THE UK IS ABOUT TO BE CENSORED BEYOND WHAT IS BEING SPOKEN ABOUT OPENLY IN THE PRESS. YOU CAN HELP STOP THIS.
The Prime Minister recently announced the move to introduce
legislation that will force ISPs to create default filters when people
sign up for internet services. This is being touted as a move to stop
pornographic and extremist material from getting through to end users,
including vulnerable children.
Yet, what is extremely worrying, and not yet widely known, is that
the Prime Minister's internet filters will be about more than just
Open Rights Group, which campaigns for digital freedoms, has had the
opportunity to speak to some of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
that will be constructing Cameron's content filters, discovering that a host of other categories will be on the block list, including "esoteric material" and "web forums".
This should ring alarm bells for most of us! How can "esoteric material" and "web forums" be grouped with pornography and extremist sites?
These top-level filters will be most likely be linked to a list of keywords - made by the government, of course - and any websites that have any of these keywords will be blocked/banned.
According to Open Rights Group, this list will be created behind closed doors with NO appeal mechanism.
Websites that promote “esoteric practices” whether directly or indirectly, have already been blocked on pay-as-you-go Orange phones.
Users, including myself, have had access denied to alternative belief/spirituality websites whilst using wifi hotspots in public places.
Who will determine what the word "esoteric" means? This is the first question to ask ourselves.
Will websites that mention "spiritual healing" and "reiki" be blocked
by default? Will websites that have "pagan" overtones - those which use
words like "summer solstice" or "tarot" or "wiccan" - be blocked?
Would the category of eating "raw foods" (there is a big "raw foods"
health movement in the USA, for example) be classed as cult-like or
"esoteric" material, either now or in the future, and blocked?
These are valid concerns that should not be casually brushed aside.
It is painfully obvious that the word "esoteric" is a broad catch-all
term/category that is ripe for misuse by our government.
The second question to ask ourselves is why is the word "esoteric" such a problem?
Angela Pritchard, author and researcher into the universal nature of
spirituality and consciousness, and co-author of two books on ancient
sacred mysteries, says that, "'Esoteric material' which implies all
manner of spiritual knowledge and practice, has been lumped in with the
worst of human behaviour in this filter—forming one of 9 categories,
which includes pornography, violence, and suicide related websites."
Whilst Angela agrees with the former Child Exploitation and Online
Protection Centre boss Jim Gamble, who told BBC Radio that it was
important to 'get to the root cause' of illegal pornography, she points
out that "it is important to get to the root cause of why
'esoteric material' became part of this filter, who was responsible for
adding it, what their religious or non-religious affiliations are, and
why it has not been addressed publicly by David Cameron? This appears to have been done as a very shady back-door deal indeed between the UK government and large ISP companies."
And even if you don't care much for esoteric, spiritually-based
websites, wouldn't you be enormously frustrated if a genuine, helpful
online forum that you wanted to visit was blocked, especially if that
forum had key advice that could help save a life? Many web forums give
key information on sexual health matters, abuse, addiction and so forth.
What if you unchecked the box to opt out of filtering defaults and
still couldn't get through to a legitimate site you wanted to visit?
Would you be bothered to even follow up with your ISP, especially if you
were held in a rather long phone queue? How frustrating!
business owner in East Dulwich, South East London, I had a taste of this
draconian filtering mechanism two years ago. I went to my local Caffe
Nero to have a coffee and catch up on some business administration.
Together with my wife, we run a holistic business which also mentions "Spiritual Healing" amongst other key services such as Reiki, Reflexology, Yoga and Indian Head Massage. I was stunned to find that I could not access my own website as it was blocked. The message on the screen told me it was classified under "Alternative Spirituality/Belief", and access was denied through their web filtering system called "Blue Coat".
was frustrated, not only because I couldn't access my own website, but
because others were also being blocked from visiting a website which did
not harm anyone. I eventually managed to resolve the issue but it took
time and energy to do so.
Christos, from Greece, had a similar experience five years ago when
he went with some friends to MacDonald’s in Camberwell, London in 2008.
He says the following:
"We had our laptops with us. When we tried to visit one of the
websites that at that time was offering free online courses.... we
received the message ”alternative spirituality” and we weren’t able to
access it. We were puzzled at the time and surprised. I had just arrived
in London and such an attitude did not seem one of a developed country
Personally, I see nothing wrong with seeking to empower others
through spirituality, and the ability to respect and honour all people
everywhere. Do you?
Mindfulness and spirituality are big buzz words right now, and surely fall into the category of "estoteric".
Wall Street Journal say that top companies are employing spirituality
in their vision, so why does Cameron have a problem with it?
“Other companies in the mainstream using Mindfulness include
Apple, AstraZeneca, Comcast, Deutsche Bank, Google, Heinz, Hughes,
McKinsey, Nortel Networks, Proctor & Gamble, Raytheon, Texas
Instruments, Unilever, and Yahoo. They cannot all be wrong, surely?”
Wall Street Journal
We can all understand why the government, and parents all over the
world, would want to block content that degrades both men and women, and
causes hatred in any way - websites such as pornographic websites, or
zealous religious bigotry, but to block content that seeks to uplift and
inspire others, what kind of message is that giving? That does not make
sense to me.
Public figure websites such as the Dalai Lama,
Deepak Chopra, and Neale Donald Walsch would almost certainly fall into
this category of "esoteric" and "alternative spirituality/belief." The
British Society of Dowsers and The London School of Psychic Studies
would probably fall into the category of esoteric, and so would many
other smaller, well-meaning websites.
I do not want to live in a world where website material that is
inspiring and uplifting is banned, whether intentionally, or as the
result of passing laws that make access impossible.
I also do not wish to see "esoteric material" or "alternative
belief/spirituality" lumped in with pornography and extreme hate. That
is a false and most disturbing association, and must be rectified
Many uninformed people will start to view "esotericism" and
"alternative belief/spirituality" as material that is taboo, and will
certainly wish to avoid the stigma of being associated with it.
Dara from Sydney in Australia says, "I think the thing that I
find the most disturbing though, is looking down the road to the
long-term implications. If this legislation passes in the UK, and then
other parts of the world, then that means the power exists for any
government, or many of them, to completely shut down a chunk of
humanity’s access to spiritual material online. And if the power exists,
then someday, someone is likely going to use it, to its full extent.
That’s why it’s being put in place now, hidden amidst the other issues.
The leap from people being completely banned from sharing, viewing, and
publishing esoteric material online, to people being banned from sharing
and practicing alternative spirituality in real life is not very big.
It could happen so easily once the precedent is set."
of default filtering is especially important for us to consider here in
the UK, but it really will affect many other people who don't live here.
What if a person travels to the UK for holiday or business, and then
can't access websites that they normally have access to, just because
David Cameron and his government say so?
The Open Rights Group says that this matter could be easily avoided
by simply having an 'active choice' as the ISPs originally suggested
with no preset defaults, forcing customers to specify whether they want
filters, and what filters exactly.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has repeatedly stated his
opposition to the current plans by the UK government to impose "opt-in"
web censorship, and he plans to continue advocating against these laws.
Whether "opt-in" or "opt-out" internet censorship happens or not, is up to us.
Whatever happens next, it is my belief, and I hope it is
yours too, that "esoteric material" should not be grouped with
"pornography" and "extremist" material. Useful "web forums" should also
not be blocked, in my opinion.
Please get involved, and help spread the word that this is an important matter, at a crucial juncture in humanity's history.
Let's stand together with one unanmious voice for our right to access
content that is helpful and informative. We cannot have this hugely
important issue brushed under the carpet under such a pretext.
Please sign, and share with everyone you know.
Prime Minister David Cameron, we are asking you to stop the
unnecessary censorship of helpful, genuine, well-meaning "esoteric"
websites and web forums, amongst others, so that you do not impinge on
the rights of law abiding citizens to free access of information, and to
conduct their affairs.
We also ask for clear, transparent communication on this
matter, and a promise that ensures that genuine websites and associated
businesses will not be harmed by a myopic viewpoint on what is
Who wants to be dictated to by a Nanny State? I don't.
I think this article displays a very powerful argument. I think it is really worrying that the government is trying to censor esoteric material in the same bracket as pornography and extreme violence. I think there is something sneeky going on as this is something that has no danger to the human race and if anything is beneficial. This types of spiritual websites mainly explore the theories of loving one another and improving on the well being of oneself and others. There is definitely something the government knows about that they are not letting on. I feel by censoring spiritual sites we are in a way destroying some of our heritage as all these beliefs and cultures are centuries old and they are now trying to cover up and hide these practices from the general public. Even now these sites are blocked on public hot spots. This makes you wonder what they are covering up.
I think it is wrong that we don't really have a say in what is being blocked. These top-level filters will be most likely be linked to a list of keywords - made by the government, of course - and any websites that have any of these keywords will be blocked/banned. According to Open Rights Group, this list will be created behind closed doors with NO appeal mechanism. This is really shocking as we the public have the right to be part of how the country works. We are a democracy which is developing less rights as time goes on and this is only going to get worse if we let the government take away our freedom.