back to article Culture Sec: You - Google. Where's the off switch for all this filth?

The UK government wants the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft to do more to stop child-abuse images, hate speech and other offensive material appearing on their websites. Culture Secretary Maria Miller has summoned a number of mobile, web and telecoms companies to a meeting to discuss how the tech titans can halt the …


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  1. Frankee Llonnygog

    Next thing ...

    ... the Gov will use this technology to filter out web content that's unfavourable to them. In fact, xxxx xxx xxx xxxx x xxxxx xx xxxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Safer? It has to say I've not once been punched in the face while on the computer at home or hit over the head with a metal bar, both things that have happened while I've been outside.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Why aren't knife makers doing more to ensure their knives are' used illegally?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Too close to home

        "Why aren't knife makers doing more to ensure their knives are' used illegally?"

        I assume you say that facetiously, but with one simple substitution it becomes something that is said quite regularly with a straight face.

      2. Yet Another Commentard


        And lens grinders, all those lenses in the cameras that take the images, and on the faces of some of those that look at them. Ban 'em all. (unless they donate to [insert any colour] party funds.

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Where's the off switch?

    On your PC - where is should be and always has been

    1. Curly4

      Re: Where's the off switch?

      But the switch on one's own computer dose not stop others form viewing it. What is wanted is a way to prevent anybody from viewing (child) porn. But murder has tried to be stopped every man became civilized(?) but murder still happens!

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: But the switch on one's own computer dose not stop others form viewing it

        Yes, isn't that always the case? Somebody always wants someone else (including Someone Else) to stop doing something they don't like.

  4. Fuzz

    other offensive material

    I'm worried by the scope of this new drive. I think it's important to differentiate between material that is offensive and material that is illegal. I don't like the fact that the two seem to be being treated with the same brush.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: other offensive material


      And "offensive" is very subjective. I find David Cameron's face very offensive, and probably many others do, but that doesn't mean it should be filtered.

      There are so many other problems to fix with this country, shouldn't the time be spent on that and also dealing with the source of illegal material rather than just filtering it and pretending the problem isn't there?

      1. ratfox Silver badge

        Re: other offensive material

        In that matter, I always love it when child porn and copyright theft are mentioned in the same sentence… if you try to fight for fair use rights, it means you are "siding with pedophiles".

        I wish people had not used this trick, but they have.

    2. Old Handle

      Re: other offensive material

      On the other hand, what is illegal can be pretty darn subjective two. And remember, IWF already has ISPs block "potentially illegal" images.

  5. Khaptain Silver badge

    Vicious and futile censorship.

    If they want to stop Porn, Paedo Images, Snuff etc it is very easy. All they have to do is turn of the Internet.

    It seems sometimes that the ministers et all, want nothing more than to turn the web into a Shopping Mall.

  6. Ian 62

    Illegal content is already illegal

    If its abusive, harmful, obscene or illegal, then it's already... Illegal, use the appropriate court proceedings to remove it.

    Existing laws already cover the content they want removed, so use the existing laws.

    But they dont *want that*. No, they want a nice 'off the books' list of content they want removed.

    A sit down lunch with a nice bottle or two, all on expenses old chap, here's this weeks list, see what you can do eh? Tax? say no more about it what what? Retirment soon? Lordship for you, Non-Exec for me, eh? Jolly good.

    If its on the statute books it'll require oversight, judges, courts, appeals. And we'll know when they block a site they shouldnt have. But if its done behind closed doors, if they get caught "oops, sorry mistake by the ISP". If they dont get caught.. It's all gravy.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Image blocks are already secret

      Your ISP is required to subscribe to the Internet Watch Foundation's block list. They pass that cost on to you. The IWF decide what you are and are not allowed to see. When they block something, they do not inform the owner of the web site. Your ISP does not substitute objectionable content with 'Censored by the IWF'. The only clue you get is some HTML error message implying the website owner does not know how to configure a web server.

      Increasing internet access correlates with a decrease in sex crimes. I would rather have perverts jerking off with pictures in their own homes than going out to find a real child. As for offensive content, trolls can try to give offence, but no-one is forced to take it.

      All I can say is: Maria Miller is doubleplusgood duckspeaker. Thinkpol do not need to send me to a joyfarm. I doublethink blackwhite. Minitrue prevents crimethink and sexcrime. Please do not make me an unperson.

      1. Lockwood

        Re: Image blocks are already secret

        Kroes newspeak ungood refs oldspeak "do not need" rewrite "unneed".

        Remove ununperson request.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Image blocks are already secret

        "Increasing internet access correlates with a decrease in sex crimes. " however, people who view child porn become more likely to commit child sex offenses (this has been proven beyond simple correlation).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC 12:38

          "proven beyond simple correlation"

          Citation required, or did you just make it up?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @AC 12:38

            "Citation required, or did you just make it up?" Fair comment, and I'll take the downvotes!

            Nope didn't make it up - I've seen studies that show this on more than one occasion. I'm not about to do an exhaustive search, (gods know what red flags that would throw up in PRISM!) but to get you started here's a paper that broaches this topic, with some striking figures, although it's not the study I was thinking of:

      3. Suricou Raven

        Re: Image blocks are already secret

        Minor correction: ISPs are not 'required' to subscribe. They are just aware that if more than a handful of small ISPs do not subscribe, it becomes inevitable that the government will pass a law mandating it. So they all subscribe voluntarily.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Illegal content is already illegal

      But it worked so well for Australia

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Yet Another Anonymous coward (Re: Illegal content is already illegal)

        Just to clarify, the proposed internet filter didn't happen in Australia. The government was forced to back down by a groundswell of public opposition. What remains is a patchwork of individual blocking orders against web sites involved in criminal activity (usually causing collateral damage that affects a few thousand other sites) using existing legislation, and voluntary filtering by a couple of our more obsequious ISPs.

        So, web censorship is not inevitable. It can be defeated. And, if all else fails, one can always use a VPN.

    3. Old Handle

      Re: Illegal content is already illegal

      I'm not sure if I'm going into devil's advocate mode here, but I feel the need to point out a few things:

      You can't always get a a court to take down illegal content, because the content may be in another country where it isn't illegal. For example, so-called "hate speech" is legal unless specifically inciting violence in that bastion of freedom where the government monitors all phone calls, the US of A So is most everything under the label "extreme porn".

      And regarding IWF, as far as I know, using the blacklist is still officially voluntary. They just don't want hassles from the government and they don't really care about their users' rights. Finally, the sole good thing I can say about the IWF, is they do suggest as best practices, for ISPs to display a block message rather than just 404ing it. I don't know how many ISPs have got on board with that yet.

  7. Anigel

    After all , the government has done so much research that shows the only way that paedophiles get any access to child porn or "terrorists" get any access to extremist material is via google or facebook.

    1. Jonathan 29

      It beggars belief. I am no expert on the subject, but I would think that even the least technical pedo will be running TOR,VPN services, proxy servers, steganography, deeply encrypted and disguised files and be sharing on anonymous servers and message boards. The idea that they are getting their kicks from Google image search or using that as a gateway is bizarre .

      1. PatientOne

        @Jonathan 29

        If you want to hide your nefarious activities, you might look to obfuscation. However, how do you draw like minded sickos to your site? How do you extend your network and retain secrecy and security?

        The alternative is to flood the internet with images. Don't their content obvious, either: Mix up the meta tags, use popular name and common phrases so they turn up when searching for 'innocent pictures of kittens at play' (The internet is, after all, there for our lolcat fix), and world + dog is exposed. Those who are interested in such material get their fix, and those who are not are scared that they have now been tracked and will be tarred with the 'PEDO!!!' brush, sentenced to eternity on the Sex offenders register and hounded out of town to live in a cardboard box under a bridge with no access to anything even remotely resembling technology beyond the most basic one of a crude fire. If they're lucky, that is.

        Now consider which of the two is simpler, cheaper and safer to implement and you have the reason why this issue exists. That said, the Government don't care about innocent people being exposed to illegal images: They're just glad for an excuse to push for 'filters' that can later be expanded to block other content they might find undesirable: Web censorship via the back door.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hate speech

    So let me get this right, its bad to browse hate speech, but on the other hand its fine for the broadcasters to give air time to some guy ranting it into a camera covered in blood?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hate speech

      "air time to some guy ranting it into a camera covered in blood"....

      That's next.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "ongoing battle"

    jeez, if I took every politician's blabber half-seriously, I'd shit myself in the pants how scary this monstrous internet is.

    but wait, isn't it illegal already to project such perverse images as soiled pants across the internets?!

  10. heyrick Silver badge


    Like the gummint have done such a damn fine job of getting hate speech off of the streets...

    I mean, they want to stop a bunch of loons watching the insane rantings of another bunch of loons, yet they're stuck with a suspected loon that they can't get rid of, at OUR expense ultimately, and we're supposed to take any of this seriously?

    1. Greg J Preece

      Re: Yeah...

      yet they're stuck with a suspected loon that they can't get rid of

      I highlighted the important word for you.

  11. btrower

    Maybe we should listen to them...

    Re: Miller, in her letter, said that "recent horrific events" ... had "highlighted the widespread public concern over the proliferation of, and easy access to, harmful content on the internet".

    Certainly the notion that an idiot like that can gain access to assault the Internet gives one pause. Threats to the freedom that gave us the rich function of the Internet should be sanctioned somehow. Use their own mechanisms against them.

  12. Jonathan 29

    inspiring hate

    I find the thing that really inspires me to hate and violence are the ignorant self serving pronouncements from Government ministers. Can someone please install a filter for this please?

  13. ukgnome Silver badge

    When you start to filter things you get all manner of anomalies.

    *Won't somebody think of the people that live in Scunthorpe!

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Or as I found out this morning - the DLink support forum won't let you type 'prone'. It converts it into '****e'.

      About half way down. "Not applicable..."

  14. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Why don't they just get on with announcing their white-list plan...

    To get on the list you'll have to apply, using the forms and pay the fee. When and if you're approved then your web site will be added to the list of sites UK citizens are allowed to see. Initially the fee will be laughable small, so you won't be able to object. In time it will turn into a hidden tax.

    1. Mark 78

      Re: Why don't they just get on with announcing their white-list plan...

      I think you'll find the way onto the whitelist will be via Party Donations.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why don't they just get on with announcing their white-list plan...

      It will be worse than that, anyone wanting to look at your website will be expected to apply for a Pervie Permit. One John Carr a "government internet advisor" according to the BBC, evidently thinks it would be a good thing for people wanting to access "adult" material to have to shed their anonymity. We can only hope that now the Moral Majorettes bandwagon is rolling, so many tuppence hapenny self appointed do-gooders will jump on that the whole thing will grind to a halt. Here's my dumb idea - how about having to register with the NHS anti-obesity squad before ordering pizzas on line. Anyone getting more than two takeaways a week should expect a knock on the door from a concerned cardiologist... it's for your own good, honest.

  15. GreyWolf

    Bloody noobs..

    ..government ministers who have absolutely zero clue how any of this actually works, ranting on about things they don't understand...and ignoring the things they are actually supposed to understand (namely, human nature). [Actually, this is probably just theatre, like airport security]

    Every time you ban something, it goes underground and becomes impossible to control, and a moneyspinner for criminals.

    It will end up just like the guns thing (nobody has guns except the criminals, who have as many as they want). or the Prohibition thing (people go right on drinking, thereby fundng the rise of the Mob).

    How to get rich: (1) harvest material likely to be banned while it is easy to find (2) put it on web servers that do not have a domain name associated (3) sell the IP addresses to those who want access (4) let the ISP dynamic reallocation occur (5) those who want access have to buy the new IP addresses every time they change(6) PROFIT!!!

    You can use multiple servers in multiple jurisdictions and TOR or proxies to make it hard to find you - just be a moving target.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Why is this Google's problem?

    Surely the GOVERNMENT should be tackling this, not trying to offload the problem onto Google, Microsoft and Facebook...

  17. MrMur


    Well, we always knew that the IWF (as noble a *cause* as it is) would be the thin end of the wedge. That's why so much fuss was kicked up during ScorpGate. Well, I use a small ISP and a pay through the nose for the privilege of being somewhat off the grid. What the governent doesn't realise is that some of professionals require our connections to be un-screwed about with because if your trying to fault find a busted server a plane ride's distance away, it doesn't help someone silently screwing with your connection.

    It's funny that the IWF remit seemed to change... at some point it was only supposed to stop accidental access to child abuse images. A lot of effort for something that never actually seems to happen. Anyway, this new goevernment call seems to admit that the IWF solution isn't achieving anything useful

  18. Graham Marsden

    And again: WHO DECIDES?

    What is "harmful content on the internet"? What is "illegal pornographic content"?

    Well thanks to Blair's Government, we have the Dangerous Pictures Act (aka Extreme Pornography legislation) which says that material which is legal in the rest of Europe and the USA, for example, is illegal in Britain because we are so weak-willed and lacking in conscience that we simply cannot be allowed to even see this material since we can't be trusted not to go out and do something nasty if we do!

    So google et al are going to be required to implement the Great Firewall of Britain to block this stuff from anyone with a UK IP address according to a list which, presumably, our Mary Whitehouse Brigade gives to them, based on the MWB's criteria of "We don't like this, so *you* aren't allowed to see it!"

    Won't someone think of the children (or should that be "won't someone treat the adults as children")!

    1. Magister

      Re: And again: WHO DECIDES?

      >>What is "harmful content on the internet"? <<

      Precisely. Who defines what is "harmful content"?

      At the moment, there are many people that hold a strong belief that listening to Heavy Rock or Rap music is harmful; will they ban that? How about those that people that are concerned that we are all going to hell unless we read their version of a particular book; do they get to say that every other religious book is harmful?

      This was the motivation behind the book burnings orchestrated by the Nazis. Those that fail to learn from History are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

      1. OldBiddie

        Re: And again: WHO DECIDES?

        If it's Keith Vaz you can kiss goodbye to video game websites ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And again: WHO DECIDES?

      Bloody government trying to rule our lives,

      There is some seriously twisted shit on the internet, granted, but unless someone was actually harmed in the making of it, and was NOT consenting to the making of it, then why the hell can't they put it up on the net?

      It is not like they ban some of the real sick stuff shown in cinemas masquerading as horrors.

      Just because someone watches something happening, it does not make them want to go out and repeat it...

      Rape porn is banned IIRC, yet they show rape on tv shows (just not graphically) so how come THAT is legal?

      I am very pissed off at our government with their meddling in our private lives!

  19. badExec

    Will somone think of the children!!

    There needs to be some level of network based filtering. Or at least some form of mechanism to allow my kids to surf the web without inadvertantly straying into dodgy areas. Is it such a problem for websites to have an age rating attached to them like movies and video games?

    doesnt the ISP and search engines have enough information to attach agreed ratings to the websites they serve up as available and tag them so that the browser can have lock mechanisms preventing users access to them based on individual PC settings?

    The government is the voice of the people (i know i know, not everyone but first past the post voting says that they are the best we have) so will always be swaying in the wind but until we are all qualified IT professionals that are able to expertly configure our IT equipment there needs to be some level of mass filtering process to allow the majority of people a porn free, hate free web experience.

    1. Len Goddard

      Re: Will somone think of the children!!

      To answer your questions.

      Yes, it is a problem

      No, they don't

      And for your final assertion, mass filtering is a hideously crude tool which will either be ineffective or cause a huge number of collateral problems.

      They are your kids, it is your responsibility to educate and supervise them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will somone think of the children!!

      Is there regulation to stop your kids straying into the dodgy streets and neighborhoods of real world cities?

      Is there censorship of the hoodies/neds/thugs that might do nasty things?

      No.. There is however good parenting and supervision of your child. Educating them to avoid the dangerous parts of town, how to spot a nutter from 100paces, what to do when someone asks if you'd like a sweety.

      The same things apply to the internet, TV, books, magazines. Educate your kids, and take responsibility for what they do and what goes on in their lives. NOT what goes on in mine.

    3. Mark #255

      Re: Will somone think of the children!!

      If you want the Internet to be your darling little ones' playground, then *you* pay for the [electronic equivalent of] rubberised tarmac, fences and "no dogs" signs. *I* quite like the rugged splendour of the untamed wilds and occasionally go mountaineering.

      </poor analogy>


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