Oppose Theresa May's Plans to Censor the Internet before it is too late

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Earlier this year my website was blocked by Virgin Media for three weeks, which meant I was unable to add or edit content, and thousands of potential customers could not access my site. This affected both my business and my brother's. We were not notified that our websites were blocked, it was discovered purely by chance.

What is blocking?

Blocking is where your internet service provider (ISP)restricts your access to the internet. This is currently done by classifying websites into broad categories, based on their content. The problem is that these categories are too broad, and too many websites, operated by small business owners, are getting blocked inappropriately.

Your ISP may have a broad category named "adult content" which sounds reasonable in terms of protecting children, but in practice includes many websites that are legitimate businesses: online bingo or lotteries, sales of essential oils, herbs, astrological services or alternative therapies can also fall into the same category. So if you switch on your child protection, you will also lose access to a whole range of other websites.

This is part of the Government's crackdown on the internet. In the name of child protection and the prevention of terrorism, the Government requires internet service providers (ISP's) like Virgin to block access to websites.

Responsible companies like Virgin at least give customers the option of switching on a child protection and/or a virus protection filter, but you cannot have a "whitelist" of sites you still want access to. Some ISP's are block by default and you have no option to switch off their filter.

HOW THIS AFFECTS YOU

According to a survey in 2014 as many as 1 in 5 websites were blocked by filters.

Source: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2014/blockedproject

The issue of blocking access to the internet raises several concerns about human rights and freedoms, especially in light of the Government's stated intention to further tighten internet regulation:

Your freedom of choice is affected:

Choice is limited - you can't see all your options... only those that have not been blocked by your ISP.

The current system is open to abuse by ISP's

Your ISP can prevent you from accessing content offered by their competitors, and/or slow down your downloads and live streaming from competitors sites. 

See the recent example in the US where Time Warner blocked their customers access to CBS http://abcnews.go.com/Business/time-warner-cable-customers-hope-build-class-action/story?id=19970548  

Your ability to earn extra income, run a home business, run an internet business can be affected:

Your ISP can block access to your own website, as happened to me and my brother. Potential customers will be unable to find you and they won't know their own ISP blocking them - they'll just think your website is having problems.


Your access to alternative lifestyles and healthcare can be restricted:

Without transparency and accountability, there is nothing to stop big pharmaceutical corporations from blocking legal sites that currently sell alternative remedies herbs, hemp oil products, essential oils, chinese medicines etc. This can prevent you from offering these kinds of services and/or sourcing these kinds of therapies for yourself.

Your Right to Freedom of Speech is affected:
If people cannot create and write independent blogs - then we cannot speak out about injustices and human rights abuses - political dissidents can be silenced easily. Anyone who speaks out against bigotry and abuse or simply opposes the Government can easily be silenced. 


This is a vital issue for the freedom of the people, democracy, and the free world. Yes we all want our children to be safe - but generalised blanket filtering of the internet is not the answer.

What needs to happen:
When we leave the EU the UK needs to legislate to fully support NetNeutrality.

Broad blanket filtering needs to stop.

• ISP companies should maintain public blacklists of blocked and illegal sites (and servers) with the reasons for blocking clearly stated.
• Consumers should always be able to opt-out of filtering systems.
• There should be more options than just on/off - there should be a consumer controlled black and white lists, when filtering is on for example consumers could switch off sexually explicit adult content and still have access to aromatherapy and alternative medical sites.
• There should be a clear communication pathway. ISP's should be required to inform website owners when their sites are blocked, give the reasons why, and there should be a clear procedure that website owners can follow to have their sites unblocked.

In the name of democracy and freedom of speech it is imperative to keep the internet free from disproportionate, unaccountable, surveillance and censorship. Once we have lost our basic human rights and freedoms it is an uphill struggle to get them back. The Government's plans to clampdown further on the internet must be resisted before it is too late. 



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