Monday, July 29, 2013

Censoring Magick, Internet Edition

British Prime Minister David Cameron has been in the news lately regarding his proposal to set up parental controls for the Internet throughout the United Kingdom that will block pornographic material. The plan has been widely criticized, mostly on the based on the futility of trying to block the vast ocean of pornography available online. But what has not been disseminated as widely is that pornography is not the only target for the new filters. Magick is also in Cameron's sights, as Open Rights Group reports. Based on their sources, the default filtering category screen will look something like this (emphasis mine):

☑ pornography
☑ violent material
☑ extremist and terrorist related content
☑ anorexia and eating disorder websites
☑ suicide related websites
☑ alcohol
☑ smoking
☑ web forums
☑ esoteric material
☑ web blocking circumvention tools

While the fact that users can disable the filters means that this is not precisely censorship, the problem is that all of the filtering categories will be enabled by default for every Internet account. That is, if a user sets up his or her account and just takes the defaults as most people do, he or she will then have to know enough about how the system works to get back to this screen and change the options. My guess is that this won't be particularly easy to do, as the point of having everything enabled is to push users into filtering out all these categories of information.

I have to say, I find it rather bizarre that a site like Joseph Peterson's Esoteric Archives is somehow being placed in the same category as pornography, terrorism, and violence. I suppose the idea is that geometrical figures and tables of letters and numbers somehow pose an existential threat to British civilization - except that makes no sense to anyone but the most extreme religious fundamentalists. That makes me wonder who exactly is pushing Cameron to implement the filtering system, and what their real agenda might be.

This information needs to be disseminated as far and wide as possible for two reasons. First of all, it puts some pressure on the British government to re-think its filtering strategy, or at the very least change it from an opt-out to an opt-in. Second of all, if the filtering system is implemented as planned, people need to know that in order to access material related to magick they will need to manually go into their settings and turn off the relevant filtering option. Every British citizen needs to be aware that the default position of their government is to block access to this material.

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