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This is the most ironic thing the U.K.'s new porn filters have blocked

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After numerous reports of harmless sites being blocked as “inappropriate,” Britain’s new Internet content filters are currently best known as a nuisance. Rather than succeeding in their intended purpose of protecting children from online porn, they’re managing to block hundreds of innocuous sites—including the homepage of the pro-censorship politician who campaigned for the filters to be introduced. 

Almost every major ISP in the U.K. has now implemented the content filters, which act as a kind of “net nanny” service to block hardcore porn, extremist political sites, drugs, alcohol, violence and suicide-related content, and a selection of other topics deemed inappropriate for children to be viewing online. When setting up a new Internet connection, customers are given the option of modifying or opting out of these content filters, but it still took less than 24 hours for someone to create a proxy service that allows people to circumvent the filters if they didn’t have access to their own ISP. 

The so-called “porn filters” have already been criticized for blocking multiple sites containing non-pornographic sexual content, including sex education and LGBT support sites. O2, one of the top four ISPs in the U.K., has even had to amend its filters after users discovered that they were blocked from various childrens’ charities, the Samaritans, and the British Library.

The latest victim of inaccurate content blocking is an ironic one: Claire Perry, the Member of Parliament who spearheaded the campaign for content filters in the first place. A vocal proponent of Internet censorship, Perry suggested that the filters to be put in place in the name of child protection, but has now found her own website blocked (along with various official U.K. government pages) because it features words like “sex,” “porn” and “rape” when referring to her support of censoring these exact topics.

Perry displayed a worrying lack of working knowledge of Internet culture earlier this year, when her website was hacked and flooded with NSFW content. She promptly pinned the blame on well-known political blogger Guido Fawkes, threatening to call the editor of the Sun, a tabloid newspaper where Fawkes wrote a regular column. This reaction was widely derided both online and by the mainstream press, as there was no evidence that Fawkes (or, indeed, the Sun newspaper) had anything whatsoever to do with the attack. 

Not only is the blocking of Perry’s website proof that the content filters are overzealous and inaccurate, but it’s also a perfect illustration of why they will almost certainly never be fully effective. As long as the filters attempt to block any and all mentions of sex and pornography, the only way to prevent mistakes like this will be to individually remove the blocks on harmless websites whenever they are reported. And, of course, a recent BBC investigation has already indicated that many of the filters are not even effective when it comes to blocking “real” inappropriate content in the first place.

Photo via policyexchange/Flickr