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« Freedom and the internet | Main | Bully for PM »

Does government Internet ban include Forest?

STOP PRESS: I have just been alerted to the following written question, tabled by Francis Maude, Conservative party chairman and MP for Horsham, in the House of Commons:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the Answer to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield of 12 January 2010, Official Report, column 861W, on departmental computers, for what reason websites featuring tobacco content are banned; if he will give examples of the types of tobacco sites which are banned; and whether the internet ban includes the Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) website."

To be honest, I'm not familiar with "the Answer to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield of 12 January 2010, Official Report, column 861W" but I will endeavour to find out.

Watch this space.

Reader Comments (28)

Simon, I dont know about this place but in my last job as an IT Network Manager, having control over website filtering, I did ban access to ASH as I considered they were a "hate/discrimination" and Malicious organisation. Needless to say, Forest and F2C were permitted.

February 22, 2010 at 14:58 | Unregistered CommenterReg

Anonymizers are an add on for your web browser to allow you to surf anonymously.
Or even to anonymously host a website.
You connect through a anonymous peer to peer network.
Sort of similar to file sharing sites.
In theory you can't be tracked whilst browsing.
I also have web filtering on my network.
But I am more concerned about very dodgy sites which install malware.

February 22, 2010 at 15:11 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

While I'm clearly very interested to see if the likes of Forest or F2C are auto-censored out of the awareness of our elected representatives, what I find really interesting is that "Tobacco" is considered as appalling as "Phishing" and "Violence". Sorry, doesn't HM Government make some £10,000,000,000 a year out of tobacco in duty and excise? Why then is is it a taboo subject for its employees? What exactly is the reasoning behind a legitimate product that is very heavily taxed and bought and sold perfectly legally being on such a list? Is "MILITARY HARDWARE" such a category or "AEROPLANES"?. I somehow think not, yet these are both legitimate industries both of which also raise billions for the UK Exchequer and which sells products which could be claimed (in at least one case, quite explicitly) to be damaging to the world etc.

This stinks of thought-crime. I may not even loathe the politicians so much now it may in fact be that they are physically incapable of learning more about smoking science and research through Forest, F2C, Chris Snowden, Forces and the rest. I presume our beloved leaders can still access ASH however? Who exactly decided these things? FOI request, anyone?

February 22, 2010 at 15:55 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

Do ASH ever mention tobacco?

February 22, 2010 at 16:15 | Unregistered Commenterchas

That list is bizarre.
Does the Sun fall into it as "nudity " or "provactaive attire"?

Has anybody told Rupert?

February 22, 2010 at 17:24 | Unregistered CommenterGawain Towler

And what about sites relating to alcohol and gambling? I have heard of those being blocked by such systems too.

February 22, 2010 at 18:39 | Unregistered CommenterCurmudgeon

As well as the obvious hypocrisy etc etc, I also worry about the actual process of censorship. My NHS organisation appears to leave it to the TECHNICIAN to make the judgments for goodness sake. When I questioned this and pointed out the need for a transparent and fair system beacuse of the difficult ethics involved in censorship it was obvious that I might as well have been talkin Greek.

Also note the use of the sinister word "deemed" (deemed unsuitable) always the last refuge of the scoundrel - also the passice mood covers any number of nefarious tracks. So how do MPs find out about tobacco? And don't they ban alchohol sites?

There's an urgent need to pursue this further.

February 22, 2010 at 18:45 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

. . . sorry I meant PASSIVE mode

February 22, 2010 at 18:46 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

"My Department blocks certain sites based on central guidance about potential threats"

Potential threats? What "potential threat" does viewing a site about "Tobacco" pose? And how would that "threat" be different than viewing a site about alcohol?

Simon, I don't know how it is over there, but the Antismokers on the American side of the pond have been getting increasingly upset about the fact that they are so thoroughly losing the war for hearts and minds on the one medium they can't control with their money: and influence: the internet. Basically any discussion involving the health effects of secondary smoke, new studies on such, the economic effects of bans, or the rationale and justifications for reaching on to beaches and into private homes and cars becomes a Waterloo for them. Their lies are exposed and they're reduced to yammering about the "stink" or making oblique statements implying that anyone who disagrees with them is being paid by Evil Big Tobacco.

Heh... of course here in the States virtually all the Antis *ARE* "being paid by Evil Big Tobacco" with money stolen from smokers laundered through the Master Settlement Agreement, but of course that doesn't "count."

In any event, yes, it's worth keeping an eye on the activities of wannabe censors out there: they'd LOVE to shut us out of the one effective outreach medium where we beat them hands down.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

February 22, 2010 at 18:53 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

I just do not believe this. My post regarding this and which was very relevant to this, has been deleted yet again by Simon, and it is no good saying that it was because it was too long, as Simon lets almost everyone else post whatever they want on here, regardless of how long it is.

What would you like me to say Simon, a load of the usual trash about how how angry I am etc etc?

If you only want yes-men on here, you should say so!

February 22, 2010 at 19:48 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

It sounds like they are using one of the standard commercial blacklisting packages, such as CyberSitter or CyberNanny, which are often American and designed for a very puritanical "family-friendly" standard of what is fit for children.

February 22, 2010 at 20:47 | Unregistered Commenterguy herbert

Peter, Guy may be right: I ran into a similar thing on a story over there recently (The blackpool black market thing maybe?)

My comment was clearly not offensive, nor was it long, but something in it triggered a censor-robot. Heh... I had a post put up somewhere the other day that I'd ended a sentence with "that" and started the next one with "It's"

Evidently the censor saw a t followed by its and decided I was being crude.


February 22, 2010 at 21:16 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

Have reposted extracts from all that on my bit of Facebook. I'd say criminalisation of smoking in UK is not far off.

February 22, 2010 at 22:47 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Lambton

An article in the Telegraph IT section (reply to a letter) covered ‘anonymisers’ recently. They are indeed third party sites which will route your posts in order to render them untraceable. It was recommended not to use them because they are themselves dangerous as regards malware, etc.

February 22, 2010 at 23:43 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Michael, Guy, Peter, I have had comments blocked because of my user name!

February 23, 2010 at 0:05 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

I've just read Dr. Michael Siegel's last post regarding 4th Hand Smoke: Americans are considering banning adoption and child fostering to smokers, even if they commit to smoke outside the house.
If we put the bans side by side, what we can notice is that because the anti-tobacco lobbies already managed to ban cigarettes all over the world, they must invent new issues in order to grant a greater span for their jobs, which are certainly heading for extinction.

February 23, 2010 at 1:04 | Unregistered CommenterMilena Hannud

Timbone, on another thread here, its lead-in states the following:

"There are many freedoms in life which can be assaulted by illiberal governments, many of which you will read about on these pages. Freedom of uncensored speech, though, is the most fundamental of all in a free society. Once that liberty is erased, all others are solely, and irrevocably, subject to government diktat"

I have heard of one rule for them and another for us, but this.........

February 23, 2010 at 11:32 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

timbone -

I'm not surprised !

'Bone' is a VERY naughty word - and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Some software-writers ARE American, after all.

You'll be talking about SMOKING FAGS next.........

February 23, 2010 at 13:56 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I've just looked up Smart Filter. There are many more categories which could have been banned. The client can choose which. Why aren't social network sites on the list? These acount for the most time wasting. Why this Department chose tobacco is a mystery.If the filter looks for the word "tobacco" then it will hinder work. Any article about tobacco sponsorship, for example, will be banned, as will all the anti-tobacco sites and a great number of newspaper articles. Does anybody know how it works? Perhaps it is more a cock-up than conspiracy and nobody put any thought into it.

February 23, 2010 at 16:02 | Unregistered Commenterjon

Do you think Jon, that there is a "filter" system employed on this site, which is filtering out certain words and banning any and all posts that contain subject matter which doesn't meet a certain criteria?

If this is so, it is getting very worrying indeed isn't it!

February 23, 2010 at 16:57 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

One place name:


February 24, 2010 at 1:44 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph K

Martin wrote to Timbone, "You'll be talking about SMOKING FAGS next"

Hehe... One of the MAJOR antismoking articles appearing in 2009 was the Lightwood & Glantz
meta-analysis of smoking bans and heart attacks. At the very start of that major published journal study Stanton Glantz & buddy expressed a concern over....

PUBIC smoking!

Yep. Pubic and workplace smoking. Right in the first sentence. And nope, I'm not kidding. See:


February 24, 2010 at 3:06 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

And in terms of word filters... You have to wonder what they'd do with this Canadian TV ad for Molson Ale...


February 24, 2010 at 3:09 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

they mean to become as oppressive as china.

February 24, 2010 at 9:04 | Unregistered Commenterjames

Michael J -

GREAT to have you back !

Hope you weren't offended by my little tease.

(As if...........)

'Pubic Smoking', eh ?

THAT suggests an ardour that few of us can aspire to, I fear.

Perhaps Iron Tablets would do the trick.

I'll get my team onto it right away.

Sounds like fun !

February 24, 2010 at 10:01 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Joseph K -

'Thor' isn't a Forbidden Word, is it ?

You'll have to explain....................

February 24, 2010 at 10:03 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Martin, me? Offended by a tease? LOL! I'm not sure how well I'll be able to translate this here, but Gene Borio recently called an "Apology Wh...." with the Wh... extending out to be the word that one uses to rather low class ladies engaged in Womens' Oldest Profession.

Believe me, I am NOT easily offended!


February 25, 2010 at 22:23 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

If it weren't too far-fetched, could it be that the big plan is to keep all smokers at home, where some of the few amusements will be to watch TV, listen to the radio or surf the net? And THEN "they" can put subliminal messages across to make us all conform, and thus be more easily controllable.* It's especially galling that you can't smoke in pubs (and yet babes in arms are in there in their hundreds), which this winter has meant few visits & therefore loss of regular access to interesting - & controversial? - conversation.

*On second thoughts - that's probably crediting them with more intelligence than they have, but as expat returnees we are appalled at how well government propaganda HAS worked in this country.

March 6, 2010 at 12:31 | Unregistered Commenterhklovejoy

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