Vodafone blocks Chaos Computer Club site, fueling 'Net censorship concerns in UK

Over-blocking is a common issue with Internet filters run by ISPs in the U.K., digital rights group says

Vodafone UK isn't letting its customers access the website of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), one of the oldest and largest associations of computer hackers in Europe.

It's not clear why the mobile operator has blocked the ccc.de website since late last week, but the CCC believes it's because its site has been misclassified in the Internet filtering system used by Vodafone.

Since its founding in 1981 in Berlin, the CCC has highlighted security risks in technology affecting a large number of people, has exposed government surveillance and has advocated for privacy and freedom of information online. Every year the group organizes the Chaos Communication Congress, the largest hacker convention in Europe.

Vodafone UK did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For years ISPs in the U.K. have blocked access to websites that host images of child sexual abuse based on a list maintained by an organization called the Internet Watch Foundation. However, in 2013 the U.K. government convinced ISPs to build their own Internet safety filters in order to block sites that host content unsuitable for minors, including pornography and drugs.

The initiative was criticized by human rights and Internet advocacy groups because it allows ISPs to judge what is right or wrong for young people and opens up the door to over-blocking, where users are prevented access to non-harmful and even helpful websites and information.

"When these filters were introduced, their abuse was imminent," said CCC spokesman Dirk Engling in a blog post Friday. "Today, we are shocked to learn that they not only block access to our site, but also to our conference. We see this as proof that censorship infrastructure -- no matter for which reasons it was set up, and no matter which country you are in -- will always be abused for political reasons."

According to a check on www.blocked.org.uk, a website maintained by U.K.-based Open Rights Group (ORG), ccc.de was being blocked by both Vodafone and Three, another U.K. mobile operator, as of Sunday. The Chaos Communication Congress tickets site, tickets.events.ccc.de, was only being blocked by Vodafone.

"Overblocking is a major issue when it comes to filters that are designed to stop children and young people from seeing adult content," said Pam Cowburn, ORG's communications director, Monday via email. "When we tested the Alexa 100k websites, we found that almost 1 in 5 sites were blocked. Although many of these may have been deliberately blocked because, for example they are pornography, this high figure suggests that there is a real problem with over blocking."

Sites that have been incorrectly blocked in the past include political blogs, sites about women's rights and even a Porsche sales site, Cowburn said. A site that offers support to victims of sexual abuse and rape, aged 16 and higher, was also blocked and so were some sites that belong to charities, she said.

Users can opt out of these filters or can bypass them using technical solutions, but only a minority of them know how to do it, the CCC said. For example, it said its CCC.de server can be accessed directly via http://213.73.89.123/

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityprivacyonline safetyVodafone GroupAccess control and authenticationOpen Rights GroupChaos Computer Club

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?