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Jimbo Wales: ISP smut blocking systems simply 'ridiculous'

Wikipedia man labels filters 'technologically incompetent'

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Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has attacked "absolutely ridiculous" network-level porn-blocking systems that are being introduced by the UK's biggest telcos over the course of the next few months.

Tory MP Claire Perry, who has pushed hard for content to be filtered by ISPs, took to Twitter on Sunday to moan about the comments Wales made in a Channel 4 News interview on Friday.

She complained that he "surprisingly confuses the issues of adult content filter+ illegal material. As PM said - child abuses images should be blocked."

But the Wikipedia chief hit back and insisted he "made no such confusion".

He had told C4 News that the filtering plan that Prime Minister David Cameron has now welcomed, after previously pooh-poohing such a system as "crude", was an "absolutely ridiculous idea. The software you would use to implement this doesn't work."

He added: "Additionally, when we use cases of a paedophile who has been addicted to child porn videos online, you realise all that Cameron's rules would require him to do is opt in and just say: 'Yes, I would like porn please.' It would do nothing to stop criminals."

Last night, he tussled with Perry during a heated Twitter exchange when he griped about the government wanting to "spend billion of pounds" on the beefing up of spooks' surveillance of Brits' online activity. He asked the MP: "Why the misplaced priorities?"

Perry was also criticised for confusing "default filters" with the issue of illegal material, such as child sexual abuse images, that are found on the web.

Wales insisted that the filters would not work and hit back at Perry, saying: "Don't support silly fantasy solutions that do nothing of value."

Earlier in the confab, he had told the MP – who has been regularly attacked for displaying a good deal of ignorance about how the internet functions – that the idea of filtering was "not even remotely pragmatic. Technologically incompetent." He then snootily told Perry, who is Cameron's adviser on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood: "The issue is 100x deeper that you know."

The MP shot back: "The WHOLE POINT is that they are not government ISP filters (excuse the shouting) but are the filters you are expected to install on every device now."

But Wales insisted that "they would be mandated by the government" and claimed that it was a "huge human rights issue". He told Perry she needed to educate herself "on how bad this stuff is".

The conversation ended with Wales inviting the politico to dinner to discuss his concerns with her privately. He told Perry: "I am happy to help formulate competent policy. This is not it."

Put a socket in it, Jimbo!

Wales has increased his lobbying against various aspects of UK government policy in the past year. He loudly complained about the now-shelved Communications Data Bill - colloquially dubbed a Snooper's Charter.

In 2012, the Maximum Leader threatened to encrypt Wikipedia if the government's net snoop plan went live.

Now, in the wake of the NSA PRISM revelations, Wales has re-announced that the website will eventually use the HTTPS protocol to keep out spies.

Wikipedia said on Friday that it would start using HTTPS by default on its site once it overcomes some problems with how its "current architecture" fails to handle the secure protocol.

Later this month, logged in users will be redirected to HTTPS. But there is no timescale set for when the website will be encrypted for all its visitors. Wikipedia recommended, in the meantime, that "privacy-conscious users" should access the site via HTTPS Everywhere or Tor.

Jimbo claimed to C4 News that it was "highly unlikely" – despite claims to the contrary – that US spooks could decrypt HTTPS. ®

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