Newzbin2 blocking court order pointless

The court-ordered block on Newzbin2 for BT customers was a while ago, but implementation was delayed due to discussion on the exact wording of the order. Yesterday, it was back in court and the precise details were set.

Reading the full judgement this morning is interesting, as it appears ineffective. The court is ordering BT to use Cleanfeed (Paragraphs 6 and 9) in order to block the site, but Cleanfeed does not work on HTTPS (Which is encrypted) as it is unable to examine the request to determine exactly what has been issued. Cleanfeed was only designed to stop “casual” access to child porn.

I notice that Newzbin2 already has HTTPS access.

Oops.

The McDonalds Diet

Oddly, calorie counting seems to be the enemy of diet food companies.

Mcdonalds Double Sausage & Egg Muffin and Hash Brown = 690 calories.

Slimfast (Or similar) shake, meal replacement bar plus three snacks (Their recommended daily intake before dinner) = 725 calories.

If I have McDonalds, I feel full until dinner (I won’t have lunch) and have the energy to do a good 45 minutes of hard exercise around lunchtime. If I have Slimfast I’m left feeling hungry all day and may end up snacking, plus I’ll lack the energy and motivation to get any exercise.

I had McDonalds this morning. I am yet to find a drawback to this plan.

I am not who I think I am

In this book, our two protagonists – a teenage boy and a girl – are chatting. They do not know what the other really looks like, for it is online via a huge role-playing game. Think World of Warcraft but more immersive. The boy has a crush on the girl, but is worried she might actually be some middle-aged bloke called Chuck.

Boy: Now, spill it. Are you a woman? And by that I mean are you a white human female? You’re not black or muslim are you?
Girl: That’s pretty specific.
Boy: Answer the question, Claire.
Girl: I am, and always have been, a white human female

Woah, random racism and Islamophobia in the middle of the book. Not cool, eh? Well, the book doesn’t actually say that, because I’m sure if it did someone would have called the author out about it by now.

You know where this is going. It’s an old trick, but it works well – swapping a more socially acceptable prejudice for one that is now unacceptable to most to demonstrate the problem.

Here’s what the book actually says:

Boy: Now, spill it. Are you a woman? And by that I mean are you a human female who has never had a sex-change operation?
Girl: That’s pretty specific.
Boy: Answer the question, Claire.
Girl: I am, and always have been, a human female

Apparently, the author (In a book published in 2011) thought that this was OK.

Really, it’s not.

I do not want to be reading a book, and it is a good book, and suddenly and without warning be faced with random bits of dialogue suggesting that my identity is invalid.

Unfortunately, mainstream media doesn’t agree with me. I recently had cause to complain about the BBC’s “Would I lie to you”, in which Nigel Havers recounted a scene in which he “went on a date with a flamenco dancer who turned out to be a man”. In much the same way as this book, I wasn’t watching some risqué comedian who is known for offensive jokes or reading the Daily Mail, this was a relatively mainstream BBC show. And it just comes on as part of planned piece of dialogue. (The text of the dialogue will be available for a few more days here)

Here was the BBC’s response:

One can argue that telling jokes or making light-hearted comments about any group of people is wrong, but usually such comments are affectionate and free from malice. We don’t wish to compile a list of banned subjects but do try to ensure that jokes on certain subjects aren’t overdone and also that they’re genuinely funny.

The BBC’s justification for throwing in scripted, planned transphobia is apparently it was “genuinely funny”. Gee, thanks.

So I’d like to make a point to any non-transgender writers or comedians, in case you are in any doubt:
Unless you’re the kind of comedian who cracks racist and sexist jokes anyway, leave the tranny jokes to Trans comedians who know how to handle it. It’s really not OK to invalidate someone’s gender identity just because they happen to have transitioned.

If you’re a racist, sexist or otherwise offensive comedian then feel free to tell whatever jokes you wish. I don’t care and I won’t be watching anyway. We have freedom of speech, and if only the known offensive comedians are telling transphobic jokes then people might finally understand: It’s offensive and promotes transphobia.

I do not want to lock myself away from the world, never open a book or a newspaper or watch TV, just in case someone decides to try to tell me I’m living a lie and that I am not who I think I am.

So please don’t try to tell me that. Because I do know who I am, better than you do.

Tory MP forgets about Trans folk, to our advantage

I’m mildly amused this morning, having run across this private members bill by Tory MP Philip Davies that’s being debated in parliament today. The bill makes positive discrimination unlawful for most protected groups, and in addition to the seven strands includes nationality and socio-economic status.

But he forgets about Trans people – so by implication, it’s OK to positively discriminate in favor of trans folk.

I’ll guess that’s not what he intended!

(The commons briefing paper produced to go along with this bill also points out the discrepancy, so it’ll no doubt get fixed – assuming the bill goes anywhere, which is unlikely)

Smut Filter: The answers

From multiple reports this morning, it seems the Big 4 ISPs are not too happy with Camerons announcement of his anti-porn initiative, and he’s made out it’s far more wide-reaching than it is really. But we do have a few answers, courtesy of Slightly Right of Centre (Who first reported on the ISP response), the Telegraph, the Guardian and of course El Reg.

Is it opt-in or opt-out? “Active choice” has been touted – customers will need to answer one way or another, without any default. However, reading between the lines it seems ISPs are (unsurprisingly) leaning towards a more opt-in model and it will not be switched on be default for existing customers.

Who decides what will be blocked? Will the block list be public? How do you appeal? Who can appeal? It’s wide ranging, which is worrying, as we’re told “as well as pornography, parents will be able to block access to gambling and other adult websites.” “Other adult websites” likely includes “things parents might or might not disagree with morally, such as sites to help LGBT youth”. It’s entirely possible that this initiative conflicts with Cameron’s recent focus on forced marriage. If web blocking becomes more widespread, with many options on what can be blocked and no central regulation, those who need help may well be unable to get it as easily.

But every ISP will apparently be using different technology, so it’s possible that there will not be any central block list but the possibility of some sites being blocked on one ISP and not on another with no clear route to resolve issues. With blocks on mobile devices, it is already very hard, if not impossible, to get an inaccurately listed site allowed as there is simply nobody to get in contact with about it. “ParentPort” (Which is a non-government collaboration between various media regulators) is repeatedly mentioned, but that may just be a clearing house for reports.

Who pays? No answer on this one, but it’s sounding like it’ll be the ISPs are going to be funding it – which means a slight increase in Broadband cost for everyone.

How is it going to work technically? According to the Telegraph, Cameron has been accused of “misunderstanding what is technically possible“. So it’s quite possible this hasn’t been figured out yet – more than likely, with secure sites and proxies, the blocks will only stop casual access. This is at least slightly mitigates other problems as anyone that needs help on a topic may be able to get around the filters.

Smut filter: The unanswered questions

“Confusion reigns” over the new proposal to filter internet access, because it has not been properly announced yet. Or, more likely, because it’s not been properly thought out. What we do know is that we know very little, but that’s OK because that well known technical expert, David Cameron, will be telling us all about it “later today”.

Is it opt-in or opt-out? Opt-out, i.e. switched on by default, is clearly a bad thing. The big four ISPs involved in this seem not to know themselves, but commercial pressures will tend towards it being opt-in only. Filtering costs money, and there are very small margins in the retail ISP industry.

Who decides what will be blocked? Someone has to make some policy decisions on what is acceptable – is what going to be the government or ISPs? Do we block just hard-core porn? What about page 3 images? Sites linked to terrorism? Sexual health sites? Sites accused of providing access to copyrighted material? Sites for dealing with LGBT issues, domestic violence, forced marriage… the list goes on. This is a big issue, because of the danger of further marginalising certain groups. What is acceptable content to one group is not acceptable to another.

Who pays? If it’s free, then you are effectively paying a tax on your unfiltered broadband service in order to subsidise those who do want filtering. Or will there be government money for this?

Will the block list be public? If a site ends up on the list without intending to, because of one image, will they be notified? This happened to Wikipedia with the IWF kiddy porn list, because of differences of opinion in what constituted child pornography, but the IWF list is not public.

How do you appeal? Who can appeal? Another messy area. Your site ends up on the block list, what now? Is there a presumption of removal until it’s shown it’s definitely infringing? For commercial sites, being blocked for even a few days could send them out of business. What if it’s a foreign site, does the site owner need to appeal or can anyone do it?

How is it going to work technically? We already have the IWF child porn block on many ISPs, but that is only intended to stop accidental, casual access. It’s trivial to bypass. If a site switches to secure connections (HTTPS) what then? Or connections on ports other than the default web port? Will whole sites be blocked or just the specific image or page that’s a problem? What about proxy sites? I’d expect well-advertised proxy sites and software to spring up the moment any filtering system goes live. “No dear, I’m not looking at porn online. How can I, we have a filtered connection!

I don’t expect these to get answered today of course, because from the reactions of the big four ISPs it appears that this hasn’t been thought through.

Religions against Religious Freedoms

I’m always surprised that it’s often the most religious of people who are against religious freedoms and liberal humanists and secular folk who are left to argue against discrimination. I probably should not be surprised, but perhaps the constant tirades from the church and “journalists” in newspapers like the Daily Mail complaining about how they ‘re being repressed has had some effect on me.

A case in point is the current debate over equal marriage. The Catholic Church and Church of England are against equal marriage with the latter stating that “the Church’s view remains of marriage as the life-long union between a man and a woman”. Well, that’s fine: nobody is asking you to conduct same-sex marriage. If you do not want to, I have no wish to make you because I respect your religious freedoms.

But by campaigning against allowing same-sex marriage at all, and in particular against religious same-sex marriage, they’re oppressing other religions: Quakers are the example I use because so many spoke up in favour of religious equal marriage at the Liberal Democrat conference debate on Equal Marriage.

It is ironic that the Church of England should engage in this given it was formed due to a difference in opinions over marriage: King Henry VIII wanted to re-marry. Rome said no, so Henry took charge of the Church of England and seceded from papal authority. Nowadays, we have a diverse mix of religions in the United Kingdom and the Church of England does not exert total control over everyone else, so it can’t adopt the Catholic approach. Instead, it has to campaign against religious freedoms in order to impose it’s own moral views on everyone else.

Unfortunately, this tendency is not confined to Christianity. At a Secular and Humanist Liberal Democrat debate at conference last year, there was a ban-the-burqa debate. It was some Muslims who wanted to ban it, whereas I think universally every atheist, humanist and secular person in the audience was highly sceptical. “What about people who want to wear one?”

The theme was repeated at this autumns debate on Sharia law, with some people (Not Liberal Democrats, as far as I could tell!) calling it to be banned in the UK. At the moment, it can only be used by agreement of both sides in arbitration of a civil dispute.

The quality of the debate on the ban-the-law side was rather poor and focused on the fact that under Sharia law, people can be executed. Well, we’re not totally guilt-free on that topic in the Western world – look at America. And just as there is debate in the west on the use of the death penalty, there is debate amongst Sharia scholars about it’s use too.

But in the UK It may not be particularly surprising if I point out that attempting to execute someone as a result of a decision in an arbitration tribunal actually isn’t allowed in the UK. It would be illegal. So they wanted to ban something that’s already illegal? Hmm.

As far as I could tell, the argument seemed to be “I don’t believe in this particular religious thing, so I want to stop others being able to do it voluntarily”. It seems that for many of faith, “religious freedoms” often mean “my religious freedom above all others”.

This is, as with the church’s view on equal marriage, not very Liberal.

EHRC Trans healthcare report

Yesterday, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published it’s report into Trans healthcare. (Word document) It’s specifically Transsexual healthcare, with a GRS focus, because although other issues have been identified it is probably unsurprisingly access to surgery that is the one big thing that is highlighted repeatedly as an issue.

Much of the report will be unsurprising to anyone who has a passing familiarity with the situation: Despite it being unlawful to ban Trans healthcare, (Or do anything that is effectively a ban) there is still a postcode lottery when it comes to services available, with some areas being excellent and others incredibly poor. The EHRC even had problems obtaining the necessary information from the NHS in one region, so what hope do us mere mortals have? (Although one could just FoI it – possibly worth it, just to see if they were trying to hide something…)

The report also claims that Leeds requires just 3-6 months real life experience (RLE) before surgery and in exceptional cases, just one month which seems… unlikely. What is more plausible is that guidelines vary enough that the EHRC struggled to understand them all and compare like with like, and Leeds require 3-6 months RLE prior to hormones.

One fact they have uncovered that is worthy of note is the low number of regretters. It’s claimed that of all the patients that have gone through Charing Cross in the past 20 years, only three have “reverted to their original gender”. The exact definition here is unclear, but appears to be where someone has undergone surgery and then changes their mind, legally changing their name back. This certainly puts paid to claims of vast hordes of regretters out there and is in line with what I would expect: When pushed for names and sources, the “regretters” tend to be the same small handful of people we see over and over again, not all of whom have “reverted”.

The aim of the document was to identify possible future directions for NHS gender care after the upcoming reforms. The main point they make is that there will be more centralised oversight and control of policies for specialist items such as GRS, so that the regional lottery of care should at the very least be substantially reduced. It’s suggested

And finally, there’s some talk of holding GPs “accountable” (A code phrase for initiating complaints against GPs unwilling to treat Trans patients) and continuous professional development, i.e. ensuring GPs that graduated decades ago are up to date on what is available.

All-female Newsnight

After seeing some comments on Twitter, I just tuned in to tonight’s Newsnight to catch the end of it: It seems to have been some sort of all-female program. I wasn’t clear on if it was an all-female panel too – it looked like it was just an all-female audience.

As some other woman once said: I am not amused.

It looks like it’s sending out the message that “Women can’t compete with men, so they need their own program”. I’d much rather see the BBC apply a reasonable balance across the board instead of trying to fix it with one-off specials like this.

But then it is Tory party conference, and they like over-the-top positive discrimination. And yet still, they put a bloke – Paxman – in the chair. I think that says it all really.