Once it became evident that Prime Minister David Cameron was dead set on the introduction of a “think of the children” approach to web censorship in the UK, those who understand the Internet knew there would be problems.
Filters of most kinds are incredibly blunt instruments that lack the finesse to deal with the complex nature of the online world. Sadly, it didn’t take long for them to live up to that billing.
During the past few months dozens of innocent sites have been blocked – TorrentFreak included – a situation that really hits the credibility of what the government has been trying to achieve.
Blocking entities such as charities and drug advice sites obviously leads to terribly bad publicity, so the government has been looking at ways to deal with the problem. According to the BBC a working group has been looking into accidental blocking with a view to finding a solution. They believe one has been found.
The idea is that some kind of master white-list will be drawn up containing sites that have already been wrongly blocked or might find themselves subjected to wrongful blocking in the future. That list would then be passed around Internet service providers so that filters could be tweaked to avoid the censorship of innocent domains. Charities are involved in the creation of the list so it appears public service sites may be a priority.
Also under discussion is the creation of a mechanism which would allow the owners of regular but wrongly-blocked websites to contact ISPs in order to have their sites added to the white-list.
“There’s a feeling that some sites sit in a gray area and more needs to be done for them,” a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association told the BBC.
While it is commendable that the government is looking into the problem of over-blocking, one has to question why the filtering mechanisms being put in place aren’t erring on the side of caution. If some sites are in a “gray area” then they should be given the benefit of the doubt, not found guilty until proven innocent.
If a system can’t tell the difference between a sex education charity and a porn site there must be something seriously wrong. A white-list is probably just a Band-Aid.