If you tend to keep up with technology news, you may already have some strong opinions about net neutrality. If you happen to be in favor of net neutrality, you also may be disappointed to know exactly how much filtering of Internet traffic is already going on. Some of this filtering is being done for the purpose of protecting children – at least as it’s characterized by those behind it – and some of it is actually making the Internet a lot more dangerous for users.
Law and Order in the UK
In the UK, the Internet Watch Foundation creates a blacklist of the content that they find online and that they decide is illegal. The ISPs then use this information to censor what people are able to see on the Internet. No doubt, some of the information that is censored by this group and the ISPs is illegal and, in some cases, repulsive, but there is increasing criticism that the content being censored in the process involved are not subjected to enough transparency to be safe for the protection of people’s rights to access whatever information they wish. Additionally, the Internet Watch Foundation is not a government agency, nor is it a law enforcement agency. It is actually set up as a charity, according to the Open Rights Group.
In addition to pornography, the UK actively censors access to sites that are believed to be connected to piracy. These include bit torrent sites, USENET related sites and other sites that some ISPs in the UK do not allow their customers to access.
According to Electronic Frontiers Australia, attempts to block websites that have been found to be objectionable in some regard have resulted in sites that never needed to be blocked at all being made unavailable, as well. In fact, according to their reporting, thousands of websites were inadvertently blocked when a corporate regulator made a request to block a specific website, but made the block request incorrectly.
A Very Frightening Trend
Not only do ISPs have the power to block specific websites, they can also block traffic based on the type of traffic crossing over their lines. For example, in some cases, a user utilizing a program that is associated with copyright piracy may find that their bandwidth suddenly diminishes to a trickle, which is usually the result of some sort of traffic shaping.
In the US, this has extended to VPN services. According to reporting in several sources and research done by a reputable US VPN provider, users who utilize encrypted connections – a popular means of protecting privacy online –may have their traffic diminished in speed by their ISPs. The ISP was selectively taking encrypted traffic and reducing the level of service given to the user based on that.
For users who are concerned about privacy, encrypting information through services such as VPNs is one of the only means of assuring it to any reasonable degree. With ISPs now targeting this information, not only will they be able to censor what people are able to look at on the Internet, they will be able to prevent people from being able to use their Internet connections to their full capacity if those people simply try to protect their privacy using entirely legal and popular means.