UK Video on Demand censor ATVOD has called for the law to be changed to require pornography sites to carry out age checks before granting access.
It said credit and debit card operators would be forbidden from processing payments from British customers to sites that did not comply. It claimed that the matter was so urgent that it was critical the legislation is enacted during this
To back up its demand, the body commissioned market research firm Nielsen Netview to install equipment that monitored the online habits of 45,000 desktop PC and laptop users over the course of a month. The survey indicated that over the period:
6% of children aged 15 years or younger had accessed an adult website
5% of visitors to such sites had been under-18
One website alone - Pornhub - had been visited by 112,000 boys in the UK aged between 12 and 17-years-old Of the wider population,
23% of those who had used the net over the month had visited an adult site Visitors to adult sites spent an average of 15 minutes looking at them during each visit and typically clocked up two-and-a-half hours of time in total over the month
Atvod added that the survey probably underestimated the scale of the issue since smartphone and tablet use was not included in the figures.
The regulator already forces UK-based sites to carry out onerous and impractical age verification checks before explicit photographs and videos can be viewed. This can be done by requiring valid credit card details (sorry debit card holders, these
simply wont do) or other personal information that can be cross-referenced with the electoral roll or another ID database. (or used for phishing or identity theft)
Sex and Censorship, a free speech campaign group, - said the move would prove ineffective.
It won't make any difference to the sites that give all their videos away for free and sell advertising because they don't need credit card processing, said Jerry Barnett.
And some sites are already accepting bitcoin and other anonymous online payment systems. A clampdown on card payments would just accelerate this trend.
Even if implemented, this measure would have no effect on the range of content available to British consumers.
It seems strange that ATVOD aren't considering the far more practical solution of a central verification authority that is a bit more trustworthy (but not much with NSA and GCHQ snoopers) than a foreign porn site. Then for adult websites to
enforce this external age verification without being able to monitor people's personal details.
Perhaps ATVOD are happier to see websites suffocated by their impractical and dangerous rules than be allowed to thrive under a more efficient age verification scheme.
In the ATVOD press release ATVOD chair and censorship advocate Ruth Evans claimed:
We do not advocate censorship.There is nothing in the ATVOD Rules which interferes with the right to provide sexually explicit material to an adult online.
[ ...UNLESS... of course that person doesn't hold a credit car. ..OR doesn't want to provide credit card details for a quick look round. ..OR... Doesn't want to risk ID theft or phishing by typing in dangerous ID details...]
Update: As if this measure would really prevent young men from gaining access to porn
31st March 2013. Thanks to Alan
Where does ATVOD recruit idiots to work for it?
This idiocy about protecting children really pisses me off. When I was a hormonal post-pubertal lad, more than half a century ago, I had no problem finding back-street newsagents with no qualms about selling me a mucky magazine. Are today's
media-savvy young men and women going to be prevented from gaining access to porn, whatever ATVOD or control-freak parents say?
In any case, how would ATVOD ban payments? I've never yet encountered a porn site which asks you to pay directly to Filthy Films Inc. Payments are through processors like CC Bill, which guarantee discretion, so that if your vanilla other half
happens upon your Barclaycard bill he/she doesn't know that you're subscribing to Burning Bums Spanking. If they do somehow ban CC Bill, Verotel, etc. it will just be a gift to pirates with no interest in prohibiting access by young people.
Fascinating to see all these moral high grounders and gender extremists debate the rather unproven harm of porn whilst glorying in the chance to put men in prison. As if this doesn't cause actual massive harm to otherwise law abiding men, their
wives and their children. Not to mention the tax payers who have to foot the hefty bill to trash these people's lives
Public Bill Committee for the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill
Third Sitting, Thursday 13 March 2014
David Austin : My name is David Austin. I am the assistant director at the British Board of Film Classification, responsible for policy and public affairs. The BBFC is the UK's independent regulator of film and video content. We operate
online and offline. Our interest in clause 16 is whether it will have any impact on our classification of sexually violent and abusive pornography, particularly as we are under a legal obligation under the Video Recordings Act 1984 not to classify
any content that is illegal.
Murray Perkins : I am Murray Perkins. I am a senior examiner at the BBFC. I have responsibility for day-to-day classification of pornographic works and a particular expertise in those pornographic submissions.
Committee member Dan Jarvis : Do you think there are examples of sexually violent material that would not be captured by the Bill as drafted?
David Austin : Yes, there are examples of sexually violent material that are not caught by the Bill. There are a number of areas of violent and abusive pornography that are not caught. It might help if I list one or two of those areas.
Clause 16 clearly talks in terms of realistic and explicit depiction of rape in pornography. We deal with quite a large number of pornographic works every year and have done for many years. Some of these feature clearly fictional depictions of
rape and other sexual violence in which participants are clearly actors, acting to a script. These works may include scenes of relentless aggressive abuse, threats of physical violence with weapons and forced acts of sex. Depending on how realism
is interpreted in future -- certainly it has been interpreted very narrowly in the past, but I understand that the Government will amend some of the explanatory notes to the Bill on realism -- that may change.
Another area where we cut porn on harm grounds under the Video Recordings Act relates to abduction scenarios where individuals are shown bound, kidnapped, struggling with bonds, and whimpering -- shown as victims restrained against their will with
no other context. We also cut grooming scenarios which feature the grooming of individuals portrayed as youthful, sometimes youthful and vulnerable --sometimes they may have the appearance of children, although they are not children but adults --
by characters in dominant roles. Animation is another area which we cut. There is a Japanese genre called hentai which is a pornographic genre which features things like incest, underage sex and forced sex. They may be realistically animated but
you could argue that they are not realistic in the terms of the Bill. The fact that animated images can be harmful is already accepted by Parliament in the Coroners and Justice Act where pseudo images of children in sexual abuse situations are
The final area relates to explicit rather than realistic. We remove from pornographic works sexually violent content that in our view is harmful, where, for example, you cannot see the explicit act of penetration but the viewer is led to believe
that this is a rape scenario, albeit acted. We remove that content.
Dan Jarvis : Do you think there would be merit in explicitly referring in the Bill to those extreme types of pornography?
David Austin : One of the things that we need to bear in mind in relation to this Bill is that although clause 16 is tightly defined, the offence is one of possession, and when we cut in the physical world, on a physical DVD, the offence is
one of supply. The Bill is part of a wider approach to aligning protections online and protections offline. We understand that, following a consultation by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published in July 2013, the Government will
bring forward legislation to deal with exactly the kind of content that I have just described to make this content illegal on UK video-on-demand platforms. That will align our standards on harm, which are based on research, with the standards
applied by Atvod, the Authority for Television on Demand, which is the UK regulator of UK-hosted video on demand. That legislation would cover UK-hosted content that I have just described.
Committee member Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): Mr Austin, you mentioned as a throwaway that child abuse and child grooming were covered under other legislation. Could you expand a little on that? Is it strong enough as it stands?
David Austin : It was in reference to animation. We have not seen the updated explanatory notes on the Bill -- I do not know whether they have been published yet. The notes that we have seen do not talk about animated content. It is
possible to argue -- do not know how the courts will interpret it -- that animation is not realistic, even though it is getting more and more realistic all the time with computer-generated imagery. CGI images of children and animated images of
children in sexual abuse situations are illegal under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, so that would take care of animated depictions of child abuse, but it does not take care of animated depictions of rape of adults, for example.
Sarah Champion : But are animated or real films of child abuse and child grooming covered under current legislation?
David Austin : That is covered in other legislation, yes.
Update: Press and politicians pick up on BBFC suggestions to extend the definitions of Dangerous Pictures
David Cameron vowed to ban pornography involving simulated rape and said that online videos would be subject to the same rules as those sold in sex shops.
However. MPs were astounded when David Austin, assistant director of the British Board of Film Classification, revealed that actors who are clearly following a script could avoid falling foul of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which
is making its way through Parliament.
As the Bill stands, an image will be banned if it portrays something in an explicit and realistic way . So-called blue films are not, however, usually renowned for their realistic plot lines.
There are examples of sexually violent material that are not caught by the Bill. Clause 16 clearly talks in terms of realistic and explicit depiction of rape in pornography.
Addressing MPs, Labour's shadow crime and policing minister Diana Johnson said:
What the Government is doing is welcome and it's important but at the moment it doesn't go as far as the Prime Minister originally promised. His pledge was to ban material that was so extreme that it would be banned from licensed sex shops.
We're not talking about role-play here but hardcore pornography portraying rape and violent abuse.
In a letter seen by the Sunday Express, Mr Cameron promised to take action to end loopholes by amending the Bill.
The government is supporting calls for harsher penalties for internet insults. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has backed Conservative MP Angie Bray's demands for changes to the law.
According to the Evening Standard , Grayling agreed that the legislation needed to be tightened to protect victims from malicious comments being directed at them via social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
Offences under the Malicious Communications Act currently only carry prison sentences that are no longer than six months, because such cases are heard at magistrates' courts. The proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which will be
discussed in Parliament on Thursday, could change that, presumably by allowing Crown Court scale punishments.
Comment: If we want to live in a society without offence we will live in a society without free speech
Index is deeply concerned at the government's apparent intention to deepen the criminal penalties for grossly offensive communications sent through the internet or social media. Just last year, the then Director of Public Prosecutions Keir
Starmer put out a very sensible set of guidelines to limit the number of arrests for social media posts that may be offensive to some but did not constitute a criminal offence. Now we are going backwards. Offence is a subjective concept and if we
want to live in a society without offence we will live in a society without free speech.
Offsite Comment: Free speech will suffer if politicians get tough on offensive tweets
1. Submitted on behalf of the Sex & Censorship campaign.
2. Written by Jerry Barnett and Dr David Ley, a psychologist specialising in sexuality. Dr Ley's website is at: http://drdavidley.com/ Summary
3. This is a response from Sex & Censorship, a campaigning body, to the non-consensual pornography provisions (Clause 16) in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
4. Sex & Censorship was set up in 2013 by Jerry Barnett, in response to growing concerns over the censorship and repression of sexual expression in the United Kingdom. Jerry has been an advocate for free speech and sexual freedom for a number
of years. We are a non-profit organisation that aims to counter moral panics in the media and campaign for policy-making that is evidence-based and not driven by moral agendas.
5. Clause 16 is an amendment to the existing extreme porn law that was introduced in section 63 of the the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. We believe that the original law does not serve the public interest, and is draconian, and
that this new amendment will make it worse, and should be removed. In outline, our objections are as follows:
The proposed law results from a moral panic over rape porn rather than any evidence of harm.
Although headlined as rape porn , the wording of the law would criminalise consenting (but perhaps non-standard) sexual activity.
The law blurs the distinction between consensual and nonconsensual sex, and so may hinder, rather than help, attempts to reduce sexual violence.
There has been no evidence presented that viewers of the content in question may be driven to commit sexual violence as a result of viewing it.
Conversely, there is evidence that such content may serve as an outlet for people who are prone to sexual violence and may reduce rather than increase their likelihood to commit harm.
In general, possession laws are draconian as they place an impossible burden of legal and technical knowledge on members of the public.
Censorship itself is harmful to free expression. Censorship laws should, therefore, only be introduced in response to compelling evidence of harm rather than on the basis of moral values alone.
Google gives UK internet censors super flagger status to give high priority requests to get YouTube videos taken down.
YouTube will instantly screen any content flagged by British security officials. The censors will be able to flag multiple videos at scale rather than needing to flag each offending video.
The UK's security and immigration minister, James Brokenshire, worryingly told the Financial Times the government has to do more to deal with material that may not be illegal but certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that
people would want to see or receive.
Brokenshire also said issues being considered by the government included a code of conduct for internet service providers and companies. The government, he added, was also keen to explore options where search engines and social media sites
change their algorithms so that unsavoury content is less likely to appear or is served up with more balanced material.
Google confirmed that the Home Office had been given powerful flagging permissions on YouTube but stressed that Google itself still retained the ultimate decision on whether to remove content for breaching its community guidelines.
1. Backlash is an umbrella organisation composed of volunteers, which provides academic, legal and campaigning resources in defence of sexual freedom of expression. We support the rights of competent adults to participate in consensual sexual
activities; and to watch, read or create an actual record or fictional interpretation of this in any media. We were established in 2005.
2. Our core legal work has focused on clarifying and challenging the law which prohibits the possession of 'extreme pornography'. Alongside our legal adviser Myles Jackman (a solicitor advocate at Hodge, Jones & Allen LLP), we provided support
in the successful defences in R v Holland , R v Webster and R v Walsh against such charges. Mr Jackman was awarded the Law Society's Junior Lawyer of year 2012-2013 awar
d in recognition of his work challenging the legal framework imposing regressive sexual morality in obscenity cases.
3. The amendment to ban 'rape pornography' risks criminalising more than a million otherwise law-abiding people in the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, there is no evidence of any corresponding public benefit from the proposed prohibition. Conversely
there is a strong risk (based on our experience with the present extreme pornography offences contained within S63 (7) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008), that any such prosecutions will be disproportionally deployed against sexual
minorities; at significant cost to public funds that could be spent investigating crimes that provably harm the general public.
4. There is a significant amount of bondage themed material catering for those who enjoy submissive fantasies. Fantasy and fictional portrayals of 'forced' sex, which are likely to be the vast majority of images criminalised under the proposed
amendment, are too commonly enjoyed to be reasonably subject to prohibition.
5. Hence we propose the amendment should either be rejected, or limited in scope to only prohibit images that are provably produced in circumstances where there is an absence of consent (either to the acts portrayed in the images or dissemination
of the images themselves).
6. Should the legislation be enacted, we would therefore appeal for absolute clarity in the meaning and operation of the law: to enable the public to identify the difference between an "act which 'realistically' depicts rape" and the
huge quantity of material that depicts sex and bondage.
Evidence of widespread impact on law-abiding citizens
7. Systematic academic research of the consumption of pornography and the prevalence of violent sexual fantasies in the population of the United Kingdom is lacking. However, the most persuasive recent evidence is taken from the British Sexual
Fantasy Research Project: 2007.  Based on a representative sample survey of 19,000 adults in the United Kingdom, it found that: 86% of men and 56% of women had viewed pornography.  29% fantasise about playing a dominant or
"aggressive" role during sex; 33% fantasise about playing a submissive or "passive" role during sex; 4% fantasise about being "violent" towards someone else; 6% fantasise about violence being vested on themselves by
another person. 
8. Thus around 2.2 million men and women have violent sexual fantasies of some kind, and nearly a third of all British adults fantasise about sexual domination and submission.
9. These statistics indicate that the number of men and women interested in fantasy pornographic depictions of non-consensual sexual encounters is likely to be very high. A central, perhaps conservative, estimate might be around 930,000 men and
640,000 women. There is no evidential link to suggest that any of these individuals pose a risk of committing sexual offences.
10. Crucially, fantasy rape scenarios are shared by both men and women, in which neither of whom are established as the passive or dominant participant in such a fantasy sexual encounter. Hence both men and women fantasise about aggressive sex in
both the dominant and submissive role.
11. Yet the argument in favour of criminalising extreme pornography has been characterised as a means of "protecting" women and supporting women's interests and standing in society. The above figures suggest that these claims ignore the
impact of criminalisation on a large number of female viewers of pornography. Since it is widely held that the prosecution and possible resulting punishment of women within the criminal justice system can be particularly damaging, the committee
might be well placed to consider whether exposing the private sexual fantasies of women in Court proceedings could actually lower their social standing.
12. As it can be psychologically and personally destructive for an individual of any gender to have their private consensual fantasies exposed for public scrutiny; such prosecutions should need to be justified only to combat extra-ordinary threats
to the general public.
13. Our work in defending innocent people facing prosecution and trial for offences under S63(7) CJIA 2008 has revealed that a large proportion of defendants give serious consideration to suicide.
14. By way of comparison with existing legislation, fewer than 0.5% of individuals surveyed acknowledged fantasising about necrophilia (S63(7)(c) CJIA 2008), and only 3% acknowledged fantasising about bestiality (S63(7)(d) CJIA 2008.  Hence the
proposed ban on 'rape pornography' extends the reach of this legislation to much more commonly held sexual fantasies.
15. When the criminalisation of possession of extreme pornography was first proposed, Ministers predicted a handful of cases. The Regulatory Impact Assessment that accompanied CJIA 2008 predicted around 30 convictions per annum (at Appendix 1 we
set out MoJ and CPS data on the number of prosecutions). With 1,348 prosecutions in the year 2012/13 alone, we now know that far more cases have been prosecuted than Parliament or the public were led to believe would proceed, with an implied cost
of more than £13 million to the criminal justice system in 2012/2013 (about the same as the total annual budget of the Government Equalities Office).
16. Given the fact that far more people enjoy submissive and domination themed fantasises and the material depicting this, than those who seek the four categories of material prohibited by S63(7) CJIA 2008, the Committee should consider whether
many thousands more people will fall foul of the proposed "rape" category alone.
17. Furthermore, certain 'extreme images' are not possessed for the purpose of sexual arousal (and are therefore not 'pornographic' under the act) but are viewed as jokes in bad taste. Also, they can come into an individual's possession
unintentionally (and sometimes without knowledge) while browsing the Internet for unrelated material (for example via pop-up webpages or malware). Thus the range of people affected by the amendment extends to ordinary Internet users, not just
viewers of pornography with particular themes.
No evidence of harm to public
18. Milton Diamond is an international expert on human sexuality. In a recent evidence review of the effects of pornography on society, he concluded: 'objections to erotic materials are often made on the basis of supposed actual, social or moral
harm to women. No such cause and effect has been demonstrated with any negative consequence. It is relevant to mention here that a temporal correlation between pornography and any effect is a necessary condition before one can rationally entertain
the idea that there is a positive statistical correlation between pornography and any negative effect.' 
19. While the claim that access to pornography harms women is very poorly evidenced, there is some evidence that pornography may have some beneficial effects. Increased access to pornography is associated with decreases in sexual assaults.  The
evidence for no harmful effects on society or women from pornography is a strong finding in the academic literature. The evidence for positive benefits is weaker but indicative. There is a risk that extending the definition of extreme pornography
could lead to more violence against women rather than less.
Evidence of harm to protected minorities
20. The most prominent prosecution under extreme pornography legislation was of barrister Simon Walsh, a former aide to Boris Johnson, whose legal practice had included investigating corruption within British police forces. His career in public
life was severely impaired by a prosecution. His intimate life as a gay man was revealed to the public without his consent.
21. Such prosecutions threaten the reputation of the Crown Prosecution Service as an impartial public servant by showing that gay men risk having their lives destroyed in court over intimate acts which are consensual, safe and commonly practiced
within the LGBT community.
22. The proposed amendment will criminalise material that depicts same-sex material. It will not only criminalise material that depicts women, but also a huge amount of material available that depicts gay sex and sexual penetration with themes of
domination and submission.
23. This highlights a particular problem with defining 'extreme pornography' around the concept of obscenity. Obscenity is not a useful concept for directing how police and prosecutors should make use of the law. The requirement that obscene
material 'deprave or corrupt' the viewer is arcane, and not based on any scientific or psychological test. As a result, law enforcement risks ending up treating 'extreme' as simply a synonym for 'marginal', or non-mainstream material used by
sexual minorities. The Government has not presented adequate evidence showing that sexual minorities will not be subject to a disparate and disproportionate impact from this amendment.
Experience of aberrant use of legislation
24. Backlash arranges advice for members of the public facing charges of possession of extreme pornography under the existing legislation. As we have suggested, the number of people technically in breach of the law is orders of magnitude higher
than those actually prosecuted. The police could not realistically hope to have the resources necessary to investigate this. Instead, cases are passively acquired, often through police investigations of other unrelated allegations; and malicious
25. In our experience, women are at least as likely as men to become the subject of police investigations which threaten to expose their private sex lives in personally damaging ways. We have encountered former partners making malicious
allegations to the police regarding possession of pornography. People who have suffered a falling out in the workplace or in a business arrangement have been subject to abusive threats and allegations regarding their pornography usage and sexual
26. In such cases, the police are often required to investigate, taking up their resources. But since possession of consensual adult pornography is essentially harmless, it means that the police are unnecessarily drafted in to assist the
persecution of an individual to satisfy a private animus.
27. The committee might recall that one of the key reasons for decriminalising homosexuality was not because of widespread moral acceptance of homosexuality (which was to come somewhat later) but because the prohibition had become a 'blackmailer's
charter'. The ban on homosexual acts had not caused people to stop engaging in such acts, but it had exposed many otherwise law-abiding citizens to being branded criminals. Extorting money, or favours, from homosexuals in return for not revealing
their sexual orientation was commonplace. 
28. In extending the regulation of extreme pornography to popular sexual fantasy material, the Government risks reintroducing this sort of scenario and making blackmail over private sexuality a common problem once again.
Proposals for amendment
29. Given the scale of risk associated with this proposed legislation, we strongly advise that this amendment be abandoned. However, the legislation could be focussed more narrowly on genuinely abusive situations where there is actual
non-consensual abuse and harm.
30. It should be noted that when S63 CJIA 2008 was debated in the Lords an assurance was given, in response to concerns expressed regarding the need to properly define the law that guidance would be issued to the public. However clear guidance on
two categories (S63(7)(a) and (b) was never issued. As a consequence the legislation has been used in a way that Parliament never intended (R v Walsh) and hence we appeal to the committee to take this opportunity to repeal S63(7)(a) (life
threatening) and (b) (serious injury). These two categories never have and probably never can be clearly defined.
31. If, despite this evidence, legislation is enacted it is vital that absolute clarity be provided to the public, to ensure that people can clearly determine material which is legal to possess and that which could result in a lengthy custodial
sentence and inclusion on the sex offenders register. The penalties are so extreme that the public must be given absolute certainty and clarity.
Patrick Rock, a Thatcherite who served as special advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron who played an influential role in the Prime Minister's national Internet censorship plan, has been arrested for possession of images depicting the sexual
abuse of children .
The National Crime Agency is conducting forensic analysis of the computer networks at the Prime Minister's office/residence, Number 10 Downing Street.
Virgin Media has introduced its website blocking system, to censor access to anything and everything remotely adult.
Called Web Safe, this will initially be presented as an option to new customers and will appear during the installation of a new broadband connection. They will be able to decide whether to implement the website blcoking or not.
Existing customers will also have access to the blocking system, with Virgin Media contacting the entire subscription base with instructions by the end of 2014.
As with similar schemes offered by Sky and BT, Virgin Media's Web Safe programme works at network level, and is not able to offer different options for different family members. So if the blocking is turned on, it will work across all devices that
connect to that home network.
It is too soon to say whether Virgin Media's filter system will suffer from the same issues as reported with its rivals, including the over-zealous blocking of websites. However the blocking is more simplistic than other ISPs with just a simple
The fact that this new form of censorship is being directed by a government that has overseen widespread electronic mass surveillance of its people suggests they may soon alienate those that value their freedom.
The Daily Telegraph has decided to take a pop at Google's Play Store for mobile apps. There doesn't seem much evidence of 'outrage' but when did that ever stop the tabloids.
The Telegraph rolls out the outrage bandwagon:
Google is profiting from the sale of hundreds of pornographic images and books depicting sadistic acts, incest and rape which are readily available to children. It is selling titles with graphic images and content alongside children's
literature on its Google Play book store.
More than 100 of the books are in fact little more than pornographic magazines and openly advertise the fact that they contain hundreds of graphic images. Free samples are available to download, and they can be accessed on computers, tablets
and mobile phones.
Despite the graphic nature of the images Google has no age verification in place or parental restrictions, other than requiring a child to declare that they are aged 13 and above to use the Google Play store.
One parent wrote to her MP, Stephen Barclay to raise her concerns after discovering that her son had been downloading the images on his phone:
I feel they are not bothered about this problem. I don't think many parents are aware of this situation so [they] are unable to keep their children safe, as Google keeps advertising. I would like ... to find a solution through government to
put a stop to this situation and make Google more responsible.
A Google spokesman said that the company did not issue age-ratings for books because there is no certification system. The company argues that:
A 13--year-old could freely walk into any book store and browse/purchase any book he/she chose to pick up.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill has been published and includes a section extending the definition of extreme porn to include depictions of non-consensual sex.
S63 CJIA 2008 will be extended to include rape material, but the definition looks to be so wide that it might include the majority of bondage related material.
This is the crucial bit: -
Clause 16 will extend CJIA 2008 S 63 (7) legislation by inserting provisions which include: -
16(2)C: after subsection (7) insert---
(7A): An image falls within this subsection if it portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, either of the following: -
(a). an act which involves the non-consensual penetration of a person's vagina, anus or mouth by another with the other person's penis, or
(b). an act which involves the non-consensual sexual penetration of a person's vagina or anus by another with a part of the other person's body or anything else, and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that the persons were
(7B): For the purposes of subsection (7A): -
(a): penetration is a continuing act from entry to withdrawal;
(b): vagina includes vulva.
16 (3): In section 66 (defence: participation in consensual acts): - a. before subsection (1) insert---
(A1): Subsection (A2) applies where in England and Wales: -
(a): 5a person (D) is charged with an offence under section 63, and
(b): the offence relates to an image that portrays an act or acts within subsection (7)(a) to (c) or (7A) of that section (but does not portray an act within subsection (7)(d) of 10that section).
(A2): It is a defence for D to prove---
(a): that D directly participated in the act or any of the acts portrayed, and
(b): that the act or acts did not involve the infliction of any non-consensual harm on any person, and
(c): if the image portrays an act within section 63(7)(c), that what is portrayed as a human corpse was not in fact a corpse, and
(d): if the image portrays an act within section 63(7A), that what is portrayed as non-consensual penetration was in fact consensual.
My reading of this is that it is for the defence to prove that that any act was consensual. If it looks non-consensual (and a large proportion of bondage material will be interpreted that way) then the person found to be in possession of such
material will have to prove that the act was in fact consensual.
The Impact Assessment
There is an impact assessment
which provides more information, but some of it is misleading (for example 1. the justification is said to be the desire to reduce violence against women and 2. an inference might be drawn from the 1 case that is believed to have been
prosecuted in Scotland). The reality is that in England thousands of people have been caught out by S63(7) and thousands more will now fall foul of the new law.
Page 7 of the IA suggests that there will be some protection but I can't see any: -
28. There are minor risks that anti-censorship groups could see this step as an infringement on private consensual sexual activities, for example staging consensual acted rape scenarios. However, we intend to provide a limited defence to
address some of these concerns. Alongside this the measure is likely to be well received across Parliament and a range of women's rights groups in particular.
29. We also intend to make available for the purposes of the images covered in the extended offence, the existing defence for participants possessing images of themselves, provided that no harm was caused to any participant, or if harm were
caused, it was harm which was and could be lawfully consented to.
When the large ISPs rolled out their poorly-named porn filters in December, they all arrived missing an essential feature: a tool to check whether each filter blocked a specific URL or not. Without these tools from
Sky , BT or TalkTalk , anti-filter campaigners resorted to using the only such service available, which happened to be from O2 . O2 , being a mobile provider, had actually been filtering content since 2004, but its URL checker (
urlchecker.o2.co.uk ) had largely been ignored for several years.
The storm of abuse that O2 received in December was therefore quite unfair: it was targeted, not for being the worst offender, but for being the most transparent of all the mobile and broadband Internet providers.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before O2 took its URL checking service offline; and although the company denies this was done to stop people sending angry tweets, the page is still offline today, displaying the message:
Our URL checker is currently unavailable as we are updating the site.
Perhaps the provider really is updating the site... but let's not hold our breaths. If I were a manager at O2 , I probably would have reached the same conclusion: there's no point being transparent when transparency is
bad for business. Every other ISP, watching O2's support Twitter ID get bombarded during early December, will have also decided not to offer an online URL checker. Quite simply, market forces will punish any provider that breaks from the pack
and provides information about how its filter works, and which sites it blocks.
It is therefore disgraceful that the government allowed the filtering to be put in place without mandating provider transparency. Countless sites have undoubtedly been blocked in error, but it is very difficult to find
out which ones are blocked by which providers.
Sadly, we cannot expect Claire Perry MP, who is responsible for this mess, to call for this problem to be remedied. Transparency will reveal the huge extent of overblocking, which will be as bad for her career as it is
for ISPs reputations.
It is up to the public to expose this deliberate suppression of information, and to shame government into action. If you care about Internet freedom, please tweet BT , TalkTalk , Sky , David Cameron and Claire Perry to
ask why we cannot easily see what is being censored; and also ask O2 when their URL checker will be back online. Use the #CensoredUK hashtag in your tweets, and we will retweet them!
The government is drawing up a white list of a few websites incorrectly blocked by the negligent blocking algorithms that it demanded ISPs to implement.
Many of the sites on the list are those that aim to educate children and others about health, sex education and drugs issues. The whitelist will be used to ensure the those sites that cause the government embarrassment will not be immediately blocked.
The list has emerged from a working group looking into inaccurate blocking and how to fix the problem. The group is also looking into ways to set up a standard system that will let any site which thinks it has been wrongly blocked tell ISPs about the
mistake so it can get on to the approved list.
Soon the list would be shared among ISPs that had introduced network-level filters to ensure that the educational sites were widely viewable. The need for the list of sites wrongly blocked would become more pressing in 2014 as ISPs contacted established
customers and asked them to choose whether to switch on the filters, he said. Currently most big UK ISPs only ask new customers to make a choice about net filters.
A spokesman for the Internet Service Provides Association said:
There's a growing realisation that filters are not perfect and will lead to some over-blocking, There's a feeling that some sites sit in a grey area and more needs to be done for them.
David Miles, who chairs the working group on over-blocking for the government's UK Council for Child Internet Safety, said:
Eventually, standardised systems 'might' emerge that let sites check if their content falls foul of the filters, or put in place a simple way for sites to inform all ISPs that they do not have inappropriate content.
Reports that ISPs' website blocking algorithms are targeting legitimate sites are fanciful , according to David Cameron's personal Mary Whitehouse, MP Claire Perry.
Perry dismissed recent reports that the newly implemented filters were blocking harmless sites - including her own - as anecdotal evidence . She made her claims at a Westminster eForum event:
When these filters came out there was anecdotal evidence, some of it completely, completely fanciful, that sites were being overblocked. Including mine, which is ridiculous, because it wasn't
There's no database, there's no surveillance, there's no mad sense of government interference that people like to talk about. The filters you get [now] are far better, far stronger, much more effective and will not overblock.
Contrary to her comments, ISPs have faced continued criticism for blocking harmless sites.
Jane Fae, who campaigns against unfair blocking, has responded to Perry's claims:
Given that much of the evidence of overblocking takes the form of individual stories, subsequently verified by journalists such as myself, it is probably correct to state that these are anecdotes - but hardly helpful. After all, what other form would
evidence of overblocking take?
At a meeting earlier this month, members of parliament heard significant evidence from a range of groups as to the sorts of overblocking that was going on. This ranged from filter systems that allow adults to block access by abuse victims to sites where
they can seek help, to a wholly legitimate business site that appears to be being blocked for no better reason than that its owner is a transgender businesswoman.
It is clear that there are issues with filtering - and for the government's adviser on this subject to dismiss all evidence of this fact in such a cavalier fashion is wholly irresponsible.
I hope she will take up my offer to meet, and i will be happy to provide her with the more than ample evidence that has been amassed on this topic already.
Elspeth Howe has tabled amendments to the Children and Families Bill which forces ISPs to block all hardcore porn sites unless the subscriber opts to receive adult content AND the website being accessed implements onerous age verification procedures.
The required age verification is very onerous, eg requires users to submit credit card details (debit cards wont do). in reality websites cannot function with such restrictions as people aren't going to type in masses of personal details just to take a
look at an adult website.
The amendment is somewhat toned down from the ludicrous Online Safety Bill which would impose similar age verification on a wider range of websites with content not suitable for children. That bill defines adult content as containing harmful and
offensive materials from which persons under the age of eighteen are protected;
The Children and Families Bill amendment defines adult content as material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen. The authorities would like to think that hardcore porn fits the bill,
but if it did, then we would already have millions of seriously impaired young people on our hands.
Elspeth Howe's amendment to the Children and Families Bill reads:
Insert the following new Clause--
Duty to provide an internet service that protects children
(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 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)
have been fulfilled.
(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 in subsection (4) and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over before a user is able
to access adult content.
(4) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to set, and from time to time to review and revise, standards for the--
(a) filtering of adult content in line with the standards set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003; and
(b) age verification policies to be used under subsection (3) before a user is able to access adult content.
(5) The standards set out by OFCOM under subsection (4) must be contained in one or more codes.
(6) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to establish procedures for the handling and resolution of complaints in a timely manner about the observance of standards set under subsection (4).
(7) In this section, internet service providers and mobile telephone operators shall at all times be held harmless of any claims or proceedings, whether civil or criminal, providing that at the relevant time, the
internet access provider or the mobile telephone operator--
(a) was following the standards and code set out by OFCOM in subsection (4); and
(b) acting in good faith.
(8) In this section--
"adult content" means material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen;
"opts-in" means a subscriber notifies the service provider of his or her consent to subscribe to a service that includes adult content."
Comment: Elspeth Howe and Max Mosley
26th January 2013. From Alan
No, not together, although that might be fun, since the absurd Lady Howe seems to fancy herself as the national dominatrix.
This protecting children crap really needs to be resisted for two reasons.
First, it seeks to protect children by treating everyone as a child.
Secondly, it is deeply insulting and patronising to kids. A little over half a century ago, I became aware that my girl contemporaries were taking on a different, and interesting, shape. I began to research this phenomenon through two types of
literature. There were publications designed to assist the amateur and professional photographer , replete with pictures of unclothed ladies, each marked with information like F5.6 at 1/125 - really useful to someone who had used nothing
more complex than a box Brownie. And there was Health and Efficiency, designed for a readership of dedicated naturists. The innocence of naturism was emphasised by ensuring that some of the pics contained those most innocent of creatures, children.
I needed no greater subterfuge to buy these magazines than turning up the collar of my mac to cover the tie of my school uniform. I very much hope that the teenage lad of 2014 is sufficiently resourceful to thwart the ridiculous Elspeth Howe's crackpot
efforts to protect him from naughty pictures.
Where Mosley is concerned, I have mixed views. While I generally oppose censorship, I'm aware that in this case someone got outed as a spanko, because he was associated with the women, and was sacked as a result. I think the balance here comes down on
the side of protecting the identity of sex workers.
Plenty of peers stepped up to support Elspeth's Howe's proposals for onerous internet censorship but the amendment was defeated by 153 votes to 118 after the Government pointed out that it had decided that the way forwards was an agreement with ISPs for
voluntary self regulation and that legally imposed censorship was not part of that agreement (but exists as a future threat should the ISPs not achieve enough of what the government want)
This result rather suggests that Howe's similar private member's bill, The Online Safety Bill, has little chance of proceeding.
Baroness Northover (LD and government spokesperson in the Lords):
The debate on the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, was passionate, committed and informed. We all agree, as my noble friend Lord Gardiner, made clear, on our huge concern for the issues that we are discussing. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and my
noble friend Lady Benjamin have made very clear the dangerous implications of exposure to inappropriate online material. We share the common objective to make sure that children and young people are as safe as possible when they are operating online. To
answer the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, we support the principles of the amendment, rather than its measures, as she put it.
I read with great interest the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, to the debate on that Bill on 6 December. Responding for the Labour Front Bench, he showed great sympathy, as one would expect, for what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, was
arguing, but he noted,
"it needs more thinking",
"to make it fit for purpose and to guard against unintended consequences".--[Official Report, 6/12/13, col. 532.]
He rightly put his finger on our shared desire to counter the risks of the internet, and the difficulty of ensuring that we do so effectively.
My noble friend Lord Lucas has pointed out some of the technological changes which already pose challenges to the way the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has drawn up her proposals. This field is moving fast, and new social media emerge all the time. It is
for that reason that we believe that the best way forward is to challenge the industry, which knows this field best, to engage and to take responsibility. I emphasise strongly that we do not rule out legislation, but right now we believe that the
approach that we are taking is likely to be the most effective. An industry-led, self-regulatory approach will have most impact, allow greatest flexibility for innovation and is likely to be faster than any regulatory measures. Legislation can rarely
adapt and change quickly enough to respond to the constantly evolving online environment.
We also need to bear in mind the global nature of this industry. That is why it is vital that the industry engages. Self-regulation allows a broad range of interested parties to participate and, due to the global nature of the internet, is the best way
for organisations to secure agreement. We remain committed to this. It is already working well, with good progress being made to develop internet safety measures, as noble Lords have referred to.
Negligent website blocking taking full effect in the U.K. this month is causing problems for some League of Legends users who haven't called their ISPs to opt out of the screening. It seems the patcher is trying to access a couple of URLs with the
letters S and E followed by X in them, and that's enough to get a block.
Summoner Boompje noticed this a couple of days ago , posting about it on both League of Legends' official European forums and in the game's subreddit . The offending URLs are a couple of files---Varu sEx pirationTimer.luaobj and XerathMageChain
Still, for a controversial policy that has kicked out its share of anecdotal, unintended victims, snaring a League of Legends patch shows how unsophisticated things can be.
For anyone affected, the simplest solution is the best: just ask the ISP to turn off the filter. For kids in a household that won't remove the filter, the alternative would seem to be getting the patch as a .zip file from a friend.
All new web addresses registered in the UK will be screened for terms that signal or encourage serious sexual offences.
Nominet, the organisation that oversees all the UK's web addresses, said all domain names will be checked within 48 hours of registration. If an address is found to contain a prohibited term it will be suspended or de-registered. Existing web addresses
will also come under the new rules.
Once a domain name is registered it will be examined by a computer algorithm looking for terms relating to sex crimes. Any address that is flagged as containing one of the prohibited words or phrases will then be checked by a human. This is to ensure
that legitimate domain names are not suspended unnecessarily.
An example of a legitimate website, that might be flagged by the algorithm, is one set up to help victims of rape. Or where a flagged word is contained within another word. Any domain name containing a sex crime term that does not appear to have a
legitimate use would be reported to the police.
Nominet took this course of action after the publication of a policy review by former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald. However the policy added that the firm should have no role in policing questions of taste or offensiveness on the
Eleanor Bradley, chief operating officer at Nominet told the BBC that the registration service was not trying to censor the internet:
This is not about domain names that offend, or about swear words, it is about criminal acts relating to sexual offences, she said.
Nominet has notably not published the list of potentially prohibited terms.
Central to the meeting will be claims that filtering systems are disproportionately blocking sites with the least connection to the LGBT community, as well as sites dealing with sex education, violence against women and child abuse.
The meeting also looked at whether the present filtering system is adequately regulated.
The meeting was organised by journalist and campaigner, Jane Fae, who said:
According to David Cameron, filtering is so important that if companies fail to implement it, government is prepared to force them to do so through legislation.
However, this supposedly vital protection for the nation's children has been handed over to a bunch of commercial interests, based for the most part in the United States -- one of just two countries worldwide that refuses to recognise the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child.
There is no transparency to the solutions applied -- and a strong suspicion that these systems systematically block access to the very sites that vulnerable children most need to access. The excuse that every single block of an LGBT site was a one-off or
mistake is beginning to wear thin."
As far as supervision of this system is concerned, that task appears to have been delegated to a sub-committee of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).
That body, which is heavily skewed towards representing commercial interests and lacks any significant technological expertise in this area has met just once -- some weeks after the new blocking regime was set up.
Government claims that this is an important issue: yet unlike every single other form of censorship in the UK, it is not subject to regulation or independent oversight.
I believe it is time for government to consider the licensing of filtering solutions -- and to refuse licenses to any organisation that fails to explain its filtering adequately or is in breach of basic UK legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010.
Amongst the two dozen organisations that came together to discuss these issues were London Friend and Stonewall, organisations concerned with sex education and abuse, and representatives from relevant trade bodies. MP's Kate Green, Caroline Lucas and
John Leech have indicated an interest in this meeting, which was sponsored by Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, who opened the meeting by setting out his own views on the subject: it was endorsed by publications GayStarNews and Diva
How to complain about mobile filtering over-blocking
The BBFC is now involved in how mobile internet filtering works. In this post we [the Open Rights Group] explain what role they have and how you should be able to get over-blocking problems fixed.
Over Christmas there was an awful lot of understandable concern about mobile filters, especially the Parental Control filters provided as an optional service by O2. We wrote about this at the time, but for now it's worth repeating that one of the
biggest lessons was that mobile networks don't do a good enough job of explaining how their filters work, why and how they make decisions about what gets filtered, and how people can complain.
I thought it would be helpful to explain what role the BBFC now has, and explain how the process for complaints about over-blocking (or under-blocking) is supposed to work.
The BBFC's role involves three things:
Setting a framework that describes what should be considered adult content for the purposes of mobile phone filtering. They have defined a set of categories and explained what content will be considered blockable.
They offer advice to the mobile networks when they are setting their filters.
They run an appeals process, which is designed to resolve disputes about over- or under-blocking.
The BBFC do not classify individual sites for mobile networks or run a first-stage complaints process. And they aren't responsible for the decisions that mobile networks make about implementing the framework. It's also important to point out that their
framework and complaints procedure only applies to networks' under 18 filters - their default safety level - and not to other services provided for different age groups. For example, they do not regulate O2's Parental Controls, which is an optional
service designed for those under 12.
How you can complain about overblocking
You should be able to complain direct to the relevant mobile operator. The BBFC have helpfully provided email addresses for each mobile network, which is where you should direct complaints about overblocking or underblocking in the first instance. This
contact information should also be on the mobile operators' websites. In some cases it isn't, however. For example, at the moment, O2 point people at their Twitter account or forum. As we saw over Christmas, those are not helpful channels.
If you do not get a satisfactory resolution from the mobile network, you can then appeal to the BBFC. Details about how to do this are on the BBFC website . BBFC have committed to resolving the complaints they receive in five working days.
What will happen after a complaint?
If the BBFC agree that a site should not be blocked by under 18 filters, in the case of over blocking, then they will inform the mobile network, who should then remove the site from their block list. The BBFC told us that in the cases they have handled
so far, the networks have responded fairly quickly to these notifications.
The same applies for under blocking - i.e. if the BBFC decide a site should be blocked, they will inform the network and it should be added to the block list.
Things are slightly complicated with overblocking because at the moment, mobile networks are allowed to block more categories than the BBFC have set out.
So even if the BBFC decide that a site should not be blocked against the BBFC criteria for over 18 content, the mobile networks might decide that the site should still be blocked because it falls under their additional categories.
For instance, we believe most networks block information about circumvention technology, which might help people learn how to get round blocking, even though such information is not considered blockable by the BBFC. Networks also used to block
content related to tobacco or alcohol, but the BBFC framework specifically excludes sites that supply age restricted goods or services such as tobacco or alcohol. We are not currently sure if any of the networks continue to block alcohol and tobacco.
That may lead to a fair amount of confusion if the BBFC decide something should not be blocked but the mobile network decides it still fits one of their additional categories. This is made more tricky for consumers or website operators because the mobile
networks don't publish what categories they block, so it's impossible currently for someone to know in advance of any complaint.
Mobile networks need to be more transparent, consistent, clear and responsive
The BBFC site and process is a vast improvement on the previous code - it's clearer, more considered, and there's an added appeals process. They are taking the work seriously.
However, the issues with mobile networks' own implementation have not gone away. The BBFC's transparency, clarity and responsiveness cannot be a replacement for mobile networks' own information or process, because these networks will be customers' or
website owners' first port of call when they are looking for information or trying to complain.
It is still hard to get clear information from networks about what they block and why - for instance what categories they filter - and it is still hard to get information about their own complaints procedure. For example, O2 point people at their Twitter
account and forums, which to date have not been helpful. Three still link to the Mobile Broadband Group code of practice, rather than the BBFC. And Everything Everywhere used to provide a list of categories filtered by their two filtering levels, but
that link no longer works.
Families should be in a position to make informed choices about what their children can access via mobile phones. At the moment, it's not really possible for a parent to get a clear idea about what a mobile networks' default safety filters do and why.
It also should be possible for someone who runs a website that is blocked by a mobile network for no good reason to get that problem fixed quickly. They should be able to find out easily if their site is blocked on different networks. Again, at the
moment that process is not clear enough and happens too slowly.
It shouldn't be too difficult to fix these problems - it's more a question of whether mobile networks consider it important enough to spend time and resources really addressing it.
Liberal Democrats have vowed to overturn David Cameron's plans to install crap website blocking systems on home networks by default.
Lib Dem party president Tim Farron said the Government should enshrine the digital rights of the citizen and halt requirement for filters, lists or controls on legal material . R
Farron said filters were misconceived, ineffective and illiberal . A motion set to be adopted at the party's spring conference will say families and individuals should decide how they wish to use them . He warned essential sites on
sex education and gay rights were being blocked, while porn was slipping through filters. He said:
Our motion is designed to strengthen Lib Dem ministers' hands in challenging this nonsensical policy, which has yet to be brought before the House of Commons.
If the Prime Minister really wanted to protect children from inappropriate material, he'd ensure they had access to good sexual health and relationship education.
Conservative MP Julian Smith claimed: Tim Farron is clearly putting his Lib Dem leadership ambitions ahead of our children's protection.
Helen Goodman, Labour's media spokesman, said:
It is important our children are protected from 18-rated material. That should not include gay helplines or normal sex education websites but if anything the initial problems strengthen my belief that we need one unified standard and filtering system.
Labour has pledged to bring in mandatory filters if the coalition's voluntary approach is found to have failed. The party wants all filters to abide by British Board of Film Classification ratings.
Here at TF we've long been opponents of website blocking. It's a blunt instrument that is prone to causing collateral damage and known for failing to achieve its stated aims. We recently discovered that thanks to Sky's Broadband Shield filtering system,
TorrentFreak is now blocked on one of the UK's largest ISPs by users who think they are protecting their kids.
Our crimes are the topics we cover. As readers know we write about file-sharing, copyright and closely linked issues including privacy and web censorship. We write about the positives and the negatives of those topics and we solicit comments from not
only the swarthiest of pirates, but also the most hated anti-piracy people on the planet.
If the MPAA, RIAA, FACT, BPI, RightsAlliance, BREIN and every DMCA takedown company on earth want to have their say they can do that, alongside the folks at The Pirate Bay. We won't deny anyone their voice, whether it's someone being raided by the police
or the people who instigated the raid. Getting the news out is paramount.
We are not scared to let anyone have their say and we embrace free speech. But apparently the people at Sky and their technology masters at Symantec believe that we should be denied our right to communicate on the basis that we REPORT NEWS about
That's just utter nonsense.
Symantec write about viruses and malware ALL THE TIME, so are they placed in the malware and virus category? Of course not. Thanks to their very own self-categorization process they wear the Technology and Telecommunication label. Is their website
blocked by any of their own filters? I won't even bother answering that.
Examining other sites helpfully categorized by Symantec and blindly accepted by Sky reveals no more clarity either. UK ISP Virgin Media runs its own Usenet access, customers can find it at news.virginmedia.com. From there it's possible to download every
possible copyrighted movie and TV show around today, yet that service is listed by Symantec as a Technology and Telecommunication / Portal site. Download.com, possibly the world's largest distributer of file-sharing software, is also green-lighted
On the other hand, TorrentFreak -- which neither offers or links to copyrighted files and hosts no file-sharing software whatsoever -- is blocked for any Sky household filtered for under 18s? Really? Our news site is suitable for all ages yet when Sky's
teenager filter is turned on we are put on the same level as porn, suicide, self harm, violence and gore.
Sky has inevitably removed a block on TorrentFreak, after its crap new network-level filter negligently classified the news outlet as a file-sharing site. No doubt there are thousands more websites being unfairly blocked that don't quite have the
influence of TorrentFreak.
Though intended to block unsuitable content for children such as porn, gambling or violent sites, the filter also appears to be blocking legitimate sites. Sky doesn't categorise sites itself, instead working with Symantec.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants all Internet providers to block adult content by default, to protect the children. This filtering requirement is controversial for a number of reasons, not least due to ISPs' filters targeting a wide range of other
content too. Sky's newly launched Broadband Shield, for example, blocks numerous legitimate file-sharing related sites including uTorrent and BitTorrent.com, download portals for Linux distributions, and even TorrentFreak.
While most of the discussion has focused on porn, Sky's filter -- and those operated by other ISPs -- actually block a much wider range of content. Sky's The 13-years-old-and-over setting is ticked by default, which also includes dating,
anonymizers, file-sharing and hacking.
In other words, those customers who don't opt out from the 'porn filter will also have file-sharing sites and services blocked. A quick round on the internet reveals that this category is rather inclusive, and not limited to pirate sites.
Among the blocked sites are BitTorrent.com, who work with Madonna and other artists on a regular basis to release free-to-download content. The same is true for other BitTorrent clients including uTorrent, Transmission and Vuze. Tribler , which is
developed at Delft University of Technology with EU taxpayer money, is filtered as well.
Websites which offer perfectly legitimate content via P2P downloads are also filtered by Sky's default settings. This includes VODO , the distribution platform for indie filmmakers, the download page of the Linux-based Fedora, as well as the download
portal Linuxtracker .
In addition, several websites that merely write news about file-sharing issues are blocked by the filter too, including TorrentFreak .
TorrentFreak spoke with the Open Rights Group (ORG), who have been very critical of the filtering schemes in the UK. According to Executive Director Jim Killock, Sky is not the only problem here, as other UK ISPs employ overbroad blocking schemes,
including the older mobile network filters. To find out what is being blocked exactly, ORG has been building its own checking tools , as well as a website where false positives can be reported.
Whether anything can be done against the overblocking and false positives that are reported remains to be seen. For now all legitimate file-sharing services and sites remain blocked, including the article you are reading right now.