back to article IWF confirms Wayback Machine porn blacklisting

Following complaints that its child-porn blacklist has led multiple British ISPs to censor innocuous content on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, the Internet Watch Foundation has confirmed the blacklist contains images housed by the 85-billion-page web history database. But this fails to explain why Demon Internet and …


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  1. Gilbert Wham


    Not had any problems accessing it tthru Be since this story first broke...

  2. hikaricore

    Preemptive strike @Jason

    You fail at the basic human right to decide for ourselves.

  3. filey

    Virgin cable with open-dns

    its intermittent, sometimes a generic page not found in archive, other times slow but ok

    strangely, old theregister pages all seem to give a path index error, perhaps they dont like old reg either....

  4. Ian Stephenson
    Thumb Up

    VirginMedia as at 22:03

    working fine

  5. Mike Richards Silver badge


    BT aren't being the usual bunch of censorious cnuts - it's working for me.

  6. Dominic Kua
    Thumb Up

    Yup Virgin don't seem to be blocking

    I can even access that pit of rampant playmobil filth, El Reg, through it.

  7. Neil Greatorex

    "a spokeswoman declined to help"

    No surprise there then, it's in their very nature.

    I'm certain it's a required function of any SpewLabour spawned "We really aren't appointed by the government, no, no, not even on the sly. Honest guv". Quango.

    Bah, I'm beginning to sound like amanfrommars. (obviously without the pseudo-random capitalisation)

    Mine still says Phuck off Phorm, but I've added "Who's watching the Internet Watch Foundation" around the collar. Tastefully :-)

  8. Anonymous Coward

    other false blacklists

    for a long period last year I got a lot of error messages from Demon when connecting to download sites, for mundane things like music and TV pograms. The error pages claimed the page I wanted to connect to had been identified as leading to kiddy porn. Now were the media companies falsly reporting these pages as kiddy porn to the IWF as part of their protecting copyright campaigns or do the ex-coppers at the IWF like to stick their snouts into everything they deem illegal. I gather some of them are Christian fundementalists (co thinkers with the Rev. Blair no doubt) but didn't know "stealing" copies of CDs or the latest Madman episode came under the 10 commandments issued to Moses.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting Be Forum Post

    Take a look at the posts by 'matt-s' in the Be forum thread in the imageshack link:

    Interesting that some people do have access to the IWF list and have checked it.

  10. Benny

    Just got back

    from work, and Be seems to access it fine

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    More UK.GOV Trials

    This is just another little probe to gauge the level of complaint with internet filtering.

    UK.GOV are meeting to decide if we need a UK firewall the same as china in the coming weeks.


    No such thing in government.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why people hate MPs

    They'd rather everyone was banned from something, than torture the person who committed the crime.

    What worthless human beings are politicians.

  13. RW

    Judge, jury, and executioner, all rolled up in one lovely NuLabour quango

    "The IWF can confirm it has taken action in relation to content on involving indecent images of children which contravenes UK law (Protection of Children Act 1978)."

    They left out the word "allegedly". Wha' hoppen to the legal principle "innocent until proven guilty"?

    No, wait, I know: NuLabour's social engineering team found it an impediment to the creation of The New British (Wo)Man and got rid of it. Bunch of archaic old legal fol-de-rol, anyhow, an embarrassment to any progressive nation in this cybernetic age.

    From all I've read on El Reg the last few years, it sounds like Britain is overdue for an far-reaching revision of "separation of powers": just what powers police, councils, central govt, and various quangos have. Too many have far too much power. And they sure don't hesitate to abuse their power whenever it suits their fancy.

    In a civilized country, the power vested in the IWF would be in the hands of an accountable government department independent of the cops (not staffed with retread plods) that carried out its work in full public view. Instead we get another NuLabour slyness that is, frankly, shameful to see in the country housing "the mother of parliaments."

    Would that more ISPs would say "show us your credentials to pronounce upon the legality of a given image." I suspect that the IWF actually has no more legal standing than any random troll standing at a bus stop.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Stop it

    Or you'll all go blind!

  15. Linbox
    Thumb Up

    Sky = WIN

    Including this ElReg nugget from Jan-2001;

    "Alta Vista to become only net search engine".


  16. Terry Browning

    Looks like a capacity issue at

    Looking at old pages via and an Brand X isp, delivers frequent Wayback Machine "Failed Connection" errors, whereas Brand X delivers pages without a problem.

    The rate of Failed Connections seems to be about 1 page in 3. Going to another page, then trying again often gets the page delivered. However, the response time is also much longer than Brand X.

    Strictly, aren't actually banning the Wayback Machine, but the filter's lack of capacity is making Wayback unusable for legitimate purposes.

  17. Steven Raith

    Demon+OpenDNS = WIN

    WayBackMachine seems to be working with OpenDNS as the DNS server, can't comment on the Demon DNS servers.

    Steven R

  18. babz


    working fine here :)

  19. Dave

    Permission to Browse

    It's coming - one day you'll turn on your computer and fire up your browser to the hard-wired homepage where you'll have to provide a list of sites you wish to browse. Someone or something will review your request and either grant you access, deny you or send the boys round to take you into custody. No request means you are blocked from any web access except to the approval portal.

    IWF is starting to get life some of the RBL lists - too many false positives and the whole list becomes irritating and useless.

    I don't remember anything in my T's and C's giving the ISP permission to censor me. I am OK with them filtering genuine child porn, but as with the previous album cover case, someone needs to exercise a bit of common sense and only filter the obviously illegal stuff. Otherwise I can see a proliferation - something gets blocked, someone on a non-blocked ISP posts a copy of it elsewhere, it gets picked up by the blogging masses and is then present all over the net, just like the Mary Whitehouse effect with 'unacceptable' content in films where everyone made a point of going to see it to find out why they shouldn't see it.

  20. Nanki Poo
    Black Helicopters

    So much said in so few words...

    "The aspects of list implementation are distinct from IWF’s role in providing the URLs."

    Translation - "we can stop you from seeing what we want, but we don't have to tell you what it is. If I say 'child porn' will that shut you up?"

    I think that says it all on that subject...

    "Want to read some of those old philosophies not eschewing capitalism <Ed - I refuse to capitalise :) >? Sorry it's banned because it's child porn. We can't tell you where it used to be because you might find out it's not" ... a little fanciful but now within the power of any government to carry out.

    The Truth Is Out There.


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  22. Anonymous Coward

    @ Dave

    'just like the Mary Whitehouse effect with 'unacceptable' content in films where everyone made a point of going to see it to find out why they shouldn't see it.'

    Down with that sorta thing.

    And do you remember that bit when St. Tibulas tried to take that banana off the other lad?

    That wasn't a banana.

  23. Martin
    Paris Hilton

    The IWF are a bunch of loonies

    Keep it up, it'll encourage the use of vpn and other forms of tunnelling.

    Paris: Because she knows all about tunnelling

  24. Steve Roper

    What's this IWF?

    Sounds to me like you guys in the UK already have your Great Firewall in place and running, whereas our Australian government is still trialling theirs and the bill hasn't even gone through yet. So why would your government (or the US's for that matter) still be looking at us as the prototype for China-style censorship in the West, if you've already got one going?

  25. Dave

    @Andrew Crystall

    Let's encourage the IWF to keep it to one complaint and one technical error in ten or more years, shall we? AC raised the point of trials to see who'd notice with varying levels of censorship and filtering - complain loud and often in case it wasn't a mistake.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andrew Crystall

    "Self-regulation is better than government regulation."

    Yes, it would be, but nobody is letting me regulate myself.

    Nobody is arguing that regulation of child pornography (and other unpleasantness) is a bad thing, simply that it should be transparent and accountable, to ensure that the remit is not being abused.

    The nose-wipers who've been appointed for me have been put in a position where they can't be questioned and are not accountable to the people who they directly affect, i.e. the public.

    Don't you find it odd that the supposed regulators can't be regulated themselves?

  27. William Bronze badge

    @steve roper

    Because yours is being run by your government and your government wants "kid safe" Internet access.

    If you want to "opt out" of the "kid safe" then you get put on the "adult safe" version that is still filered. And who decides what is being filtered. Your "government". And what websites are being filtered, well they are [classified]. Now you see the comparison with China?

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Virgin cable with open-dns

    >strangely, old theregister pages all seem to give a path index error, perhaps they dont like old reg either...

    Maybe Sarah Bee is a lot younger (ducks down to avoid flying objects) than she looks in the photos.

  30. Andus McCoatover

    Mary Whitehouse?

    Surely, you refer to the "Streisand Effect" where to quote Wikipedia:

    ...the name being taken from a 2003 incident in which the singer Barbra Streisand attempted to use legal process to preserve her privacy, only to see the matter become far more prominent as a result....

    Sorry, Dave - I won't call you "Shirley" again..

  31. Nick

    He who controls the past....

    This is like burning the history books, I find it particularly sinister.

    Since the internet constantly passes into the past, and into the archive (well, for I know), you may as well go the whole hog and ban the whole internet right now cos it might have something bad out there.

    And we must think of the children. You disagree? You pedalo !

  32. Frank Fisher

    @Andrew Crystall

    "Self-regulation is better than government regulation."

    This isn't regular regulation though is it?

    Try this: transparent regulation is better than opaque regulation.

    If we're to have this, it needs public oversight, at the very least. Nothing else is compatible with democracy

  33. Anonymous Coward

    The Ultimate Silencer

    Once you put an excuse of 'protecting children' before any piece of censorship or dodgy legislation you've , in effect, silenced all critics. The Government (all governments, for that matter) knows this and continually prefaces the introduction of new online laws with 'a need to protect children'. It's a perfect catch-all and silences just about everyone - spineless bastards, all. Who will argue?

    I have no doubt it suits the Government here in the UK very well indeed to have the IWF at some distance, but still intertwined in a very cosy relationship with the Police and Courts (not to mention some measure of public funding). Are they a test-bed for wider, more formalized powers of goverment censorship? Oh, I think that's almost inevitable, given the interest our Government has in the Australian experiment.

    Children are the new WMD in western government's attempts to seize control of the interweb. Never forget this - every time some halfwit from the Home Office or the MoJ begins his or her latest attack on our freedoms with a reminder of the need to 'protect the young'. And remember also that when government and police start bleating on about the 'massive amount' of CP allegedly swirling around the net, both the FBI and the UK's own CEOP hold two of the world's largest, most comprehensive CP databases - a fact they seem relentlessly keen to remind us of.

  34. Steven Foster

    It begins...

    So am I to expect more random censorship then? It seems to me that every time some unknown person somewhere decides that there's the remote possibility of a kiddy porn picture somewhere on some site, that site ends up unavilable. But not blocked properly, oh no, instead you get some generic 404/connection error.

    So either the IWF are being nazis, or the ISPs SUCK at filtering and don't know their arses from their elbows. Or both.

    But it's always so reassuring to know that a legitimate site may one day appear to be "down" when I need it. Only it isn't down, it's actually blocked, without saying it's blocked, because somebody wouldn't THINK OF THE CHILDREN.


  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oddly enough when I go and look at any sites on the IA site I don't actually get many, if any, images. Or maybe that is because they are totally overloaded and its not delivering them.

    And I still don't understand why yesterday I, as a Plusnet customer, could get the Thus IWF intercept urls.. something was really screwed up but of course Thus and IWF will never tell us what it was that screwed stuff up because "think of the Children".

    If the IWF have added a site to their black list and then have added all the IA urls then it doesn't surprise me that someone has fucked up.

  36. Brian Ribbon

    @ Dave

    "I am OK with them filtering genuine child porn, but as with the previous album cover case, someone needs to exercise a bit of common sense and only filter the obviously illegal stuff."

    "Genuine child porn" in the UK includes images which contain no sexual activity, and sometimes even naturism. In 44% of Irish child pornography cases which were analysed by Garda - between 2000-2004 - the *worst* offending images depicted no sexual activity whatsoever. Irish laws against "child pornography" are very similar to those of the UK.

    The IWF is almost certainly spending much of its time censoring pictures of naked children who are not engaging in sexual activity, regardless of the consequences for websites such as Wikipedia and the Internet Archive.

  37. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    You're all missing the point

    "The aspects of list implementation are distinct from IWF’s role in providing the URLs."

    EITHER this statement is true, and you ought to be hammering the ISPs for their total lameness in implementing the list, OR the IWF are lying about what they have done and can be flamed purely for their dishonesty.

    The rights and wrongs of censorship or the content on the wayback machine just don't come into it.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Put your rivals out of business !!!!

    Complain about their site to the IWF .....

  39. Jamie Kitson

    O2 OK

    O2 seems ok for now.

  40. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    What lies behind...?

    "...Would that more ISPs would say "show us your credentials to pronounce upon the legality of a given image." I suspect that the IWF actually has no more legal standing than any random troll standing at a bus stop..."

    If an ISP employee were to say that to the IWF they would cease to be an ISP employeee shortly after that. The complaint would never see the light of day.

    The best way for an ISP employee to raise public concern would be (surprise, surprise) to mis-configure a few things 'by mistake' and block a few things which shouldn't be blocked. What you are probably seeing IS a revolt from the ISPs.

    Don't knock them, knock the whole principle behind unannounced and unaccountable censorship....

  41. Chris Martin

    Why Hide it....

    If the government and IWF were truthful and didnt have anything to hide, they would have a HTML page expaining why a page was blocked rather than making it look like network errors all the time.... This is crooked....

  42. Guy Herbert

    Meanwhile you missed...

    The introduction of legislation thay would make possession of some drawn porn illegal (among many other undesirable things, such as allowing departments to amend the law by regulation to share personal information). Coroners and Justice Bill, first read.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I sue the government?

    For failing to protect me as a child? Ok so nothing bad happend to me, but that was no thanks to them they did nothing. I feel outraged and violated, even if I wasnt violated in a physical way and had rather a happy childhood but still who knows what could of happend and i doubt I will be able to sleep for weeks for fear of what could but didnt happen

  44. Benny


    So isnt it possible to get a freedom of information request sent to these guys to see what is on the list? Its not as if you could view the urls as they would be blocked, but it would mean we could check which domains have been blocked - possibly incorrectly - and do something about it.

  45. Frank Fisher

    @Benny - re: FOI requests

    Nope. The IWF are not a public body - so FOI doesn't apply, but even if they were they wouldn't reveal that - they'd say it would be damaging to the public interest. Even the police refused FOI requests into whether the IWF had consulted them over Wikipedia. There is no way to get this information.

    You can see finish and danish lists on Wikileaks. If a concerned IWF, CEOP, or ISP employee were to leak the IP list.... I'm sure we'd all be eternally grateful. TBH I see it as their duty: this is a private body, unacountable and secretive, exempt from the usual guff like FOI that might keep government departments on their toes, not reviewed by parliament, or even any regulatory body. The charity commission can only mange their funding and ensure they stick to their own rules - they can't demand the list. Disgruntled employees, this is your moment.

    It's really the best way forward.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    But this fails to explain why Demon Internet and other ISPs are preventing some users from accessing the entire archive.

    (1) Because they can

    (2) Because there's nothing you can do about it.

    @AC - More UK.GOV Trials - This is just another little probe

    Yeah, and you KNOW where you're getting probed.

    @Andrew Crystall - Self-regulation is better than government regulation

    Yes, thank you. I'm perfectly capable of regulating myself and don't need nor want the state or their duly unelected representatives going on about it.

    The IWF is not government controlled... A HA HA HA HA HA This is like the twit in the US arm twisting the ISPs into blocking newsgroup access entirely because there MIGHT have been a picture there someone didn't like. Not, "take this certain picture down". No, sirree; it was "deny access to this to your paid users". Now someone can't whinge about the ISPs dropping newsgroups as they are "private business" and technically the government isn't blocking. I don't know if the independent newsgroup providers have gone along with this nonsense of not, but if they did; shame on them (and the ISPs) .

  47. Clive Feather

    Explaining the blocking

    There is a complete explanation from Demon/Thus as to what happened at

    In summary:

    * Entries on were on the IWF list

    * There was a bug in the Wayback Machine software, which Demon's blocking tickled

    * Demon didn't perform any content manipulation

    * Demon didn't unilaterally filter or block

    * The Internet Archive have now fixed the bug

  48. MikeG


    Correct - the IWF has NO legal powers whatsoever; it merely compiles its secret blacklist, and it is entirely up to ISPs whether or not they implement the blacklist. The screwups are entirely due to the usual cack-handed monkeys employed by ISPs. And it is to your ISP that you should direct any complaints about censorship.

  49. Dave Teegarden
    Thumb Down

    why use IWF filters at all?

    Why do so many UK ISPs use the IWF filter? Unlike the proposed Australian and German filters, it's voluntary. I can't imagine there's much customer demand for it. Why not let those customers who want it opt-in, and give everyone else the full access they're paying for?

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  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple Solution

    Since the IWF filtering is voluntary, you simply need to demand your ISP provide you with an unfiltered connection. If they refuse, switch ISPs.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Simple Solution

    "simply need to demand your ISP provide you with an unfiltered connection" - you will probably get the same pile of untruths and repeated obfuscation as I got when I tried to complain to Virgin about the previous covert censorship. If you ask for a MAC to transfer to another ISP they will put various barriers in your way, including having to call an 0845 number rather than e-mailing the MAC to you. This appears to be contary to OFCOM guidelines, but I don't know if I can be arsed to persue the matter.

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  54. John PM Chappell

    @Andrew Crystall

    Kindly stop talking out of your arse; your lack of expertise in and understanding of the technical, legal and philosophical aspects of this issue is showing and your repeated trolling is getting boring.

    In practical terms, you can tell your ISP that you do not wish to be subjected to filtering, especially not the IWF list and that if they are not prepared to remove it you will change providers (there are ISPs who don't use it at all).

    The wider issues ought to be obvious; some people genuinely want to have some filtering in place so that they are very unlikely to ever see anything 'offensive' but there are products (even free ones, I recall) for precisely that purpose and nothing to stop ISPs from offering an opt-in filtering of certain categories of website (I don't like this but customers are customers and businesses make money meeting their needs and desires). Everyone else wants to be able to access any computer with a routable IP address on any protocol they choose, without interference, the ISPs could do with being reminded of that fact, alongside the well established principle of they not being accountable for the use of their infrastructure in an illegal manner, especially wrt content.

  55. James Pickett


    Our local paper reported the arrest of someone charged with possession of unsuitable photographs and 'pseudo-photographs'. That sounds worrying to me - he's either been doing a bit of swapping around in Photoshop (sad, but probably harmless) or viewing some Japanese comics, but it could be a pernicious wedge. Personally, I'd rather such people were at home on their computer than outside the school gates.

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