Friday, October 30, 2015

Cameron's Occult Filter Slapped Down

Last year United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a system for filtering Internet content. In addition to the usual targets such as porn, the plan would filter "esoteric sites," which included pretty much anything related to alternative spirituality. Why this would be remotely reasonable escapes me, as the only people who are offended by esotericism are the kind of religious fundamentalists that should never be allowed to drive public policy.

Fortunately for those in the UK who value being able to look up esoteric material online, the European Union has voted to require Internet Service Providers to treat all Internet traffic "without discrimination," a principle which Cameron's filters appear to violate. So presumably people will once more be able to access occult websites in the UK without going through whatever rigmarole was required to bypass the filters.

This rather shows the bias inherent in the Independent's editorial style, for these filters applied not just to porn sites, but to websites that dealt with topics and lifestyles that somehow made David Cameron and his government uncomfortable -- such as those dealing with the Occult.

The fact is that the then Coalition Government attempted to cause sites that dealt with astrology, tarot, magick, the New Age, etc to be filtered out by internet service providers unless their customers had specifically opted in to search for them. This caused a lot of anger in the occult community, which has a great number of authors (e.g. myself) and providers of goods and services who were using their websites to promote their books and indeed their means of making a living.

Filtering the Internet is pretty much a hopeless task, as oppressive governments all over the world have been finding out. Within weeks of Cameron's system being announced there were already browser extensions being released to get around it, and it generated a lot of bad press for his administration all over the world.

While there are ways, official and otherwise, to get around the filters, the problem is that there are a lot of people who are not that technically savvy. There's nothing offensive, dangerous, or even that controversial about the vast majority of esoteric sites, so there's no reason to set up all sorts of hurdles that must be cleared in order to access them.

It makes me wonder who proposed the idea of filtering esotericism to Cameron's government in the first place, and what their agenda was.

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