UK porn filters block cathedral website, including invite to crib service

Dec 28, 2013
Anti-Porn
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Since BT activated its UK porn filters, we’ve seen many examples of perfectly acceptable sites being blocked. Alisdair Calder McGregor reported last week that the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats site, hardly a den of debauchery, had fallen victim to BT’s algorithims.

The latest, and best example to date in my view is the blocking of Glasgow’s St Mary’s Cathedral website and the personal blog of its Provost, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, as he told us on Twitter.

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And he has harsh words for Liberal Democrat ministers who allowed this to happen:

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I read both sites regularly and, needless to say, I’ve never seen anything anybody should be protected from on either of them. I suspect the reason they were blocked was because Kelvin writes a lot about LGBT issues and is a passionate campaigner for equal marriage. The Cathedral, being an inclusive and welcoming place even to atheists like me has an LGBT Group.

A filter that gets it so badly wrong is a filter that really is not worth having. The practical reality is that this techonolgy will block potentially lifesaving information from those who seek it. I was shocked to read in the Independent that BT’s filtering service gives people the option of filtering out “gay and lesbian lifestyle” content.  That’s just simply homophobic and could be harmful to young people who really need reassurance and help.

Kelvin’s harsh words about the Liberal Democrats resonate particularly because in 2005 he was our parliamentary candidate in Stirling. It is a matter of huge regret to me that we’ve lost such a strong voice for equality and human rights.

While we’re on that subject, the Herald covered his Christmas Day sermon in which he called on all politicians to use the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next Summer as an opportunity to press the case for human rights to those government leaders who think they’re an optional extra.  He said:

The city of Glasgow is the place where many eyes will be looking as we host the Commonwealth Games.

We must not shirk from naming that which is ill. For all is not well in the Commonwealth. Sadly, driven by the legacy of British colonialism, several Commonwealth countries should be held to account when they come to us. It will not merely be sports people who are here but their political leaders.

With Sri Lanka unable to face ­questions about war crimes; with Uganda and India even in these last few days attempting to turn the clock back for those who are gay, with human rights abuses across Commonwealth countries too numerous to mention, there must not simply be silence when so much of the English speaking world comes to sport and play.

That’s on his blog, too. That’s the sort of stuff these filters prevent us from seeing. Alarm bells should be ringing and Liberal Democrat ministers should be looking to see what they can do to rescue this situation. Nick Clegg has been very good at advocating the need for decent sex education as a way to build resilience against the sort of violent, misogynistic pornography that is actually only a few clicks away on any PC. It’s become very clear very quickly that these filters do exactly the sort of things that those opposing them (and who won the day) at Liberal Democrat conference last September predicted. This is the piece I wrote at the time. The motion was referred back to the Federal Policy Committee and we will presumably be debating a revised policy at a future conference.

If our ministers’ strategy was to show how ridiculous Cameron’s porn filters are, well, that’s abundantly clear now. They need to now go back to work and continue to argue for the right things. It’s talk not tech that is best at combating the malign influences of much internet pornography.

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