UK Internet Censorship – Not Limited To Filtering Porn

This news comes as a big shock to the common man. In a bid to save the younger generation from abusive and presumably damaging consequences by way of precarious online content, the Prime Minister of UK had officially gone on record by introducing a new law that blocks all online lewd and obscene material from being displayed to UK viewers. This, as he claims, is aimed to “Protect Children And Their Innocence From Corroding Influences Online”.

While this is a commendable and noble act, we have now learnt that Mr. David Cameron has plans to introduce internet filters that will censor more than just porn. In other words, the Government is going all out in their efforts to curb total internet freedom of more than 95% of the internet users who use the services of major ISPs.

In an extensive revelation made by co-operating ISPs, the new UK internet censorship bill has other content in its sight, other than just pornography. The Open Rights Group, a digital advocacy group, has come out in the open revealing all the major details about the new censorship filter.

Under the new bill, all content and websites that are related to, or at least mention, dating, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, file sharing, gambling, games, social networking, suicide, self-harm, weapons, violence and any esoteric material will be blocked indiscriminately. The last term is particularly problematic, as any esoteric material can be termed as something that will appeal to specific demographics. Conspiracy theories, websites such as WikiLeaks and other websites that may contain possibly harmful revelations about Governments or agencies can all be termed under “Esoteric Material”. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the current UK internet censorship filters are aimed at blocking more than just pornography.

The new ‘UK porn filter’, as it is now known, will also monitor and block various search terms, and the UK Government has issued notices to all the major search engines to create filters to prevent any results from showing up when certain keywords or search terms are typed into them. These keywords are related to porn, extremist content, drugs, dating, violent material, alcohol & smoking, suicide, and even anorexia and eating disorder related terms.

For instance, what would a teen contemplating suicide do? Of course, he/she can call up the helpline, but nowadays, people always resort to online sources for help and information. Therefore, the teen in question will turn to the internet to learn more about suicide. Search engines have become smart and serve up results that will provide information to hinder any suicidal tendencies. Under the new bill, these results will be blocked, which can act in contradiction to the desired result.

UK is now joining an alarmingly growing list of countries that is aimed at curbing internet freedom for all citizens and residents alike. There are numerous free as well as premium parental controls and features available for parents to curb internet freedom for their kids. Lots of parents even utilize these options to prevent their children from being exposed to porn or other anti-social content on the internet. Therefore, there is no need for the Government to intrude into the privacy of their citizens.

Even if these filters may be justified to further secure the safety of children, it is difficult to understand why other informational content should join the list of pornographic sites that gets filtered through the flow of traffic. The only possible explanation to such an action from the UK Government’s part is to curb the flow of free information and avoid instances like the PRISM controversy that was strictly made possible due to the free nature of the internet. Therefore, by putting internet censorship filters in place and by introducing new laws, it becomes possible for the Government to regulate the flow of traffic and actively monitor what is being discussed online.

The current censorship scenario is not an optional opt-in for internet users, but all users will be automatically made a part of the censorship. Users will be automatically blocked and internet filters will be functional across the country by the end of the year. New internet subscribers are blocked by default. In case the users want to unblock any content, they will have to systematically unblock all filters manually and will have to confirm their intentions to the ISP.

However, the overall consensus is that people will choose to keep the default settings, which is basically the overall intention of the Cameron Government. Users can choose a VPN, but there is a fear that VPN related keywords will be gradually blocked by the filters, and VPN websites can’t be accessed in the future. Only time will tell if opting out of the censorship program will grant access to these services, or whether the UK Government is choosing to curb internet freedom as a whole.