As concern grows that filtering and blocking by internet service providers and mobile companies may be disproportionately targeting minority groups, organisations affected will be meeting with MP’s in parliament today to assess the scale of the problem and look at ways to make companies that filter more accountable.
Central to today’s meeting will be claims that filtering systems are disproportionately blocking sites with the least connection to the LGBT community, as well as sites dealing with sex education, violence against women and child abuse.
The meeting will also look at whether the present filtering system is adequately regulated.
The meeting is organised by journalist and campaigner, Jane Fae, who said: “According to David Cameron, filtering is so important that if companies fail to implement it, government is prepared to force them to do so through legislation.
“However, this supposedly vital protection for the nation’s children has been handed over to a bunch of commercial interests, based for the most part in the United States – one of just two countries worldwide that refuses to recognise the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“There is no transparency to the solutions applied – and a strong suspicion that these systems systematically block access to the very sites that vulnerable children most need to access. The excuse that every single block of an LGBT site was a one-off or mistake is beginning to wear thin.”
Jane added: “As far as supervision of this system is concerned, that task appears to have been delegated to a sub-committee of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).
“That body, which is heavily skewed towards representing commercial interests and lacks any significant technological expertise in this area has met just once – some weeks after the new blocking regime was set up.
“Government claims that this is an important issue: yet unlike every single other form of censorship in the UK, it is not subject to regulation or independent oversight.
“I believe it is time for government to consider the licensing of filtering solutions – and to refuse licenses to any organisation that fails to explain its filtering adequately or is in breach of basic UK legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010.”
Amongst the two dozen organisations coming together to discuss these issues are London Friend and Stonewall, organisations concerned with sex education and abuse, and representatives from relevant trade bodies. MP’s Kate Green, Caroline Lucas and John Leech have indicated an interest in this meeting, which is sponsored by Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, who will open the meeting by setting out his own views on the subject: it is endorsed by publications GayStarNews and Diva