www.ipfire.org blocked in the United Kingdom?!

by Michael Tremer, December 25, 2013

Do you like what you are reading? Subscribe to our newsletter and don't miss out on the latest...   Join Now

According to the O2 URLCheck site, the domain www.ipfire.org is blocked by the “Parental Control” filter1.

But not only www.ipfire.org is blocked. Peter Hansteen made a list of many tech and civil liberties websites, that are blocked for “Parental Control”, as well. Among them are eff.org, amnesty.org.uk, slashdot.org, linuxtoday.com, arstechnica.com, freebsd.org and openbsd.org. Further down in the comments, you may find even more sites people claim are blocked: debian.org and ubuntu.com.

In the comments, it is also claimed by some people, that the “Parental Control” filter is a whitelist that only allows “good sites” for children under 12. So checking for tech sites may not be sufficient to say, that the government is blocking all these sites. It is suggested to not make a fuss about this. So why not?

ipfire.org and the other sites on the list are clearly not any harm to young people. There is educational content on them and therefore the UK “Porn” Filter is not an instrument to “protect” children. It is an instrument of censorship.

This gets more clear when you consider this source: It says that www.mcdonalds.com is allowed, but childline.org is blocked. amazon.co.uk is allowed, but amazon.com is blocked. Rumour has it, that this list is done for O2 by their partner that possibly is Symantec.

Arguing that the white-/blacklist is just badly done is not a valid argument for me. It does not make sense to me why some of the sites mentioned above are “good” for children and others are not. It does not depend on whether it is a white- or blacklist. Censorship remains censorship in what ever way it is done.

In Germany, we had multiple approaches to build similar instruments for “child protection”. Our government desires these instruments very much. During the public discussion, people were concerned that the filters would be abused to not only filter the content they were originally intended for, but that the filter lists may be extended over the time and more and more (by the government, ISPs and/or other stakeholders) unwanted things will be filtered, too.

The current state in the UK is, that there are three possible options you can pick from. The “Parental Control” one is the strictest one and you need to opt-in for it. So is the “Open Access” option, where “no filtering at all” is done. The default option is called “Default Safety” and used for every plan you sign up for and don’t express that you want to use one of the other two. That means the required equipment for a large-scale web filter is already in place.

Don’t you fear too that it is just a matter of time until it gets abused by someone?

1Unfortunately, O2 has taken the site down as they are “updating the site”.