Saturday, 19 October 2013

Catch All??

UK VPNs Caught in Government’s Porn Filter

Mobile operator GiffGaff, running on the O2 network, has at least one VPN in UK Prime Minister’s deeply unpopular porn filter dragnet.
Media reports revealed that a number of VPNs have already been automatically blocked under the guise of a porn filter of some mobile providers. It turned out that GiffGaff has been placed on a blacklist because it could potentially let kids get around age restrictions.

As you know, Virtual Private Networks is one of the ways to route traffic away from Internet service providers and through independent providers. The services of VPN have gained popularity in many oppressive regimes which impose censorship on their citizens. Despite the fact that this method can be used to access adult content, it is obviously not the primary purpose of a VPN.

GiffGaff admitted the response received from head office has confirmed that sites and services offering any way for children to access adult material without age verification should be blocked by O2 and are not controlled by GiffGaff. Therefore, GiffGaff reserves the right to restrict access to specific services due to age restrictions.

Actually, this is the same reason UK Prime Minister used to justify a censorship program that would see new subscribers actively have to opt-in to having access to adult services. Although the proposal was initially made to protect kids, the terms of censored material were vague: aside from pornography, the policy also included sites classified as containing violent or extremist related content, as well as suicide related, anorexia and eating disorder services and even “web forums” and esoteric content. People over 18 can enable such material, but industry observers point out that the terms are deliberately vague and therefore can be applied to a wide range of online information.

As you know, Internet activists have a long history of circumventing centrally imposed sanctions. The industry observers admit that the entertainment industry’s red tape attempts to shut down piracy, via policy or any other methods, have turned into a game of whack-a-mole a long time ago. If one service is blocked or closed down, another appears in mere minutes – good example would be streaming websites, which can be accessed through proxy services hosted outside a nation state’s borders, thus making them more difficult to filter or control.

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