David Cameron's Mary Whitehouse, Conservative MP Claire Perry has been campaigning for the censorship of the internet via overbroad website blocking well in excess of the claimed porn blocking.
Having got her wish granted she found out for herself, the ISP algorithms are crap and block everything including her own website.
The Independent reports that Perry's site was among those added to the blocked list by O2's blocking system. It's thought all the mentions of porn and sex on her site in relation to why we need such censorship was enough to flag it up as
one requiring blocking.
An O2 spokesperson told The Independent that the network had since changed its filter, allowing access to a few of the many negligently blocked sites.
Since BT activated its 'block everyhthing', adult content filters, we've seen many examples of perfectly acceptable sites being blocked.
Alisdair Calder McGregor reported last week that the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats site, hardly a den of debauchery, had fallen victim to BT's algorithims.
The latest, and best example to date in my view is the blocking of Glasgow's St Mary's Cathedral website and the personal blog of its Provost, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, as he told us on Twitter.
Just discovered that my blog is censored by the BT web filtering parental controls. That means some can't see invitation to crib service.
Just discovered that both my blog and @thecathedral website are blocked by David Cameron's porn filters.
Now look, @LibDems. Blog and church website have been censored by Cameron's porn filters ON YOUR WATCH! None of us must forget that.
I read both sites regularly and, needless to say, I've never seen anything anybody should be protected from on either of them. I suspect the reason they were blocked was because Kelvin writes a lot about LGBT issues and is a passionate campaigner for
equal marriage. The Cathedral, being an inclusive and welcoming place even to atheists like me has an LGBT Group.
A filter that gets it so badly wrong is a filter that really is not worth having.
The government is currently trying to push a bill forcing ISPs to provide opt-out pornography filtering, however this is an issue that fails to address any real problems.
Bad parenting is the real problem, and bad parents will simply allow the filter to be enabled and believe it protects their children, even though the filters are easily (even trivially) circumvented. Parents need to supervise and educate their children
about internet use, not rely on filters of dubious effectiveness.
It also sets a poor precedent that objectionable content can be blocked at the ISP level in the name of protecting children, who are in fact being harmed more by poor parenting. Aside from content of a clearly illegal nature the government should not be
forcing the presence of filters at all, but instead pushing to improve the involvement of parents in a child's life, and to promote education over flimsy, disruptive, and money-wasting solutions .
As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:
In his speech on the 22 July, the Prime Minister announced a set of new measures for the internet industries to help parents keep their children safe online.
From the end of this year, when new customers set up a broadband account, they will be prompted to set up parental controls. If a customer repeatedly clicks yes to get through the set-up quickly, filters will be automatically selected. Parental
controls are easy for the account holder to change, so customers who do not want filters can simply switch them off. In addition, parents will have the option to customise filters, so that only the categories of content that they choose will be filtered
out in their household.
The Government is aware of concerns that filters may lead to over-blocking. A UK Council for Child Internet Safety working group will look at this issue specifically and will report back to the Ministerial chairs. If a consumer or a website owner feels
that a site has been wrongly or unfairly blocked, they can seek redress directly with the relevant internet service provider (ISP).
ISPs have contracts with their customers which include good practice Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) about what may be hosted on their servers. Most AUPs already contain a general clause which allows them to remove sites or content which contain
inappropriate or offensive material, even if it is not illegal.
The Government expects these sites to respond to complaints quickly and effectively as it is they who are best placed to deal with these issues. In the UK, we support a self-regulatory model for the internet industry as legislation can rarely adapt and
change quickly enough to respond to the constantly evolving online environment.
It is important to note that in an open society like ours, it is necessary to find the right balance between protecting the public and legitimate freedom of speech. The Government will continue to work with ISPs and the rest of the internet industry to
help people enjoy the benefits of the internet safely.
Following complaints, media attention and general realisation that O2's website blocking algorithm is shite, O2 have permanently taking down the transparency tool.
While O2 are the only company providing any transparency with their checker , this is a bad move. People need to see how the filters work, and the checker helps them do this.
O2 claimed on the website that the facility closed for maintenance , but no doubt everyone will see through the propaganda bollox an realise the closure is due to bad publicity for the web blocking.
Before being alerted by the media, O2 were blocking general access to Childline, the NSPCC, the Police and many others. Pink News reports that: O2 has labeled Stonewall, BBC News, the Conservative Party and the Number 10 Downing Street website as
unsuitable or uninteresting to under 12s.
What this emphasises is that transparency needs to be of right, and not something that can be withdrawn for commercial or public relations purposes. Websites need to identify that they are blocked, or not. Complaints should not only be dealt with because
of Twitter campaigns.
Over the weekend, people were appalled to discover that BT filters supported homophobia, with a category blocking, sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle,
contraceptive, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
BT have since reworded this description to remove the gay and lesbian reference , but given that their filtering is provided by an unnamed third party supplier it seems highly unlikely that the filter itself has changed overnight -- merely
the description. Such measures would never be taken against the heterosexual lifestyle - this is discrimination, pure and simple, hard-coded into our national communications infrastructure.
Of course it's impossible to see what's been blocked other than through tedious trial and error. One website owner (@pseudomonas) asked BT on Twitter for information about whether their site was blocked, and their experience was something like talking to
a brick wall who only speaks French. The bottom line here is that even parents have no idea what they're actually blocking, and we have no way of assessing the harm caused by BT's measures.
O2 claims that its 'block everything' website censorship system has the BBFC classifying all websites. In fact the BBFC just provides a flimsy set of classification guidelines for ISPs to read (and obviously ignore)
An interesting piece from Strange Things Are Happening
Despite Cameron's assurance that only the most pornographic sites would be blocked -- he specifically stated that things like The Sun 's topless Page 3 girls would not be caught by filtering -- it turns out that the companies are all using their
own systems, often supplied by filtering companies in the USA and China (yes, a nation that is home to companies that think a female nipple is obscene and a Communist dictatorship where free speech is virtually non-existent) and which use a simplistic,
catch-all method of defining porn. And of course, it's not just 'porn' that is being restricted. Adult material was the Trojan Horse used to introduce wholesale blocking of a wide variety of content.
At the moment, only O2 actually allow anyone to check which sites are blocked under their system. You can depress yourself with it here: http://urlchecker.o2.co.uk.
Naturally, Strange Things Are Happening is forbidden, listed as 'pornography' (here's a challenge -- find me a single genuinely pornographic image on this site). But the last couple of days have seen the internet digging into the filters and
finding that, yes, a whole load of innocuous sites are also blocked. These include Childline, The Samaritans, various sex education and domestic abuse sites, the British Library and even parliament.uk and gov.uk. Inevitably, it seems that pretty much
every LGBT site is blocked.
Bizarrely, O2 have tried to blame this on the BBFC. The British censors have drawn up guidelines as to what is considered 'adult content' (you can read them
and yes, they are problematic), but they're certainly not vetting individual sites, because that would require a staff a hundred times bigger than the one they have -- but 02 have been telling people on Twitter "all websites are classified by
BBFC" , which suggests that either someone doesn't understand how their own system works or that someone is being rather economical with the truth. Because I can pretty much guarantee that the BBFC would not classify The Samaritans or Childline as
'adult content'. Oh, and guess what Mr Cameron? Page 3 is also blocked.
O2 have been explaining their crappy blocking system on Twitter:
@C9J Websites are classified by BBFC ( o2lin.kr/1e2NJQU
) whether 18+ or restricted for under 12 audience, or open for everyone.
In fact the BBFC guidelines on website classification are almost incompetently flimsy. They have a background that hasn't really prepared them for being used for ISP website blocking. The rules were drawn up by an obscure group (The Independent Mobile
Classification Board, IMCB) to classify content for mobile phones. This was before the internet became available on phones and was more about classifying the likes of Playboy video clips that the mobile companies had hoped to sell to their subscribers.
The rules are more about video clips than wider internet conten,t and in fact the BBFC guidelines for film and video censorship map well into this initial requirement. The BBFC recently took over the mobile content censorship task and updated the
guidelines in line with current video classification rules.
Another historical characteristic of the guidelines is that they only support 2 classifications:
Available for all (not necessarily suitable for all) or
Restricted to over 18s
However the guidelines are really only based on film/video issues. They simply do not cover the myriad of issues about websites. Eg they do not speak of how website links effect the classification of websites, does a non-porn site linking to a porn site
get classified as a porn site. The guidelines speak of frequency of strong language that makes sense in the context of film or video but say nothing helpful about what frequency means in terms of a multipage website with mixed content.
One wonders how the BBFC would classify its own site given that it has an extensive database of hardcore pornography descriptions. It would be interesting if it declared itself to be age rated.
In fact it would be fascinating to get a few website rating from the BBFC.
What would be the rating of YouTube. It has loads of video 18 rated content (albeit not much hardcore porn). In reality it would be totally untenable to give YouTube any sort of age restricted rating).
We would all be fascinated to know the rating for The Sun's website complete with Page 3.
And of course the ultimate, is know how the Daily Mail website would be officially rated.
Update: BBFC sort out O2 and their bullshit
24th December 2013. From Twitter
In response to bullshit tweets from O2, eg:
@C9J Websites are classified by BBFC ( o2lin.kr/1e2NJQU
) whether 18+ or restricted for under 12 audience, or open for everyone.
The BBFC have tweeted:
We've been working with @ O2 today to correct how they communicate the BBFC's role in classifying content available via mobile phones
We provide the Classification Framework which is applied by @ O2 & their commercial content suppliers bbfc.co.uk/what-classific... ( http://t.co/tFiGOk8EuP
Adult content blocking systems used by major ISPs are blocking websites offering sex education and advice on sexual health and porn addiction, the BBC has learned.
The four major internet companies have started to roll out so-called porn filters to their users. BT launched its filter this week , Virgin has a pilot programme ahead of a full launch early in 2014, and Sky's was turned on a month ago. TalkTalk's
blocking system started in May 2011.
Newsnight also discovered all the major ISPs that have launched full default filters are also failing to block hardcore porn-hosting sites.
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 ran by sex education experts, taught to 81,000 American children that has been in development for more than 20 years.
The TalkTalk system failed to block 7% of the 68 pornographic websites tested by Newsnight.
Sky's filter fared much better, blocking 99% of sites, but it did block six porn-addiction sites.
BT blocked sites including Sexual Health Scotland , Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline , and Reducing The Risk , a site which tackles domestic abuse.
Justin Hancock runs BishUK and was not aware his site was being blocked by some systems until he was alerted by Newsnight. He said:
It's really frustrating because I'm trying to provide a sex education site for young people and it's hard enough directing young people to good quality information on the internet.
They might fix my site in the short-term but what about all the other sites that are out there for young people, not just sex education sites... who are TalkTalk to say what is allowed and isn't?
Offsite Article: Why WordPress bloggers were blocked by TalkTalk, and what it tells us about Internet filtering
At the end of November a number of WordPress blog admins complained on WordPress forums that they were having problems accessing their accounts. It appeared that TalkTalk subscribers who had Wordpress blogs could not access their administration pages
over https, and so couldn't write and publish new blog posts.
The second time we met was in the Sky News studio. I know you remember me, because you described me as a "responsible pornographer". I felt dirty. I tried to put two questions to you, but you talked over them, as
politicians are trained to do. So here are those questions again:
I'm a parent: are you suggesting that my partner and I should censor our home Internet connection because we happen to have a child in the house? Should parents set their filters on or off?
How can you prevent a repeat of the huge overblocking problem that already appears on mobile networks?
Since you wouldn't answer these, I will: 1) There is no sense in a filter that affects a whole household rather than individuals; 2) You can't prevent overblocking. You can promise to, just as you can promise to stop the tide. But
you can't. It's impossible.
ATVOD held a conference on 12 December on protecting children from online porn. LSE's Benjamin De La Pava reflects on the discussion arguing that there remains little consensus upon which to base policy
BT launched their new Parental Controls service , the latest ISP to roll out network level filters following the Government's push this summer.
We haven't gone through the answers in great detail yet. But from a first look, the main similarity with Sky's answers concerns how they will deal with reports of over-blocking. Both Sky and BT say that there will be a process for responding quickly to
reports, which is a start. But there's little more than that and the devil will be in the detail. We need to be sure that site owners know who to approach, that they will speak to someone who understands the problem, and that the mistake will be fixed
Neither Sky nor BT really address the issue of liability, either. If a business finds its site blocked for, say, a week by mistake, are they able to take any action to remedy the possible damage? BT seem to suggest that they are not responsible at all
for the categorisations, pointing at the (unnamed) third party that they are using for the service.
2nd Reading in the House of Lords for Elspeth's Howe's ludicrous bill to demand British websites implement onerous ATVOD style age verification before granting access to any 'adult' content, even MelonFarmers
Last year Elspeth Howe sponsored a private members bill that more or less mandated ISP porn blocking software along the lines of that currently being introduced. However it had a nasty twist that all pornographic images be restricted to users opting in
to porn access from their ISPs and that allowable porn sites had to implement onerous ATVOD style age verification systems such as demanding a credit card (debit cards are unacceptable) payment prior to any access to porn.
This year Howe has reintroduced her bill with an even nastier kick in the teeth. She want all adult content, not just porn, to be restricted to sites that impose ATVOD style age verification.
The Bill receives its 2nd read in the House of Lord today. The relevant section of the bill reads:
1 Duty to provide a service that excludes adult content
(1) Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection 3
have been fulfilled.
(2) Where mobile telephone network operators provide a telephone service to subscribers, which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection 3
(3) The conditions are--
(a) the subscriber "opts-in" to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;
(b) the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and
(c) the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over.
The bill passed 2nd Reading after 3 hours of censorial politicians patting each other on the back for this ludicrously worded proposal. Nobody was interesting in actually thinking through the consequences of the proposal. A fine example of how crap law
Sky has launched its network-level mature content blocking system.
Called Sky Broadband Shield, the blocking system is available to new and existing Sky customers from today, and will block content if they fall into one of ten categories, including porn, self-harm and suicide. Sky isn't categorising that content itself
and is instead working with Symantec.
Customers will have the option of three blocking levels - PG, 13, and 18. The adults-only setting won't block content, but, according to Sky, will provide some defence against phishing attempts and malware.
Users can switch off filtering entirely through their My Sky settings, and parents can also tailor the block list by adding or removing specific sites, as well as switching on or off each of the ten categories.
Since it's a network-level filter, it will implement the same blocking definitions for all devices using that connection.
Any new customers signing up to Sky from today will see a page asking them to approve their blocking settings; the settings for 13-year-olds and up will be pre-ticked.
All of the country's mobile operators implement website blocking systems in the name of child protection. They are turned on by default, and only get removed by a minority of people, and are largely unregulated.
The most important thing to know about these mobile website blockers, though, is this: they are terrible at their job.
Over the years, many websites have found themselves the victim of a phenomenon known as overblocking , where the filters seem to arbitrarily censor them from millions of subscribers. This may sound like a storm in a teacup (who doesn't want
to look out for kids?) but for many website owners, being hit by an overblock can be more than just irritating: it can be potentially threatening to your business.
Over the last month or so, I've been documenting the process we've been going through after we discovered that Orange was overblocking GigaOM and preventing mobile readers from accessing our site . We did manage to get the block lifted , but what became
even more frustrating than the overblock itself was trying to understand why it had happened.
But now, it turns out, we may have an actual answer --- and it's proof positive of the totally ludicrous, crude nature of the filtering that goes on. Here's the bottom line: Orange's child protection filter, Safeguard, simply prevents people from reading
anything that looks like a blog.
The company sent me an official statement explaining their position (my emphasis):
We would urge websites who feel they have been incorrectly categorised, or those who would like to register a complaint, to use the feedback tool provided on the Orange Safeguard landing page users are presented with when a site is blocked. We will aim
to investigate and rectify any problems as quickly as possible. GigaOM was blocked by our third party monitoring system as it was categorised incorrectly as a blog,
So, essentially, Safeguard divides the web into categories of content. Some of it is OK: things like news services or big, well-known websites. Meanwhile, pretty much any site that's categorized as containing user-generated content gets filtered by
default --- and that includes blogs, forums, chat sites and many more. That's it.
Rumblings about a forthcoming announcement to block extremism and terrorist content began this summer. Then last month the Prime Minister made comments during Prime Minister's Questions about blocking extremism:
We have had repeated meetings of the extremism task force---it met again yesterday---setting out a whole series of steps that we will take to counter the extremist narrative, including by blocking online sites.
Yesterday, in response to a question from Patrick Robinson of Yahoo! at a conference, Home Office Minister James Brokenshire confirmed that an announcement is forthcoming .
The Extremism Task Force , mentioned by the Prime Minister, was set up in the aftermath of the Woolwich murder and is due to report very soon. So one assumes this announcement will likely be related to that.
We don't know what this forthcoming announcement will be. We don't know what sort of content the Government want to see blocked, or why, and how much it extends beyond what already happens through the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit .
There has been no public discussion about this so far. As far as we understand, no freedom of expression groups have been involved. The Guardian suggests the Government want to follow the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) model, who supply Internet
Service Providers (ISPs) with a list of child abuse material they then block.
But the Government's policy on extremism content can't just be that ISPs should block sites that have been classified as extreme by some secretive government body, without any court decision about a law being broken or any public, democratic
discussion in Parliament about the process involved.
This should not be another drift towards vague, unaccountable and privatised Internet regulation. This sort of Internet regulation is about who decides what we - not just terrorists - can look at and do online.
Once again we see that website blocking has become the go-to button for politicians to press when they need to be seen reacting strongly to the latest media outcry.
But website blocking is not an easy or effective option. Anyone who wants to look at blocked content will find a way to do so - it is fairly simple to get around any blocking for a start. It also, unhelpfully, adds an edginess to blocked material
if those making or sharing it can say it is banned by the government.
We also know that unrelated content gets caught by blocking systems. Extremist content is not easy to define. Moreover, as Big Brother Watch point out in their blog, law enforcement agencies can define words like extremism broadly enough to
include groups like political activists or protestors who are not terrorists or seemingly breaking any laws. If law enforcement agencies are responsible for drawing up a list of sites to be blocked, it is not a huge stretch of the imagination to
think that block lists would include material that is not illegal. By accident or abuse blocking powers are likely to lead to blocking lists featuring content that has little if anything to do with terrorism and national security.
It looks like James Brokenshire and the Home Office are following a well trodden path with this approach. When it comes to the Internet the government seems to like voluntary arrangements in which they arm twist Internet service providers into
doing what they want.
That spares the Government from having to deal with complicated issues like involving a court to prove a law has been broken, or a normal policy process that would involve public, democratic scrutiny of their ideas.
The IWF model for dealing with child abuse images is tolerated because their focus is such abhorrent and unequivocally illegal material. This model is not appropriate for less clearly defined content.
Maybe the Government will surprise us with their announcement. But we have seen that when it comes to Internet blocking the government has a tendency to prioritise making favourable headlines above a smart, effective policy fix. So fingers are
crossed in hope rather than expectation.
Two weeks ago, the head of the Security Service warned about the extent of Islamist extremism. This week, two individuals have been charged with serious terrorist offences. What is the Prime Minister going to do in January when, as a result of
his Government's legislation, some of those whom the Home Secretary has judged to pose the greatest threat to our security are released from the provisions of their terrorism prevention and investigation measures?
The Prime Minister:
We have put in place some of the toughest controls that one can possibly have within a democratic Government, and the TPIMs are obviously one part of that. We have had repeated meetings of the extremism task force---it met again
yesterday---setting out a whole series of steps that we will take to counter the extremist narrative, including by blocking online sites. Now that I have the opportunity, let me praise Facebook for yesterday reversing the decision it took about
the showing of beheading videos online. We will take all these steps and many more to keep our country safe.
The Prime Minister told Parliament on October 23 that:
We have had repeated meetings of the extremism task force --- it met again yesterday --- setting out a whole series of steps that we will take to counter the extremist narrative, including by blocking online sites.
Such an announcement has not been preceded by a public consultation, or any engagement with civil liberties and freedom of speech organisations. The threat the freedom of speech is only too clear.
As we have previously warned around the shift of the child safety debate from illegal content to legal content, there is a danger that politicial figurues become embroiled in deciding what we can and cannot see online. The starting point should
be if material meets a criminal threshold, can those involved be prosecuted. Blocking must never become an easier alternative to prosecution.
Here in the UK, a storm over child protection online has been whipped up in recent months by populist politicians and the Daily Mail, yes, that's right, the newspaper that likes to photograph a 14yo flaunting her womanly curves
After watching 'depraved' porn on the internet, millions of boys are turning into good husbands, fathers, businessmen, sportsmen, teachers, company employees, and even politicians, campaigners and journalists
This month's ASA warning reminds bloggers that they are breaking these specific rules from the CAP's code:
2.3: Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is
not obvious from the context. 2.4: Marketers and publishers must make clear that advertorials are marketing communications; for example, by heading them advertisement feature .
Do these rules even apply to bloggers? Writing a blog is not marketing or -- with the exception of blogs hosted and edited by mainstream media companies such the Telegraph -- even really publishing. It's usually a hobby and a form of amateur
journalism. The ASA warning seems to realise this, so says it will also go after the providers of the products, as will Trading Standards. What if a freelance blogger forgets to disclose they received a few quid to write something nice? Could the
company who paid end up the focus of the sanctions instead? Remember, this happened before. And it was chaos then too.
Worst of all is the implied prejudice. Independent bloggers write about stuff for free, while journalists write about stuff for money. When journalists write about products they have been given, or are taken out for a nice lunch, they aren't
forced to disclose it. We assume that the journalist is being objective because they write for a recognised publication, and that they will adhere to the NUJ's code of conduct purely because they're journalists.
For example. Claire Perry said internet firms are currently not doing enough to tackle bullying online and called for more prosecutions of people who make online threats, that she described as misogynistic.
She said bullying would be "driven down" if users could choose to block communication from anonymous users. Perry, who received online threats over the summer, said there should be an online verification process, so people can see if
they are dealing with other users who have supplied their real names or chosen to remain anonymous. She said:
Having been on the receiving end of a storm of Twitter abuse, I don't think the companies do enough. Part of the problem is anonymity of usage.
People post about how they'd like to rape you and kill you because they think you don't know who you are. If there was some way of the company knowing and being prepared to verify that identify and to show you that verification, I think it would
lead to a diminuation in that kind of behaviour.
New Government plans would mean that anybody found with pornography depicting rape, albeit verifiably simulated, could be jailed for up to three
The new rules will be implemented in January and should bring England and Wales in line with the law in Scotland, where the offence carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Prime Minister David Cameron, said the new plans will target websites showing images and videos of rape, whether the websites claim that the act is simulated or not.
It is not yet clear how the law will be amended, and how 'realistic' the rape depiction has to be. No doubt it will be left vague and more innocent people will get caught up prosecutions/persecutions usually kicked off by something else leading
computer seizures and inspections.
On 18th November the Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a key summit at Downing Street to welcome progress made by internet
service providers, leading search engines and police agencies to better protect children from harmful material online and block child abuse and other illegal content but warned that there is still more to do.
Speaking ahead of the event, the Prime Minister said the internet search engines in particular have made "significant progress" since July to prevent child abuse content from being available across the world but
will make clear that he will still bring forward legislation if they fail to deliver.
The Prime Minister also said:
Back in July , I said I wanted to do much more to protect our children from the risks posed by the internet and those who seek to use the web to look at and share illegal and vile content.
Since then, we have made real progress on filters and parental controls to protect children, and on the government side we've strengthened Britain's ability to combat child abuse online with the new National Crime Agency,
with over 4000 specially trained officers.
But we were clear that we needed the search engines to do more to ensure people can't access extreme material via a simple search.
At the time, Google and Microsoft - who cover 95% of the market - said blocking search results couldn't be done, that it shouldn't be done.
They argued that it was against the very principle of the internet and search engines to block material even if there was no doubt that some of the search terms being used by paedophiles were abhorrent in a modern society.
I did not accept that then and I do not accept that now.
Since then, we have worked closely with both Google and Microsoft and they have made significant progress in preventing child abuse content from being returned.
Both companies have made clear to me that they share my commitment to stop child abuse content from being available not only in the UK but across the world.
This must mean making sure that it is not possible for people to find child abuse content via search engines now or in the future.
If the search engines are unable to deliver on their commitment to prevent child abuse material being returned from search terms used by paedophiles, I will bring forward legislation that will ensure it happens.
With the progress that has been made in 4 months, I believe we are heading in right direction but no-one should be in doubt that there is a red line: if more isn't done to stop illegal content or pathways being found when
someone uses a child abuse search term, we will do what is necessary to protect our children.
Changes introduced by search engines
Google and Microsoft have introduced a number of changes to their search function, not only in the UK, but across the world and National Crime Agency testing of the new measures shows that child abuse images, videos or
pathways are no longer being returned against a blacklist of search terms at present.
The changes introduced by the search engines include:
the introduction of new algorithms that will block child abuse images, videos and pathways that lead to illegal content, covering 100,000 unique searches on Google worldwide
stopping auto-complete features from offering people child abuse search terms
Google and Microsoft will now work with the National Crime Agency and the Internet Watch Foundation to bring forward a plan to tackle peer to peer networks featuring child abuse images
Google will bring forward new technology that will put a unique identification mark on illegal child abuse videos, which will mean all copies are removed from the web once a single copy is identified
Action must be taken
The internet safety summit came 4 months after the Prime Minister said that action must be taken in 2 different areas: first, to end the proliferation and accessibility of child abuse images on the internet and, second, to
stop so many children viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very early age.
Following the Prime Minister's speech in July, CEOP, part of the National Crime Agency, gave the search engines a list of terms which they said were unambiguous. If you used these you were looking for child abuse images
online. In the speech, the search companies were challenged to block these terms, to make sure that no illegal content or pathways to illegal content were returned.
That was not the case in July but the new measures mean that is now happening.
The government will work with the National Crime Agency and others to monitor the effectiveness of the new technology introduced by Google and Microsoft. It is imperative that they can show they are preventing imagery or
pathways are returned against blacklisted search terms identified by the National Crime Agency.
A recent deterrence campaign from Google led to a 20% drop off on people trying to find illegal content, showing this sort of action will make a difference.
Progress already made
The key areas where progress has been made include:
Hundreds of thousands of homes have already been given a whole home family friendly internet filter just months after the Prime Minister signed up internet service providers to do more to help parents keep their children
safe online. The providers will confirm to the Prime Minister that 20 million homes -- 95% of all homes in Britain with an existing internet connection -- will be required to choose whether to switch on a whole home family friendly internet
filter by the end of next year. The 6 largest public Wi-Fi providers across Britain have switched on family friendly filters in all areas where children might access the internet.
Britain and the US have team up to target child abuse online with a new UK-US taskforce, set up between US Assistant Attorney General and the UK government, that will identify cross-Atlantic targeting of criminals who think
they are hidden from the law, including those operating on the 'dark web'. Ex-Google and Facebook chief Joanna Shield will lead an industry group of technical experts to explore what more can be done.
Internet service providers have announced a new £25 million internet safety campaign over 3 years that will reach out to millions of parents on how best to protect their children and make good use of filters.
The newly formed National Crime Agency will target child abusers online in Britain, working with crime agencies across the world. Britain has strengthened its ability to combat child abuse online via the new National Crime
Agency and 4,000 staff are available to help track, investigate and arrest paedophiles. In the National Crime Agency's first month, 24 people were arrested on suspicion of distributing indecent images of children as part of a stand-alone
The Internet Watch Foundation -- the industry body tasked with identifying and taking down illegal content -- will now expand its operation with an additional £1.5 million funding boost. A new group of skilled
analysts are being recruited and will be operational within months, effectively tripling the team. With the additional fire-power, the IWF will for the first time ever proactively seek out child abuse sites, so that the more material is blocked
and warning 'splash' pages put in place.
Comment: Child abuse image policies risk looking like cynical manipulation
The Internet Watch Foundation does not at the moment pursue images and videos on so-called peer-to-peer networks because it lacks
permission from the Home Office. But it was announced on Monday that the watchdog would begin a six-month pilot scheme in collaboration with Google, Microsoft and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency (Ceop), so that IWF can develop
procedures to identify and blacklist links to child abuse material on P2P services.
Separately, David Cameron said the dark net , a general term for areas of the internet not accessible through search engines, was policeable. And he said that the government listening service GCHQ would be brought in to tackle child abuse
images. Cameron told the BBC's Jeremy Vine:
There's been a lot in the news recently about the techniques, ability and brilliance of the people involved in the intelligence community, in GCHQ and the NSA in America. That expertise is going to be brought to bear to go after these revolting
people sharing these images [of child abuse] on the dark net, and making them available more widely.
A No 10 spokesperson said the details of the project had yet to be confirmed but roles and responsibilities between IWF and the National Crime Agency would be clarified in due course.
Jim Gamble, former head of Ceop, said rather contradicting the need for all the Google work to block searches:
Nobody actually knows how much child abuse material is on the dark net, but the vast majority is shared on P2P. I think the government is masking the problem by not investing in real human resource.
IWF itself currently has only five staff monitoring the internet, though it has been given approval by its 110 industry members for a bigger budget, following a large donation by Google, and more resources from April 2014.
Google is targeting 100,000 terms associated with online child sexual abuse in a move hailed by David Cameron, who will announce a series of
measures to tackle the problem at a cyber-summit in Downing Street. The prime minister said that Google and Yahoo had come a long way after the internet firms announced a series of initiatives to try to block access to child pornography.
Cameron is set to announce that British and US law enforcement agencies are to jointly target online child abuse by monitoring those who operate on the hidden internet.
Google's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, has announced that a 200-strong team has cleaned up Google Search to target 100,000 terms that can be used to locate child pornography. The changes will soon apply to more than 150 languages. The company is
also showing warnings at the top of its search results for 13,000 queries. Schmidt said:
In the last three months put more than 200 people to work developing new, state-of-the-art technology to tackle the problem. We've fine-tuned Google search to prevent links to child sexual abuse material from appearing in our results.
Facebook has announced it is working on new ways to keep users from stumbling across gruesome content such as beheading videos.
Facing sharp criticism from the likes of David Cameron, Facebook issued a statement clarifying that violent videos were only allowed if they were presented as news or held up as atrocities to be condemned.
If they were being celebrated, or the actions in them encouraged, our approach would be different. However, since some people object to graphic video of this nature, we are working to give people additional control over the content they see. This may
include warning them in advance that the image they are about to see contains graphic content.
Facebook banned beheading videos in May but recently lifted the prohibition - a development flagged by the BBC.
Facebook's administrators face constant pressure from interest groups trying to impose their own forms of censorship or fighting to lift restrictions they see as oppressive. Women's rights groups want the company to ban sexy content; others have
ridiculed Facebook's ban on the depiction of female breasts. Some believers have urged the site to ban what they see as blasphemous content.
Sean Gallagher of Index on Censorship said:
Films about beheadings may be deeply upsetting and offensive, but they do expose the reality of violent acts that are taking place in the world today. When trying to draw a line about what should or shouldn't be allowed, it's important to look at
context, not just content.
Facebook has removed a video of a woman being beheaded and updated its policy on graphic violence following a supposed 'public outcry'.
In a move which David Cameron described as irresponsible , Facebook had said that it would be allowing users to upload images and videos of graphic violence so that they could be condemned .
It has now backtracked on that decision, moving to take down a particular video which sparked this week's debate. Entitled only Challenge: Anybody can watch this video? it seemed to show a masked man beheading a woman in Mexico. In a statement,
Facebook explained refinements to its policy on violent content:
When we review content that is reported to us, we will take a more holistic look at the context surrounding a violent image or video.
Second, we will consider whether the person posting the content is sharing it responsibly, such as accompanying the video or image with a warning and sharing it with an age-appropriate audience.
Based on these enhanced standards, we have re-examined recent reports of graphic content and have concluded that this content improperly and irresponsibly glorifies violence. For this reason, we have removed it.
Google has unveiled supervised users for its Chrome browser. A supervised user is a special class of Chrome user account that's created and controlled by another user who acts as its manager or parent.
Additional restrictions can be assigned at the manager's discretion. For example, certain sites can be blocked, or the supervised user's account can be set to a whitelist configuration so that it can only visit approved sites.
Supervised users can contest these restrictions by filing access requests with their manager, which managers can approve or deny via the supervised users dashboard .
Managers also have the ability to view a supervised user's browsing history and to lock the Google search engine's SafeSearch feature to a restricted setting.
At the moment the feature is for beta users and has not been included in standard releases.
Celebrity business man Alan Sugar has been investigated by police after being ludicrously accused of posting a 'racist' Twitter message.
He posted a photograph of a crying Chinese child to 3.2 million Twitter followers, joking that the youngster was upset after being told off for leaving Apple's iPhone production line, a reference to child labour in Asian factories where the phones are
made. He tweeted:
The kid in the middle is upset because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5.
The tweet prompted a single complaint to the Metropolitan Police from an easily offended Twitter user, who referred to Sugar as a vile racist .
No matter how ridiculous, and much police action infringes on free speech the police always consider that the complainer is always right. Police contacted the complainant twice, urging her to make a statement at a police station, which she eventually
did. The police confirmed that police from Merseyside's Hate Crime Investigation Unit took several days to decide whether a crime had been committed by Sugar's joke.
In the end the trivial tweet was somehow classed as a hate incident -- which means no further action will be taken, but details will be kept on file.
The TaxPayers' Alliance condemned the police investigation, insisting police should not waste time and money chasing ill-thought-out tweets .