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Originally posted December 7 2008 at 23:12 under Web. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled. Last modified: 09 December 2008 at 20:46

Am I In China

China, land of governmental blocking of the internet to “protect” the populous. Right? Or the UK.

Dear Internet Censors: Naked photographs of children aren't always pornography

(comic by WellingtonGrey, Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial License). Currently the page in question returns a supposed 404 page not found error. Which is interesting because a) I’ve never seen Wikipedia return such a thing. It offers to let you create the page if it doesn’t exist. b) The link from the Scorpions page clearly shows that page to be existing (by default non-existing or broken links are indicated as such) c) Connecting through a non-UK proxy gets me that page.

The complete stupidity is the aforementioned Wikinews page carries the very image being objected to, and is accessible. Oh, and a quick Google Search. And the Google Cache of the blocked page, in case you’re unfortunate enough to live in a totalitarian state. I’m sure there are probably copies of this album floating around with that cover too—is anyone owning such, or a shop selling such, really in need of being locked off from public view?

This is of course obviously the tip of a very large iceberg (particularly, I must say, the dishonest attempt at portraying the page as returning a 404 error). Stand up, while you’re still allowed.

Update: The BBC report that the IWF have withdrawn the page from the blacklist. How very kind of them. The point is that it is not the place of a wholly unelected, unaccountable charity (not even a governmental organisation) with a manifesto and agenda set and overseen by no one but themselves to police what may be illegal. It is for courts of law to decide legality, nothing else. It is also very disturbing that at least one (Be—owned by O2) ISP, and I believe others, chose to return a fake 404 page not found error message rather than at least 403 forbidden or even better redirecting to an explanatory page. Of course, the whole concept of ISP filtering at all is uncomfortable, and it is an interesting point what this does to their justification of merely being a “provider” most often cited in illegal file sharing activities.

One can’t help believe that the IWF have backed down simply because of the publicity caused (and maybe the fact that even lowly Wikipedia were considering legal action; they certainly wouldn’t want to face Amazon or Google). IWF would rather quietly get on with there “work” out of the public eye, in the shadows, unseen, the way secret police normally operate. The scary thought is that there is no obviously simple way to continually discover what their latest addition to their watch list is. What if they’d blacklisted all the pages carrying negative coverage of themselves?

And we haven’t even touched on the obvious futility of attempting to censor such a widely disseminatedimage.

There is undoubtedly more to be said here, but this was supposed to be a quick update. The coming reactions will be interesting.

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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