Site blocking will 'lead to an arms race'

Ofcom: Site blocking will 'lead to an arms race'
Site blocking plans: cutlasses at the ready

The website blocking proposals put forward in the controversial Digital Economy Act would "lead to an arms race" between ISP filter solutions and pirates' workarounds.

The comments come from Dr Bingchun Meng, a lecturer at the department of media and communications, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Speaking at the Westminster eForum debate around the Digital Economy Act, Dr Meng talked about the recent ruling that BT must block its customers' access to Newzbin, a site that was illegally sharing copyrighted content.

"The website blocking provisions of the Digital Economy Act are unlikely to be effective, but the Newzbin case set an important precedent, and one that will lead to an arms race between ISPs' filtering solutions," she said.

Censorship debate

Dr Meng compared the situation to a very different kind of web censorship, that of the Great Firewall of China, explaining that if you want to work around a firewall or a website blocked by your ISP, you'll simply find a way.

Ofcom's Campbell Cowie warned of a different kind of arms race that the Act would ramp up, arguing that out-and-out site blocking would merely see determined pirates tooling up in the great fight back.

He said, "If you're going to engage in blocking, you're engaging in an arms race. The VPNs are just the next level."


His thoughts were echoed by a number of other speakers, including Mita Mitra, the head of Internet Policy at BT, who argued that determined pirates' workarounds were also being spurred on by the ruling.

"Obviously nobody can say that things will be 100 per cent effective at all," she said. "We are seeing even from the Newzbin judgement, right off the blocks, the site began its evasive action.

"It's already on its second generation of evasive action. Same with Pirate Bay, we're seeing different generations of modification behaviour by the site to evade the blocking mechanism, as well as by end users who manage to work around the ISP [using a VPN or similar]."

The already-poo-pooed website blocking plans put forward by the Digital Economy Act were wholeheartedly endorsed by representatives of both the Motion Picture Association and Warner Brothers, and roundly panned by TalkTalk.

News Editor (UK)

Former UK News Editor for TechRadar, it was a perpetual challenge among the TechRadar staff to send Kate (Twitter, Google+) a link to something interesting on the internet that she hasn't already seen. As TechRadar's News Editor (UK), she was constantly on the hunt for top news and intriguing stories to feed your gadget lust. Kate now enjoys life as a renowned music critic – her words can be found in the i Paper, Guardian, GQ, Metro, Evening Standard and Time Out, and she's also the author of 'Amy Winehouse', a biography of the soul star.