Should ISPs filter the Internet for their customers?

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Should ISPs filter the Internet for their customers?
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Should ISPs filter the Internet for their customers?

The topic of Internet censoring ... excuse me ... filtering is certainly a controversial one. Some countries are taking a very active role in forcing ISPs to filter the Internet. But does this help or hurt their customers? A writer at Ghacks recently took a look at this divisive and very important issue.

Martin Brinkmann reports for Ghacks:

I'm following the UK's fight against porn on the Internet with fascination as it highlights how ideologists use something that everyone can agree on (protect children) to censor the Internet. If you are not living in the UK you may not have heard about it, or only read about the initiative in passing.

A filtering program is applied to customers of major Internet Service Providers in the UK since the end of 2013 either automatically or on customer request. The four major ISPs in the UK have agreed -- voluntarily -- to implement the Internet filter and while the how is left to each ISP, all have enabled these filters to a degree.

The Internet filter, or Great Firewall of Britain, is not effective in protecting children. While it blocks a good chunk of adult websites, it is overreaching in nature which means that legitimate sites are blocked by it as well.

What makes this even more problematic is that the public cannot access the filtering list which opens the door for all kinds of shenanigans. According to Wikipedia, what is called as "overblocking" is already happening in the UK as sex education, drug advice, parliament, government and politicians sites have been found to be blocked by the filter.

More at Ghacks

The Ghacks article spawned a lively discussion in the Linux subreddit:

SirJamesClifford: "The internet is should always be a self governing space, and it is the parents responsibility to take control. The same in the real world, you will tell your kids to not go to certain places and make sure they don't. Parents should filter cyberspace, not the ISP."

Silverlight42: "There's nothing new in internet filtering, it's been done and discussed to death for a long time now. This article's pretty weak, we all know that censorship doesn't really work, like prohibition or trying to get people to abstain from sex rather than educate. Yet the forces that be continue to guide us down that path."

Buzzrobot: "Coming out against porn filters is a good way to appear to be coming out for porn. Not likely to be a winning position among people who have never heard of things like free software and couldn't care less if they have."

Spivak: "And you don't think professional politicians know this? To win the battle for Internet censorship we ironically have to win the battle for porn. Keeping sex away from children is the only thing on the Internet you could actually get mass support for. Most people understand that filtering Neo-Nazi or white supremacist websites is a free speech issue but people don't have the same feelings about porn because it's not associated with speech.

If porn stops being the thing that everyone dose but is ashamed to talk about then the last remaining strong argument for censorship dies."

Taulepton: "I'm a huge fan of filters, but not by the ISPs. IMHO filtering should be done at the user level."

AnonymousPoltroon: "Australia has stupidly been down this track more than once. In the late 00's, citizens were offered free filtering software (NetAlert) as part of a 'save the children from the nasties' policy.

$85 million dollars was allocated to the rollout and only 26,000 copies were in use two years into the rollout. That's only $3000/copy. Once again trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist. There are plenty of commercial solutions for those who want them."

Oflameo: "Of course ISP's should not filter the Internet, but when Verizon Wireless can have the FCC so bribed up that they can break the Session Initiation Protocol and pretend it is the result of Network Address Translation and not get in any trouble for it is what causes issues."

More at Reddit

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