Government pipedreams on internet ratings doomed to fail
Secrecy, police censorship and no appeal are the norm
Proposals by UK Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, to introduce cinema-style ratings for websites across the globe might benefit from a little more fact-finding and a little less rhetoric. On the other hand, the danger of open-minded research, is that it might just expose New Labour waffle to the harsh realities of how things actually work.
Over in Australia, government plans to filter the entire internet are in total disarray, as a pilot exercise planned to be "all over by Christmas" has now been put back to January. Or maybe even February.
At the same time, the cack-handed approach by the Australian government on this issue – most notably by Mr Burn’em’s opposite number, Stephen Conroy - appears to have had the embarrassing effect of creating mass opposition to government proposals, by politicians, ISPs and the general public, as well as kicking off a public debate on the whole question of what the government should be censoring.
A bad year for Stephen Conroy ended in final humiliation, as it emerged last week that he appears to have been sitting on a report, handed to him in February 2008, which explained that the concept of internet filtering was "fundamentally flawed".
Meanwhile, back in Europe, the Romanian Authority for Communication (ANC) has been asking ISPs to block access to 40 websites hosted in Romania, on the grounds that they do not meet the criteria imposed by article 7 of Law no.196/2003 on preventing and fighting pornography.
The Romanian government huffed and puffed about the dangerous content of such sites, whilst ANC President Liviu Nistoran declared that the list of blocked sites would not be made public, "to avoid encouraging their accessing in the following period". Unfortunately, for Romania’s guardians of public morality, a scanned version of this list leaked online in early December and appeared to contain a well-known user-generated video-sharing website (220.ro), a redirect to a .com website and a number of websites hosted on some free hosting accounts based in Romania.
Still, this is the sort of shady censorship one would expect from a country such as Romania: in the UK, we do things very differently and the list of sites blocked by our own Internet Watch Foundation is, er, a secret.
Whilst it is quite possible that some cunning pervs might make use of a banned list to go shopping on their own account, a more plausible reason for this secrecy might be found nearer to home, in Denmark. They, too, maintain a secret list of internet sites, banned mostly at the request of the Danish police and the Danish "Save the Children" group.
Unfortunately for the Danish authorities, when this list was published on Wiki-leaks last week, it was found to contain a number of US-based sites with a prominently displayed USC 2257 notice. And a Dutch transport company (caution: according to Danish authorities, clicking this site means you could be a paedophile!).
For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of US porn publishing, the USC 2257 requirement sets a very tough standard for anyone wishing to publish pornography, including requirements to keep records of age of models, consent forms – and a contact address.
Interestingly, neither the Romanian nor Danish authorities had any complaints about sites being wrongly included on their list – until the lists were so irresponsibly published. This again is quite unlike the UK, where the IWF have never had anyone complain about being included on their unpublished list. Until a couple of weeks ago, when it became public knowledge that amongst the sites blocked was a page – including perfectly legal written content – from Wikipedia.
Despite an apparent ignorance of many of the issues involved – Mr Burn’em famously seemed to believe that YouTube and MySpace were very similar propositions – it is about time such a debate was started.
Governments have been encouraging censorship for years, and these cases provide just a flavour of what is already happening worldwide: secret listings; blocks that cannot be appealed; and judgments made by police and unelected authorities with no recourse to any court of law.
For a more detailed overview, El Reg readers might like to pick up a copy of Access Denied, published in December 2008 by MIT Press and the Open Net Initiative. This provides a country by country overview of what is happening now and the issues associated with filtering.
A major problem for any form of global ratings system is that countries cannot even agree a common age of consent, with sexual intercourse variously legal for ages ranging from 13 to 21 depending on the country you happen to reside in.
Anyone who thinks otherwise might wish to take a look at the following YouTube clip by that icon of French culture, Serge Gainsbourg. It is called "Lemon Incest" and features father and daughter in a mainstream video that would quite possibly fail the test of decency in the UK. (Perhaps the IWF should take a look?) If two countries with so much in common cannot agree on an issue of this sort, what hope can there possibly be for a global standard on "decency"?
Re: AMFM - 14:46 GMT - Yesterday
I do not and will not, pretend to understand your latest post in response to mine.
Please do not be offended by my revelation, I am more connected to posts such as your previous one @ 31st December 2008 10:07 GMT. That made more sense to the "realistic" side of my being.
But don't despair, despite my inability to decipher the whole of your cryptic message, You have struck a chord with me.
Like yourself, I read the pages of El Reg (along with many others) and despair of the world we find ourselves in. That is nothing new, despair, but hope is around the next corner or so it is said.
And that is where mere mortals fail, with hope in their heart. Am I a mere mortal? No, I am not!! I am me!!
It is at this point I will seem to digress from the subject but history is replete with such activity.
The last time, in our history (if you go back far enough), that we were subjected to Absolute Rule by one "faction" was just a little over 350 years ago.
Back then, mere mortals (subjects) rose up and fought against what they believed was wrong with the system. Nothing wrong with that, especially as in the intervening 350 years or so, "things" got better.
But maybe . . . just maybe, the Parliamentarians have just got too big for their boots this last decade or three and then some??!!
Don't get me wrong, I'm not for or against Cromwell and neither am I Pro / Anti Monarchy . . . I am a realist and the realist inside of me says this:
If it took the Monarchy 1650 years to piss off mere mortals, they must have been doing something right, because it's only taken Parliamentarians 21.21% (approximately one fifth) of that amount of time to completely get up the nose of everyone else since then!!
So, in answer to your question of: "What I propose to change anything" my answer is:
Let's go back 350 years in time, resurrect the Monarchy, bring them forward in time to the here and now & bow and curtsey as all loyal subjects should. The difference??!!
When the "powers" that prevail today bow to the Monarchy, they (the Monarchy) use that fucking sword to draw their blood and stain the carpet a proper colour of RED!!!
\ Too many Icons to choose from, Thumbs Up/Down - Stop/Go - Smile/Frown - Etc . . .But one thing it isn't . . . is a Joke Alert!!
Black Helicopters it is then . . . At least for me!!
DNAGoon Guards to InterNetional Rescue.*
I would have to agree with you that the House of Windsor continues to disappoint Right Royally ..... and thus also is Aristocracy cuckolded too.
One can but prompt and encourage and bait and lode the arsenal but if they be reduced to bit part downstairs servants rather than aspiring to the Greatness of XXXXstream Actors, with the World as their Stage on which to Serve, then so be their jolly folly ... but what a Crashing Bore for the Household Cavalry to be nursemaids and an attraction for tourists, as if visiting a Zoo.
I suppose they will blame the staff if they are shamed and tamed as a Pavlovian nodding dog. Introduce some post modern staff with some backbone and fiery imagination would cure that particular aand peculiar ailment and failure of Intelligence, Methinks Meknows We Know.
:-) A little something to put the Fear of GODs into the Realm of all that they Purvey/Survey.
* A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key which being shared here will have Bonnie Prince Charlie Virtually Energised into Stealthy Front Line Action from the Cloud with Withering Covering Fire from the Rear Echelons with Rare Raw Source, Astute Ammunition and ESPecial Equipment.
England expects ... and all that jazz.
@James Pickett - Communications Consultant
All 'Communications Consultant" means is that the person works with the media: press, radio and television, and probably studied "Media Studies" at univesity.
From the title alone - and I haven't done any checking - but I would guess if you mentioned optical fibre, X25, asynchronous transfer mode, Cisco to her she wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about.