News Sites, Advocacy Organizations Discovered on UK Mobile Blacklists

The Open Rights Group has been investigating what websites being filtered on mobile networks. So far, the list has been quite startling as websites like Tor and La Quadrature du Net wound up on the blacklists that have obviously have nothing to do with pornographic content. Now, more revelations are coming forward from the blacklists as fashion websites, news websites and advocacy organizations have also apparently found their way onto the blacklist as well.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The idea of these particular blacklists is to make surfing the web child friendly. So obviously, the original goal is to filter out any pornographic material. By default, these filters are on, so the web is filtered upon purchase of your cell phone. While this might seem like an innocent enough idea, Open Rights Group is finding out that there’s way more than pornography being censored.

On Monday, the initial report surfaced where political websites, Tor project and digital rights websites were also placed on UK mobile blacklists. This case already served as an excellent reminder why censoring and blacklisting websites don’t work. Some might argue that maybe these are just exceptions. Maybe these are just honest mistakes someone somewhere along the line and that what was initially discovered shows merely the limits of overblocking. Now, new reports are surfacing that these websites already previously found on the blacklist may be more like the tip of the iceberg.

The Open Rights Group has released a fresh report with more revelations on what is being blocked on mobile networks. Here’s just a sample of what is being censored right now:

– Technology news site. Blocked on Orange

– An advocacy group for technology start-ups. Blocked on Orange

– A community of ruby developers based in and around London. Blocked on Orange and Vodafone

– – An odd block as it’s classified as pornography by O2 yet currently is simply a holding page noting that the domain has been registered. Blocked on O2.

– A blog about network security. Blocked on Orange

– A forum for discussion of security vulnerabilities. Blocked on Vodafone / O2 / Orange

– Blocked on Vodafone / O2 / Orange

A reminder, these filters were only designed to block porn so that children can surf the internet.

The Open Rights Group is also encouraging UK citizens to report what websites are being blocked that have nothing to do with pornography on

Personally, I’m thinking this whole thing is getting frightening. If this is merely what is being dumped into a porn filter, what will the internet be like if major record labels or major movie studios are able to start ordering ISPs to start blocking whatever they want to block with impunity? I’d say that if this is any indication to what censorship could be like on a state level, anyone could be the victim of censorship. Anyone.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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