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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Online Filtering Hurts Legitimate Websites

The recent report, published by the Open Rights Group and the LSE Media Policy Project, includes the list of legit websites that have been blocked because of filtering technology. According to the authors of the report, online filtering on mobile networks has lead to overblocking and can also cause some major problems for the legitimate websites if similar measures are implemented on fixed-line broadband ISP subscribers.

The report presented ten examples of incorrectly blocked websites in 2012, and insists that mobile networks in the United Kingdom can suffer from mistaken blocking. The matter is that censorship extends beyond adult sexual content since it’s difficult to determine what is appropriate.

First of all, there are two different types of over-blocking. In first case websites can be misclassified and filtered, while in second there are disputed classifications, where deciding which content should be censored requires a subjective judgment.

A number of networks believe that forums should also be blocked due to the concerns that young people can interact there with people they don’t know. On the other hand, this will also cut off education forums and peer support websites.

Among top 10 inappropriate blocks in the United Kingdom there’s a website of the French digital rights advocacy outfit, which was reported blocked on Orange’s “Safeguard” system. The list also includes a personal blog with political opinion pieces, which doesn’t contain any adult material, and St. Margarets Community Website. You might also know another suffered service – eHow.com, which is known worldwide as an advice and educational site. Finally, the service allowing people to create one-page threads to save or share from conversations on Twitter was also blocked as a clearly threatening stuff…

According to the report, the British network operators failed to provide a clear path for appealing such unfair filtering. Indeed, this may become a nightmare for legitimate businesses like clothes and underwear retailers Bravissimo and Figleaves who also got blocked!

The report in question called for the authorities to reject “default on” network censorship and instead consider the idea of providing parents with simpler choices and better, device-based instruments to protect their children from adult content. 

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