: Dentists can offer patient surplus treatments, too.
    But what if the dentists don’t want bad critisism. In USA the dentists let patients sign a special contract with which “the copyright would be assigned to the dentist.”
    So whenever people will have any treatment, they aren’t free to tell their opinion while in the same moment someone sue them for copyright infringements.
    There will be no free speech at all if the copyright is ongoing like that.

  17. […] à sa population (on pense évidemment aux méchant, comme la Chine ou l'Iran, mais aussi au Royaume-Uni…) […]

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