On no platforming (briefly)

I appear to be quoted (in short) in the New Statesman. Here, for anyone who cares, is the longer thing wot i wrote. Continue reading

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On Vladimir Putin’s sexuality – and what Jack Straw didn’t say

A cause of some jollity, of late, has been the ooo-so-risqué speculation about Mr Putin’s sexuality.

My little Putin - By Céline Lamée

My little Putin – By Céline Lamée

A random tweet, yesterday, of the image of “my little Putin” – the manly Vladimir himself astride the rainbow pony – went viral pretty quickly: speculation about a Putin/Village people tie-up has also been doing the rounds, as people have noticed the great Leader’s penchant for photo-opportunity mostly in a state of butch shirtlessness: the ruggeder the better!

But what if? What if its all actually true? A failure to comment by Jack Straw on Radio 4′s Any Questions? yesterday set my senses jangling. Continue reading

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NatWest: the bank that likes to say no (update)

So a matter of hours and a swift volte face by NatWest. “Internal communications error”, , …”central process” …”not fully understood”…etc.

I sort of expected that.

Its what all big corporates do when caught with their trousers down! Continue reading

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Its official: NatWest now censors academic work

I am, i guess, still in something of a state of shock. But then, its not everyday that one gets turned down by a bank – nor, in the process, made to feel like some sort of petty criminal.

But there it is. Yesterday, i passed all the credit checks with flying colours and NatWest appeared more than happy to open a new account to handle publishing the provisionally titled Taming the Beast, a fairly serious journalistic/academic look at the mechanisms – legal, regulatory and technological – that have been put in place over the last decade or so to control online porn.

Today, they phoned back. They’d changed their mind, refused the business because…well, because subject matter. Continue reading

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Basic fact-checking

In her address to the Westminster eForum on Child Online Protection yesterday, Claire Perry, MP, is reported as stating that her her website had never been blocked.

This, i fear, is not quite correct.

According to PCPro, Ms Perry told her audience: “When these filters came out there was anecdotal evidence – some of it completely, completely fanciful – that sites were being overblocked. Including mine, which is ridiculous, because it wasn’t”.**

This is possibly reference to a story that appeared in Forbes Magazine, itself based on a report in the Independent, that stated:

“The opt-in filters also deny access to the Parliament and Government websites and the sites of politicians, including Claire Perry, the MP who has campaigned prominently for the introduction of filters.”

Now, reading that entire piece carefully, it IS just a touch confused.

It opens by referring to “the telecoms company O2″ being “forced to amend its so-called “porn filter” after it inadvertently blocked access to charity sites including ChildLine, the NSPCC and the Samaritans”.

It then goes on to talk about how the filters “have been introduced by major internet service providers (ISPs)”.

Er, quite. As anyone who understands the industry will spot straight away, O2 is not in this respect acting as an ISP: it is a mobile broadband provider. And while ISP blocks were indeed brought in recently, mobile filtering has been a thing since 2004.

Let’s be more precise: mobile companies mostly operate an either/or adult content filter. Either material is suitable for under 18′s, or it isn’t.

Two companies – EE and O2 – offer a further optional level of block, which aims to provide an environment suitable for the under-12′s. The O2 parental control environment is possibly the most draconian regime on the net, since it is based on a whitelist. If a site is not on the whitelist, you can’t access it: and this, as the Indie correctly identifies, is an opt-in system.

To summarise, and as confirmed with O2 in the last hour, Ms Perry is not and never has been filtered or blocked by O2′s adult content system. She was, and continues to be, blocked by their parental filtering system.

Arguably, that is no great loss: the average 10-year-old is probably not greatly interested in viewing any MP’s political site. (I know my own 9-year old is mostly obsessed with mindcract and similar).

However, it is equally untrue to state that she has never been blocked. If the O2 parental controls are on, you may not currently access Perry’s website.

Although hopefully that will soon change. Public-minded citizen that i am, i have asked O2 to review this block. They are currently do so and, it is to be hoped, those under 12 will soon be as able to read about her campaigning activities as the rest of us!


** Note: the more observant reader will notice that in my intro i mentioned “blocking”, but in the line quoted here, Ms Perry refers to never being “overblocked”. That raises two possibilities. In the PCPro piece, the context suggests that overblocking is being used here to refute claims that she has been blocked. Certainly the wider press has never said “overblocked” in respect of her site.

Alternatively, she may be aware that she has been blocked, but feels that a political site is not appropriate viewing for those aged under 12. I have asked her office to confirm this one way or t’other.

Edits: as has been pointed out to me, O2 is also an ISP by virtue of its Be brand. However, unless someone wishes to provide any evidence to the contrary here, as far as i know all debate about parental filtering was in this case with respect to its mobile filtering activities.

Re-edit: And now i am told the Be brand was sold to BSkyB, so O2 don’t own it anymore!

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“Fanciful” and “lacking transparency”: the government’s filtering tsarina answers back

Oh dear. Perhaps as well that other circumstances meant i had to skip yesterday’s Westminster eForum event on protecting children online. For i am not sure i could have contained myself, listening to to Government child safety adviser, Claire Perry, MP, claiming “reports that ISPs’ parental-control filters are blocking legitimate sites are “fanciful”“.

Apparently, recent reports that the newly implemented filters were blocking harmless sites – including her own – were no more than “anecdotal evidence”.

She added: “When these filters came out there was anecdotal evidence – some of it completely, completely fanciful – that sites were being overblocked. Including mine, which is ridiculous, because it wasn’t.” Continue reading

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Thoughtless funnies

Its that week again – you know: the week when you rush round collecting receipts and filing your online tax return before handing over several thousand pounds to your fave government department.

Which is why i was working late (2am).

Which is why i was half listening to Radio 2.

Which is where i heard the Beeb reporting – as a laff! – the story of the woman who changed sex to avoid the bailiffs! Continue reading

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