Continuing analysis of David Cameron’s web censorship

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David Cameron spoke on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour at 4p.m. today. I didn’t listen to it although it will be on iplayer later. I’m commenting on this article instead.

Cameron’s comments are more nuanced e.g. not confusing Tor’s “dark net” and peer-to-peer, and have advanced from earlier this week. While the original announcements on Monday were about preventing access to illegal, child pornography Cameron is now talking of preventing children “stumbling across hardcore legal pornography”. So which is it? Wasn’t it 100,000 “unambiguous” search terms which lead to illegal content? Now it’s about children happening across legal hardcore porn? It’s not the same.

Cameron disagreed with the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), Jim Gamble who said this would not have a big impact as paedophiles did not use search websites to find these images, but instead go to the “dark corners of the internet on peer-to-peer websites”.

This part is alarming: Mr Cameron said GCHQ were helping the National Crime Agency (NCA) to find people who use the “dark net” – stand-alone networks that sit separate to the web but are accessible to those that run the right software.

The problem is that it’s not illegal to use Tor and it has legitimate uses for political activists and dissidents and to evade censorship in oppressive regimes (as Cameron is intending for UK?). I use Tor and – as I have said before – I run a Tor relay.

Being a Tor user is most definitely not the same as being a paedophile accessing child pornography – so why target Tor users? I personally don’t use it as much as I used to – what does it matter if Cameron, Clegg, Miliband et al have half an hour’s notice of what to expect? This blog is pretty predictable unless I’ve got an exclusive. I’ll use it if I’m researching something sensitive or to access Pirate Bay which is blocked by court order in UK. The majority of internet traffic is peer-to-peer, probably sharing copyrighted material. So what?

“One of the things that came out of the meeting that gave me hope was that actually when people talk about these sites on the dark web where people are sharing revolting images, one of the experts said it’s not totally dissimilar to people downloading movies and music.”

I think that Cameron is responding to my criticism that Tor is not peer-to-peer. It is exactly like downloading movies and movie clips from a normal webserver. The only practical difference is that it takes longer.

“I’ve talked to parents who’ve had very direct experience of this happening, where the children were looking for something totally legitimate but ended up with, you know, some pretty horrible things in front of them …” I honestly don’t think that this happens.

Cameron is welcome to check things with me first … I won’t charge much. I’m sure that he knows many people that have my email address …

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