Internet Archive Wayback Machine blocked by Vodafone, Three, O2, and EE: We can change that

Posted on Feb 13, 2019 by Caleb Chen
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United Kingdom porn filters

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a popular online tool for immortalizing and viewing historical internet content is blocked by default in the United Kingdom. According to the Open Rights Group’s resource Blocked.org.uk, www.archive.org is currently being blocked by EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three – among the largest mobile data providers in the UK. This means that millions of UK netizens are unable to access the Internet Archive, and not because they turned on adult filters.

The Internet Archive was first blocked in the UK in 2014:

These default “adult” blocks have been in place since a UK law passed in 2014. Since 2014, internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile data providers in the UK have been using various authoritative lists to decide what is adult content and what needs to be blocked. But the Internet Archive is an educational resource, not an adult site! The happenstance that a site is blocked on EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three but not other UK ISPs means that the authoritative list that’s being used is the one from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

20% of sites blocked: Overblocking was rampant and still is

When the blocks went live in 2014, a study showed that the law blocked way more than just adult content, catching a lot of innocent sites in the crossfire. According to the research, 20% (1 in 5) of all websites on the internet were blocked when the censorship program first came out. The overblocking is still very much active. Archive.org is a valuable resource for any internet user, and is classified by pretty much every other website categorizer as a “PG” or “charity” or “non profit” site – which it is. As further proof of Archive.org’s non adult status, the site isn’t blocked by non mobile UK internet providers such as Sky and VirginMedia. Theoretically, a BBFC reclassification of the Internet Archive’s site could remedy this blocking situation.

Let’s get Archive.org unblocked in the United Kingdom

The Internet Archive is an educational resource and should never have its access restricted. Private Internet Access.com was previously also improperly categorized by the BBFC, but we were able to successfully appeal this decision in September of 2017. It is possible to fix this. Please join the community to call on the BBFC, Vodafone, Three, O2, and EE to reclassify archive.org as a website fit for consumption by those under 18. The BBFC has clearly defined a two step appeals process that is legally open to any consumer of the improperly blocked website (that’s you).

  1. Contact O2, Three, Vodafone, and EE and ask them whether they would consider unblocking archive.org

Contact information:

Appeals may be sent to safeguard@ee.co.uk.
Appeals may be sent to Contentclassification@vodafone.com.
Appeals may be sent to ShieldAV@o2.com.
Appeals may be sent to safeguard@ee.co.uk.

Sample text:

Dear appropriate Operator,

I have noticed that www.archive.org is blocked by default on your network because it is considered adult content. I believe this is a miscategorization and would love to start an official review process with your team to make sure that this research and reference resource is not unavailable to our youth. Below are some examples of the non adult status of www.archive.org.

On Cyren (https://www.cyren.com/security-center/url-category-check) it is categorized as Computers & Technology.

On IBM X-Force (https://exchange.xforce.ibmcloud.com/url/archive.org) it is categorized as Education, Cinema / Television, Music / Radio Broadcast, Literature / Books, and Search Engines / Web Catalogs / Portals.

On Symantec Blueforce (https://sitereview.bluecoat.com/#/lookup-result/archive.org) it is categorized as Reference.

On Fortiguard (https://fortiguard.com/webfilter?q=archive.org&version=8) it is categorized as Reference.

On Brightcloud (https://www.brightcloud.com/tools/url-ip-lookup.php) it is categorized as Reference and Research.

Looking forward to your response,

2. Depending on whether O2, Three, Vodafone, and EE agree to stop blocking archive.org, the next step is to go directly to the BBFC to file a Mobile Content Complaint.

When there is success, we’ll see it here: http://www.bbfc.co.uk/what-classification/mobile-content/quarterly-report

The Internet Archive is a cornerstone of the internet as we know it. The fact that this is not the case for millions in the UK is concerning and needs to be changed.

About Caleb Chen

Caleb Chen is a digital currency and privacy advocate who believes we must #KeepOurNetFree, preferably through decentralization. Caleb holds a Master's in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia as well as a Bachelor's from the University of Virginia. He feels that the world is moving towards a better tomorrow, bit by bit by Bitcoin.

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