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Big ISPs to Add ‘Report a Terrorist’ Button and Block Related Websites

Friday, November 14th, 2014 (3:11 pm) - Score 1,931

The United Kingdom’s largest four broadband ISPs, including BT, Virgin Media, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk, have reached an agreement with the Government to block their customers from accessing terrorist and extremist material on the Internet. The ISPs will also offer a reporting button so that the public can notify providers when new sites crop up (we’re sure nobody will spam that with comical suggestions).

The Government has long called for “extremist” content to be blocked using Internet filtering technologies, which began in 2011 with the anti-terrorism Prevent Strategy (here) and cropped up again at the end of 2013 as part of a report from the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Tackling Radicalisation and Extremism (here).

No doubt few right-minded people would have any serious objection to the principle of blocking websites that clearly contain terrorist material or which encourage related acts, although it’s always vital to consider context as otherwise ISPs might also end up blocking legitimate content.

Similarly there are concerns about how politicians might choose to define “extremism“, especially given that an MP for the Conservative Party recently told the boss of AAISP, Adrian Kennard, that a future government “is likely to contain a commitment to introduce Extremist Disruption Orders (EDO), which seek to restrict the harmful activities of extremist individuals who spread hate but do not break laws” (here).

Descriptions like the one above could just as easily apply to a juvenile Internet troll, or any one of us posting via Facebook on a really bad day, as they could to the leader of ISIL. Pushing further and there’s a fear that clubs for model rocket builders or fireworks developers could end up being blocked alongside more serious jihadist material, since the former touches on chemical compounds that might be considered ‘explosive’. Come to think of it, we might want to block chemistry and physics in schools in-case.. learning.

On top of that Internet filters, even the network-level ones currently being provided by the largest ISPs, remain extremely easy to circumvent (not much can be done about that one, short of physically removing the material at source; not so easy if the content is hosted outside of the UK) and it’s therefore perhaps unrealistic to think that those who share “extremist” views would not also know how to circumvent the blocks.

Questions also remain over how the new system for reporting terrorist websites will be run, although we get the impression that the plan might be to setup a specific webpage for it (one on each ISPs website) and related reports would then go through to the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU).

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

We have had productive dialogue with Government about addressing the issue of extremist content online and we are working through the technical details.”

A TalkTalk Spokesperson said:

We are committed to working with the Government to help address extremist content and are exploring ways to achieve this.”

The fact that the aforementioned ISPs haven’t been immediately able to provide us with a comment until mid-afternoon suggests that some of the details have yet to be worked out, which is alluded to in BT’s remark above. We will update again when others respond.

In the meantime it’s not currently clear when these new measures will be introduced. Privately some big ISPs are known to have expressed.. reservations.

UPDATE 9:38pm

Added a comment from TalkTalk above.

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Mark Jackson
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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14 Responses
  1. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    Is it april 1st yet?

  2. Avatar noko says:

    Excuse me while I go report conservatives.com as an extremist website.

    1. Avatar M says:

      Mark my words, if I ever see this ‘button’, this will definitely be the first website to be reported.

  3. Avatar Harry says:

    “No doubt few right-minded people would have any serious objection to the principal of blocking websites that clearly contain terrorist material or which encourage related acts”

    1. It’s “principle”

    2. I think many people would have very serious objections to exactly that. Any constraints on freedom of speech need to be very clearly thought through, and the words “contain terrorist material or which encourage related acts” are so vague as to be totally meaningless. Who decides? Quis custodiet?

    Your article goes on to express those sorts of caveats, but to my mind, the objections are strong enough that, in fact, it’s very hard to see a way to implement this sort of censorship in a way that preserves the democratic values of our society.

    The answer to unpleasant speech is open debate, not censorship.

    1. Avatar WJS says:

      It’s not as if one even needs to speculate; there’s a well established history of the government using the word “extremist” on a wide range of dissidents. Are we seriously supposed to accept that they will restrain themselves when given the option to silence those who say things they don’t like, rather than merely smearing them?

  4. Avatar terrorist says:

    hurry sort it out before uk gets hit as if im bothered especially them in London and the Cameron lot

  5. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    Slippery slope. Good intentions to begin with. Gets hi-jacked later.

    http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/triumph/tr-bookburn.htm

  6. Avatar Captain Cretin says:

    Still waiting for the Paedophile button – so I can report the Daily Mail.

  7. Avatar timeless says:

    tbh this worrying trend is highly political.. this article pretty much highlights how worrying its due to get because its almost in line with where government policy is heading.

    lm sure everyone here has heard of ASBOs well the government are introducing a version extremists.. this new law they want to introduce is very worrying because of its vagueness because at present while they say it will only affect terrorists in truth it has the potential to affect everyone. for example criticizing the government could be seen as a terrorist act and if someone should be under one of these anti-terror orders from what lve read you have to obtain permission to publish pretty much anything that goes against the government policy and to speak publicly which makes me wonder if this new law will be used against activists as much as it will be used on journalists.

  8. Avatar sentup.custard says:

    No doubt some humourless jobsworth will block the website of one of my favourite fairly local (see end note) papers, the “Hampstead Village Voice”, a satirical publication allegedly edited by Emmanuel Mustafa Goldstein, who, among other things, is the “sworn adversary of Big Brother (both the Orwellian one and the TV show)” and the leader of the “Un-popular People’s Front of Hampstonia”.

    Note – I say “fairly local” because although I live in Willesden in the London Borough of B(r)ent, not in “proper” Hampstead (which, in accordance with Mr Goldstein’s definition, I will refer to as being in the London Borough of “Scamden”), my bit of Willesden comes under “Hampstead and Kilburn” for parliamentary purposes. “Hampstead and Kilburn” is a bit of a mouthful, and nobody in their right mind admits to living anywhere near Kilburn anyway, so I live in Hampstead, OK? If you wish to distinguish my bit from that village up on the hill, then “New Hampstead” is acceptable.

    That’ll be £20 from each of you for the privilege of reading this, thank you – we Hampstonian millionaires didn’t get rich by failing to seize every opportunity possible of screwing the plebs.

    Gordon

    1. Avatar sentup.custard says:

      Edit – Brain switched off, I should have referred to it as a magazine not a paper.

    2. Avatar dragoneast says:

      Edit: remember, you just have to press the button.

  9. Avatar tim says:

    we need terrorists to get rid of Cameron and all the other psycho.s who are in the house of commons and especially at number 10 that’s good that .

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