Banks to block foreign websites in UK anti-porn Internet crusade

Summary:In support of the government's planned default Internet porn filter, UK regulators will ask banks and creditors to cut off business with legal, foreign adult websites for not having "adequate" age checks.

U.K. regulators will meet with banks and creditors next month to finalize a deal to target and cut off business with foriegn websites that offer adult content without so-called "adequate" age controls.

Credit-uk-porn

The Authority for Television on Demand (Atvod), which regulates UK websites hosting videos, claims that websites with legal adult content and no "age check" page are serving pornography directly to children.

The regulators are pushing to finalize and agreement for banks to police the Internet join the UK government's Internet proposals to enforce default content filtering at the ISP level across the UK, which has been almost universally characterized as a sort of Orwellian censorship.

That is, when it hasn't been a complete comedy of errors.

In a shockingly embarrassing turn this July, the architect behind the three-year push to mandate ISP-level Internet "browser intercept" filtering saw her website hacked - and reacted in a way that revealed she is essentially Internet and tech illiterate.

But this new twist, much like the forced filter, isn't really all that funny.

The Telegraph reports:

Damian Green, the minister for policing and criminal justice, said: “The Government supports the work that Atvod has undertaken.

This will explore with UK financial institutions and card companies the possibility of declining to process payments to websites operating outside the European Union which allow under-18s in the UK to view explicit pornographic content.”

(...) A summit will be held with the UK Cards Association, the British Bankers Association, the Payments Council, and the leading credit card companies early next month. Mr Johnson said that the financial services firms had given a “very positive response” to the proposal.

Most people consider the flagging, pedestrian nude fare from Playboy to be relatively benign and harmless - if not a fabled rite of passage for male youth from a certain era.

But the same brand of UK regulators behind the proposed bank freeze decided in January that Playboy was handing out free porn to UK kids via its websites, and punished the sagging brand: regulator Ofcom fined Playboy £100,000 "for failing to protect children from potentially harmful pornographic material."

Ofcom stated that websites Playboy TV and Demand Adult did not have acceptable age check controls and said that Playboy's failure to protect children from accessing its sites was "serious, repeated and reckless."

Similarly, Atvod is moving forward to punish all foreign websites that it thinks don't have 'adequate' age controls by cutting off the businesses from financial access to UK customers, no matter if the content is legal.

Earlier this year, UK Prime Minister David Cameron re-ignited his campaign to enact the "Great British Firewall" - a default Internet filter that he'd been (unsuccessfully) flogging since at least 2010.

In October 2011, it was revealed that Cameron and company intended to hold ISP's responsible for filtering internet content originally to appease a Christian charity - and that there was to be no technical or peer scrutiny in filter implementation.

UK ISP's have not been pleased about being put in this position, and some are openly opposed to the filter plan.

On Friday June 14, Perry had prematurely announced that ISPs would begin default filtering and requiring customers to opt-out — and she got a rude awakening when, on the following Monday, U.K. ISPs countered Perry's Friday statements to press that ISPs in the U.K. would be filtering adult content by default in 2014.

Unfortunately for Perry, saying something is true didn't magically make it so. 

The U.K.'s Internet Service Providers trade association went on record saying they remain opposed to default filtering and would do no such thing.

Citing technical realities — read: limitations of filters — and stressing responsible parenting above potential 'over-blocking' which would result in censorship, Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of trade association ISPA, which represents the UK's net suppliers, reminded the world that filtering tools are already supplied with service.

After that, the U.K. government-led push to force ISP-level Internet filtering of pornography and obscenity turned to strong-arm tactics when the government sent ISPs a letter telling ISPs they are to commit to complying with the government's demands.

Angry at demands to use misleading language with customers and commit to using untested "browser intercept" filtering (as well as give money to MP Claire Perry's undefined parental "awareness campaign"), an ISP industry member provided BBC News with a copy of the letter all four U.K. ISPs received.

The upcoming maneuver to involve banks and creditors to financially block foreign websites over undefined adult material and age check implementation - left to the judgement of the banks - is just another step towards making a complete mess out of UK Internet access.

Keeping UK citizens from buying foreign porn seems like a great deal for UK-based pornographers.

But setting banking and crediting practices - giving banks control over content and information - based on arbitrary applications of morality is a dangerous game.

And if this moves forward, most UK citizens will soon be served a version of the Internet curated by the interests of government, television regulators, and banks.

For UK citizens, access to the 'free and open Internet' will be placed much further away than "across the pond."

It will be kept out of reach.

Image via Wikicommons.

Topics: Banking, Censorship, Government : UK, Telcos

About

Ms. Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com, @violetblue) is a freelance investigative reporter on hacking and cybercrime at Zero Day/ZDNet, CNET and CBS News, as well as a noted sex columnist. She has made regular appearances on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show and is regularly interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of publications that inclu... Full Bio

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