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British Library Internet Filter Blocks Hamlet for Violent Content

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 (6:02 pm) - Score 682
censorship online

The growing use of Internet filters in the United Kingdom has claimed another innocent victim after the British Library confirmed that a man whom attempted to access an online version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was prevented from doing so because the text contained “violent content“.

The use of censorship systems in Libraries across the country is nothing new and indeed some public authorities are notorious for setting them to the highest possible level (i.e. blocking everything from porn to legal pay-day loan websites and sometimes even medical content), which means that if anything we’re surprised that something like this hasn’t happened sooner.

A Spokesperson for the British Library told the BBC:

The upgraded service has a web filter to ensure that inappropriate content cannot be viewed on-site. We’ve received feedback from a number of users about sites which were blocked, but shouldn’t have been. We’re in the process of tweaking the service to unblock these sites.”

The development comes at a time when internet filters are all over the news for various reasons, such as the imminent launch of network-level filtering (Parental Control) services by BT, Virgin Media and Sky Broadband (here). Elsewhere at least one piracy website recently figured out that you can easily trick some ISP filters into blocking legitimate websites (here).

Last month the influential Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) warned that the UK government’s move to nudge big ISPs into blocking adult websites “will be ineffective and harmful“, not least because they’re so easy to circumvent and can easily end up restricting access to perfectly legal content (here).

At least in this case the problem was identified but then not every website or online content source is as high profile as Hamlet and we fear that many overblocking problems may simply slip under the radar, quietly destroying both businesses and freedoms as they go. Whether optional or not, internet filtering will always be fundamentally flawed.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar dragoneast

    Is this just getting silly? I can’t think of a government throughout history that hasn’t tried some sort of crude control of the public’s access to information. It’s the nature of the beast. And it makes no difference. The quickest way of making anything popular is for a government to try to ban it.

  2. It is very insidious and it threatens all the freedoms and benefits which the Internet should bring. Apparently the filter has been tweaked to allow Hamlet but will technicians be able to work all day every day unblocking every single site that is falsely blocked bun filter? I don’t think so. I have put a posting in my log about the full dangers of Internet censorship

  3. My article is at http://fearthenextpage.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/why-camerons-default-porn-filters-will.html
    If you agree that censorship is a problem then write to your MP and Internet provider and sign one of the online partitions against censorship.

  4. Avatar zemadeiran

    To pee, or not to pee…

    • Avatar Gadget

      “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
      Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
      Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
      Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
      Thou comest in such a questionable shape”

      Maybe the Baird has a bit of Nostrodamus in him as well?

  5. I think people are starting to realise that the real owners, the real elite that believe they control this global fiefdom don’t want a well educated and well balanced population, they don’t want anything that could rival their control system.

  6. Avatar dragoneast

    Is the biggest threat to freedom the (well-intentioned or otherwise) blocking (accidental or otherwise) of some websites, or the commercial (even excluding government activity) data harvesting on the “free” and “open” internet. Um? Always good when you’re looking in one direction to see what’s approaching from the other.

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