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British Library Internet Filter Blocks Hamlet for Violent Content

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 (6:02 pm) - Score 708

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.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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