Adult content filters can't replace good parenting
by Corry Doctrow
The government's proposed web controls are too simplistic when it comes to understanding and filtering adult material
Last week's announcement of a national scheme to block adult content at the point of subscription (as the BBC's website had it) was a moment of mass credulity on the part of the nation's media, and an example of how complex technical
questions and hot-button save-the-children political pandering are a marriage made in hell when it comes to critical analysis in the press.
Under No 10's proposal, the UK's major ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, will invite new subscribers to opt in or out of an adult content filter. But for all the splashy reporting on this that dominated the news cycle, no one seemed to be
asking exactly what adult content is, and how the filters' operators will be able to find and block it.
Adult content covers a lot of ground. While the media of the day kept mentioning pornography in this context, existing adult filters often block gambling sites and dating sites (both subjects that are generally considered adult but
aren't anything like pornography), while others block information about reproductive health and counselling services aimed at GBLT teens (gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender).
Then there's the problem of sites that have a wide variety of content, such as the venerable LiveJournal, which contains millions of personal and shared diaries. Some of these have material that children, especially small children, shouldn't see,
but others don't. Is LiveJournal an adult site? It is, at least according to some filters.
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Britain's broadband censors: a bunch of students
by Nicole Kobie
McAfee creates blacklists of online content, categorising sites in order to let ISPs block them. BT and Sky use McAfee's lists for their parental controls, which a new Government-sponsored code of conduct requires them to offer to all customers.
The overall process is mostly automated, with McAfee's system looking for keywords on a site to classify it. Toralv Dirro, a security strategist at McAfee's Avert labs told PC Pro. If there's any doubt, we do have a team of people that take a
look at a website and correct a classification if it's necessary. The team responsible for covering McAfee's customers worldwide is made up of between five to ten people. I think it's a fairly popular job for students, Dirro said.
However, he admits the very sites the small team is asked to judge are those that are the most subjective. Drawing the line between erotic and hardcore pornography is probably the most difficult, he said. Another thing is websites that
go into extreme left or right side [politically], but still do news or something like that.
Dirro admitted there can be difficulties when a mainstream site features material that could be deemed pornographic to some people. Maybe they had pornographic or erotic stuff on their site, which for example could happen with a newspaper site,
if they have the 'Page 3' picture of a woman on the front page. Normally, the entire site would be banned, not only the offending page. However larger sites such as The Sun have markers to prevent them from being slotted into a category
and subsequently blocked.
There's no way you can obtain the complete list from us, Dirro said, adding McAfee would never publish the full list for intellectual property reasons. If you published that list, anyone could just take it and use it and create their own
If a site has been wrongly categorised, which Dirro admitted does happen, the site owner can open a ticket with support to get it changed. If McAfee refuses to change it, there's not really much that a site can do, Dirro admitted.
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EFF Criticises UK Government over Gambling Filter Plans
From bingosupermarket.com by Mark Bennett
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is criticising the UK government for its plans on internet filtering. In conjunction with the
Christian organization Mothers' Union, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has enacted a plan with four of Britain's major ISPs, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin, and Sky, to block access to pornography, gambling, self-harm, and other blacklisted websites.
The EFF claims that the plan lacks transparency. The blocked categories are vague in nature, and the list's origins unknown. Not only do the categories contain legal content in some cases, but there is significant room for overblocking.
The EFF also suggests opt-in services create privacy concerns. Users who choose to opt out of the bad content filter are then on one list. The plan does not in include privacy protections for the people who choose to opt out. The list could
potentially be made public, shaming users who would prefer their Internet with its pornography, gambling, and self-harm websites intact.