19 October, 2012


Ye shall not pass, ye racist perverts

It was last December when JuliaM left a comment here alerting me to the fact that this blog had been classified as "adult content" by O2 and was no longer accessible from her iPhone without registering proof of age. At the time I didn't give it much thought, instead rather enjoying the implied notoriety. I'm used to the adult content shtick on mobiles. Since retiring at the end of 2007 I've got my personal Internet access through my mobile phone and my mobile broadband dongle. Both devices were PAYG and, given that PAYG phones seem to be handed out to sprogs as soon as they can walk these days, it seemed reasonable that the default setting should be to protect the kiddiewinkies from traumatic exposure to Internet nasties — providing always that a fully paid-up adult like moi could get this filter removed without a fuss.

Actually I'm not entirely convinced even by that argument any more. Thinking back to the Middle Ages, when I was a thirteen-year-old schoolboy, when phone calls to more than 15 miles away generally had to be connected by an operator, when computers lived in large air-conditioned rooms with strengthened flooring, when I was toying with experimental improper thoughts* about the girls at the Catholic school down the road, and when, finally getting to the point, access to pornography was in theory tightly controlled, this was a time when rather naff wank mags circulated freely "under the desk" in the classroom and, you know, 50 years later, I still haven't been traumatized into a rapist monster by that, er, exposure. Perhaps we worry too much. Most kids, presented with pixelly FuckTube footage showing some overendowed naked man having his evil way with a bemused lady goat, would most likely dismiss it as "ugh! gross!" and turn to something else.

A recent experience brings the subject back to my attention. I have recently upgraded my mobile phone. The new gubbins is on contract. I was somewhat miffed to find that it still came with adult content filtering on by default — surely this could have been sorted out as an option at sale time — but I persevered with the required dummy credit card shuffle and now, over T-Mobile's 3G network at least, my Internet access is as open as it gets.

Now the Galaxy S3 is the colei canis absoluti of a phone — sort of Star Trek with a 19th century battery — and I am still a bit nervous of it, wary of accidentally making that particular combination of swipes, pinches and taps that will suddenly teleport me, quite unprepared, to Alpha Centauri. But one feature I do understand is wi-fi. And very handy it is. I have been making extensive use of the numerous free hotspots available in places of public refreshment.

My first brush with an O2 Free Wifi hotspot (in a Nicholson's pub) involved a fairly intrusive registration sequence. I rapidly confirmed Julia's experience, finding that Dogwash is on the naughty list on their wi-fi hotspot network as well as over the air. What is worrying is there is no option to override this block. It is not presented as a matter of "prove that you are old enough to deal with this stuff", but rather as "we don't think anyone ought to be looking at this and if you want to you're a scumbag".

The Cloud is a more widespread hotspot service. I have used it on occasion over the last few years, mostly at Messrs Wetherspoons' gaffs. In the past the length of time needed to boot a Windows laptop to usability (about one and half pints on a bad day) has been a bit of a disincentive. The instantly available wi-fi-enabled mobile has removed that hurdle and I fear I have rather pigged out over the past couple of months.

The Cloud's free service has a non-intrusive registration process involving no more than a valid email address, of which I have several available, and, as far as I can tell, it has so far been pretty well unfiltered. I can't claim to have sampled every naughty or, more to the point, Unrighteous site in the world, but it came as a shock yesterday to encounter this for the first time:

Accessing Stormfront and similar sites has not been an issue before.  The reconfiguration seems to have taken place yesterday, at least in SE London.

Now, why would a fine upstanding chap like Edwin want to visit a vile site like Stormfront?  Heavens to betsy!  Let's get that out of the way before we proceed, shall we?

Firstly, because it's there. I look at political websites, and I want to be able to look at any and all of them as I choose. I'm perfectly capable of laughing at the delightful tractor-stats desperation of Andy Newman, seeing through the patronizing self-referential sesquipedalianism of Richard Seymour, or rolling my eyes at the bullying fuckwittery of Sunny Hundal, ta very much. I am really not going to be perverted by the — surprisingly articulate — bollocks purveyed on Stormfront, where you can barely go more than two or three posts without somebody mentioning the baleful influence of ZOG. A sort of inverse Harry's Place: the Stormfronters blame plotting by the devious Jews for all our ills, the Harryites blame antisemitism for them.

Secondly, it's actually the Stormfront UK Newslinks forum that I visit. When the UAF site Lancaster Unity was still active, it was my daily habit to check out both sites, because, however little I agreed with their respective lines, they were both damned good news aggregators for topics that interested me in connection with the particular focus of this blog.  LU has gone, but Stormfront remains a useful source.

Am I forgiven?

Let's assume so and move on. So what's the beef?

Firstly, there does not appear to be any realistic way of either officially bypassing these filters or, as this report from the Open Rights Group suggests, of realistically challenging them.

Secondly, who is making the decisions? The Cloud's supplier is Sonic Wall, a Dell subsidiary which, if it's anything like the other netnanny suppliers, is a couple of blokes keying in URLs suggested predominantly by the Peoria chapter of the Mrs Grundy Society and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Thirdly, where is the oversight? The standard response is that the internet service providers are private companies in free competition for your custom. If you don't like what one offers, you can go somewhere else. Nice if it were true, but it's not. In practice the ISPs are an oligopoly. Oligopolies operate like herds and tend to follow each other's lead. The ISPs provide what is in practice an essential service in an organizational structure that might be better described as a "cordial loose monopoly" with little more mutual independence than the two components of Everything Everywhere Ltd: Orange and T-Mobile.

They should be subject to common carrier rules, with a preferably accountable government laying down both what conditions of service they apply and under what conditions they can refuse or degrade service.

Take another example. Remember the BNP? I write about them from time to time. Some of the more excitable commentators assume from my failure to cover the screen with virtual sputum every time I mention them that I actually support the BNP. In fact my attitude to them is pretty neutral. They are a rather inept ethno-nationalist party claiming to represent the interests of the established White North European population of the UK. Rather like the RESPECT party in fact which, pace Andy Newman and like useful idiots, is actually an ethno-religious party claiming to represent the interests of Muslims primarily of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage. Good (or ill) luck to both of them. What I am concerned about in respect of groups like the BNP is that they should be fairly treated. And yet in 2004 Barclays Bank were panicked by "anti-racist" pressure into closing the BNP's accounts. The rest of the herd followed suit and the BNP eventually had to seek banking services abroad. In my view transactional banking is a common carrier service and this should not have been allowed to happen.

For the time being, to my relief, Dogwash continues to be available via The Cloud's wi-fi hotspots. For how long remains to be seen. And if you don't toe the approved political line, as interpreted by unaccountable commercial enterprises anxious for their reputation, you will be next.

Then again you could just take up blogging about kittens.

* Embarrassed tutor: Er, my boy, I have to ask this, d'you understand, but are you troubled by improper thoughts?
Gormless student: No sir. Actually I quite enjoy them.

If it's any consolation, I couldn't get on to my own blog when on Tesco's wifi hot spot the other day..!

[Reposted] Originally posted by JuliaM to Dogwash at 20 October, 2012 07:18

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