Internet Censorship: Rating for Websites?

Data is being lost by the UK government faster than the bloggers can keep up. New laws are being created faster than ever before, and more and more surveillance and censorship systems are being put in place.

So, as the year  2008 closes, what sensible plan does the UK government put forward? Limitations on surveillance? Instructions to the police to delete all DNA samples of innocent people?

No, the government, in the guise of Andy Burnham MP talks about putting an age ranking/certification on websites.

If this was any other Western country, this would be thought of as joke, its more Kim Jong il, than freedom and democracy.

The plan has to be crackers, accept for one thing, they could be just stupid enough to try and enforce it.

Historically, this type of plan would have been thought impossible, too many websites being created every day, who would manage it, etc. But with the technology already in place in the UK, this is now,  sadly,  quit possible. There will always be loop holes, and ways around it, but they will only be for the minority, not the majority.

Andrew Burnham  stated “If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now

From this it can only be assumed that Mr Burnham is seriously considering changing the  architecture of the internet; to a place where the governments can always reach.

He goes on to say that: “I think there is definitely a case for clearer standards online. You can still view content on the internet which I would say is unacceptable. You can view a beheading.”

Its nice to know that people like Mr Burnham will become the voice of who decides what we can and can not view.

While beheadings may be awful, its important to know what is going on in Iraq. Some may say its distasteful to watch people being blown up, but the UK and US governments routinely release videos of exactly this. Some people even put these videos to patriotic music (Note: its only extremist to do this if your Muslim).

It is entirely possible that the UK government forces websites to have a “rating” or “content” marking system attached to them, and then the likes of CleanFeed can then be used to filter out content, depending on the viewer. This approach which would make it easier to see who is viewing what – by category, i.e take some of the brunt of the data mining work out of the government databases, and putting it back onto the website owners. The government could simply block sites that refused to use the certificates, or were found to be deliberately using the wrong one.

Alternatively CleanFeed could be adapted to be a more general filter. This technology exists and is used, quite legitimately, by companies like WebSense, to block inappropriate content within businesses.

Its quite common for a company to pay for a service to ensure that staff do not view certain sites, e.g sex related sites, or gambling related sites – some companies even block their staff looking for jobs.

It is entirey feasible that this type technology is deployed within every ISP in the UK, therefore stopping the UK citizens viewing whatever material the government at the time decides is inappropriate.

For the best demonstration of this technology look at China.

Will Andrew Burnham be going on a fact finding mission to Beijing, to see how they stop people getting access to the free press on day to day basis?

For those interested Mr Burnhams voting record is the same as everybody else who is keen on internet censorship:

He was strongly for the Iraq War, but against an enquiry into it. He is for ID cards, and anti-terror laws, but against a transparent parliament.

It’s a case of monitoring for good for you, but not for me.


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