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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Department of Dirty: is it parody if it's actually true?

As I reported nearly 3 years ago, a side effect of Vodafone UK's efforts to protect children from adult content was to block access to two popular lingerie retailers Bravissimo and Figleaves.

Vodafone customers had to literally contact their ISP, verify their age and tell them "I want access to adult content" before they could shop for bras.

Despite both retailers and Vodafone refusing my requests for comment at the time, Vodafone corrected this particular problem in just over a week.

However many readers contacted me with similar stories: an outdoor web store selling, amongst other things,  hunting knives and hip flasks; a teenage discussion forum; etc, etc.

As the Open Rights Group reports:
... a whole load of sites get blocked by mistake - from churches (they mention wine!) to political blogs that have been miscategorised as hate speech. And a lot of sites that children should have access to - such as sites on sexual health - are also blocked. Once your website is on a blocked list, there’s no easy way to get off it.
With online retailers potentially missing out on revenue (many might be embarrassed or won't find the time to change the default web block - far easier to buy knickers from a different shop) and obvious concerns about censorship it's encouraging to see the Open Rights Group bolster their campaign against "default on" web filtering with the launch of their "Department of Dirty" publicity drive.

Ultimately I'd like to see website owners who find themselves unfairly blocked by such "default on" ISP filters fight back for their lost revenue with legal action against the ISPs blocking them.

When the ISPs who voluntarily kowtow to political demands face the prospect of hefty compensation claims then just maybe they will apply proper scrutiny to the sites they choose to block.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Emergency Data Retention Legislation DRIP v Europe - now this could get interesting..

Quick one (I don't have much time for blogging at the moment). Late last night I received notification from Europe's TRIS system that UK emergency data retention legislation DRIP rushed through parliament this week was notified to the Council of Europe as a technical measure under common market trade and industry rules.

The UK government must notify Brussels under the 'Authorisation Directive' (98/34/EC) of upcoming changes to 'technical standards' that might affect cross-border trade, e.g. in the provision of telecommunications services. For more information on EC notification see my blog on the 2 remaining pieces of legislation required for the file sharing clamp-down under the Digital Economy Act.

If you're not quite following I don't blame you; what it does mean is that things could get very interesting. The UK has to ask EC for permission to re-enact an EU law the ECHR struck down as incompatible with our Human Rights.

It also means at least a 90-day window before it can become law.

Interesting times - and also interesting to note the parallel debate from parts of the establishment pushing to distance ourselves from Europe and leave the European Convention on Human Rights.