21 April 2009

Internet Censorship, Salami-style

This is bad news:

Mobile operators will appoint an independent classification body (see Glossary) to provide a framework for classifying commercial content that is unsuitable for customers under the age of 18. The framework will be consistent with standards used in other media and only treat as 18 content that would receive an 18 type classification for the equivalent material in, for example, magazines, films, videos and computer games.

Commercial content providers will be required to self-classify as 18 all content unsuitable for customers under the age of 18, in accordance with the framework. This requirement does not apply to premium rate voice or premium rate SMS (texting) services, which will continue to operate under the ICSTIS Code of Practice.

By default, all commercial content not classified as 18 will be unrestricted.

Each mobile operator will place commercial content classified as 18 behind access controls and only make it available to those customers that it has satisfied itself, through a process of age verification, are 18 or over.

The mobile operator will also place behind access controls all commercial content chat rooms, unless they are moderated chat rooms.

This doesn't apply to "Internet content" - yet:

Mobile operators have no control over the content that is offered on the Internet and are therefore unable to insist that it is classified in accordance with the independent classification framework.

Mobile operators will therefore offer parents and carers the opportunity to apply a filter to the mobile operator’s Internet access service so that the Internet content thus accessible is restricted. The filter will be set at a level that is intended to filter out content approximately equivalent to commercial content with a classification of 18.

But guess what? Once all those filters are in place, wouldn't it be really convenient - sorry, wouldn't it combat terrorism and fight child pornography - if we applied those same filters to the Internet everywhere?

See? Salami-style censorship: you won't notice a thing... (Via Glyn Wintle).

Follow me on Twitter @glynmoody.


Anonymous said...

Mobile firms have long had Internet content filters. I don't think they're very intelligent and they probable rely to some extent on self classification by websites but certainly every phone I've had I've needed to follow some procedure to get a content lock removed to allow free internet access.

So I find "Mobile operators will therefore offer parents and carers the opportunity to apply a filter to the mobile operator’s Internet access service" interesting as it implies an opt-in service as opposed to the current opt-out service.

I don't think it's too much of a leap for governments to supply anything by default in a locked down form. For the sake of the children seems to carry a lot of political weight and governments often seem to assume that restricting everyone is better than no restriction.

Glyn Moody said...

Yes, those are largely my fears: that we may be required to opt-in to dodgy stuff - and imagine how good *that* is going to look on our official government file....