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Webbed Feet UK, web developers in Salisbury, Wiltshire

How porn filters could bankrupt your business

On the face of it blocking children from accessing porn via the internet is great idea. We certainly believe that efforts should be made to prevent children from accessing unsuitable material; however it needs to be done properly. The government’s planned implementation is just as likely to punish hundreds of innocent, totally unrelated websites and companies as it is to block adult material from minors.

As web designers in Salisbury we realise how important websites can mean to businesses and have several clients that, without a website, do not have a business. Good examples are eCommerce websites, or those that rely on it for their lead generation, where thousands of pounds of revenue could be lost if it went offline.

But I don’t have anything to do with porn?

Quite simply that doesn’t matter; the majority of websites are hosted on what is known as shared hosting. This means that a single server can host potentially hundreds of websites. The government plans to block access to any server that contains porn from all 1 internet connections in the UK (unless users deliberately opt in).

So if your business website is hosted on a shared server, and another user of that server has any adult content, then your website will also be blocked from all internet connections.

Consider a local example of Fisherton Street in Salisbury that contains an adult shop. Would it seem fair to stop potential customers using every shop, pub and restaurant on that street due to a single adult business? It seems extreme, but this is exactly what will happen if the government implement this system in the way that they plan.

If that seems frightening, then consider that it is already happening on mobile phones where the filters are enabled by default. O2 blocked users from accessing a church website for over four months, despite people reporting the issue, as another website on the same server has adult content 2.

What can I do if I am affected?

One of our greatest concerns is that we have seen no assurances that collateral damage would be minimised. Neither have we seen any mention that there would be a robust and, critically, fast dispute mechanism to unblock innocent sites. We have sought reassurances from our local MP, John Glen, and if he offers any we will share them on our blog.

If you are blocked you can try and contact the relevant department to get yourself unlisted, in the best case your site would be offline for a short period of time. However it may well be that they can’t unblock your website without unblocking the offending material.

You final recourse would be to change your server, you could move to another shared host and gamble that there isn’t (and won’t be) any adult material added by others. Or of course move your site to a premium hosting account where you do not share an IP address.  This is an unnecessary expensive for many smaller websites, and transferring to any new web host will cost you time and money. Does it seem fair that your business should pay for someone else’s actions?

The start of the end?

In September 2008 Turkey banned Richard Dawkins’ site 3 due to complaints by an Islamic creationist called Adnan Oktar that his book, which contests the theory of evolution was offensive. There are many examples of the Chinese government banning websites, and could it be that the UK are heading in the same direction? Surely it is only a matter of time before this censorship of legal material expands, to other topics considered offensive by the government? Where and when is the line going to be drawn?

How can we help?

If you have any concerns about your website, please get in touch. Webbed Feet UK web design Salisbury can research into your current web hosting to see if you will be affected, as well as putting in place emergency measures to restore your website elsewhere if need be. www.wfuk.com - 01722 346400

 

[1] Although this may be limited to just new accounts, there are conflicting stories about who will have the filters enabled by default. 

[2] http://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2011/o2-bans-church-this-christmas

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_Turkey

 

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