Here are some quick updates on stories previously reported on at The Wild Hunt. In July of last year, I reported on rumblings in the UK over the possibility that new governmental policies over filtering obscene adult content on the Internet would affect non-obscene sites, including occult-oriented pages. Now, these parental controls are indeed being shown to over-block sites that having nothing to do with porn, including a news site that deals with the world of torrenting and piracy. Quote: “What happened? The broader context is that the UK government’s launched a war on internet porn, with ISPs blocking porn sites unless users specifically opt-in to access them.
I’ve long taken a keen interest in the business of Internet filtering, and how its genesis with conservative Christian social values have reverberated far beyond that niche market. However, Internet filtering issues aren’t isolated to America, and the UK is currently embroiled in a controversy over mandatory “opt-out” filters for adult content. “Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced. […] Mr Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography was “corroding childhood”. The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers. Mr Cameron also called for some “horrific” internet search terms to be “blacklisted”, meaning they would automatically bring up no results on websites such as Google or Bing.” That announcement last week was enough to generate a lot of debate over access to information, which only intensified when it was discovered that the filtering company that would implement Prime Minister Cameron’s deal with the four biggest ISPs was Chinese firm Huawei.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Associated Press are both reporting that a consent judgment has been handed down in the case of Hunter v. Salem Public Library Board of Trustees, in which Salem, Missouri resident Anaka Hunter was denied access to websites dealing with Wiccan and Native American customs due to the filtering software being used by the library. In addition, Hunter reported that she was “brushed off” and intimidated by library employees and board members. The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber, says that the library agrees to remove the “occult” filter, among others, for library patrons. The ACLU, who represented Anaka Hunter, noted that “public libraries should be maximizing the spread of information, not blocking access to viewpoints or religious ideas not shared by the majority.”
One year ago I reported on a lawsuit filed by the ACLU which accused the Salem (Missouri) Public Library with unconstitutionally blocking access to websites dealing with minority religions, and “improperly classifying them as ‘occult’ or ‘criminal.’” In that story I explained that the genesis of content filtering largely began with companies catering to culturally conservative/Christian clients who wanted to protect against what they saw as the excesses and moral decay of our society. As such, these filters often targeted “occult,” LGBT, and even politically liberal sites in addition to violent or adult-oriented destinations. As Nancy Willard, Executive Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, noted in a 2002 report, some of the largest web filtering businesses serve both government contracts and conservative religious interests. “Some of the filtering companies are providing filtering services to conservative religious ISPs that are representing to their users that the service filters in accord with conservative religious values. Some of the filtering companies appear to have partnership relationships with conservative religious organizations.
Here are some updates on stories The Wild Hunt has reported on previously. Teaching Paganism in British Schools: On Sunday I deconstructed the sensationalist Daily Mail’s assertions regarding the teaching of Paganism in British religious education courses, specifically in Cornwall. I pointed out that there is no hard-and-fast mandate requiring schools to insert Pagan religions into their curriculum, and that the RE advisory council is exactly that, advisory. Still, why let facts and reason get in the way of a good rant? That’s seems to be the position of conservative Catholic columnist Christina Odone, who uses the story as a jumping-off point to rail against any who dare place non-Christian faiths on equal ground with Christianity.