Web Filters and Alternative Spirituality: The Selective Censorship of ‘Alternative Beliefs’

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This is an extremely important article – the blocking of alternative spiritual information across the net has begun in western countries. Just to give you some idea of how close to home this is, our website Belsebuub.com, and the website the article below was published on, are both blocked as “Alternative Spirituality/Belief” under a major web filtering service called Blue Coat (along with many other spiritual websites). Blue Coat is just one commercial web filtering product being used by institutions, governments and corporations of all kinds (it’s being used by the Queensland government in Australia in its public schools for example). This is a huge development for people interested in spirituality, mysticism, alternative methods of healing, the unexplained, the supernatural, traditional beliefs and folklore, ancient practices and more.

Original article by Matthew Butler of The Conscious Reporter

shutterstock_156854651Commercial web filters are often rigged to selectively target alternative spirituality and beliefs. Sites like this one can be classified, segregated and blocked under an “alternative spirituality/belief” category, which is often described negatively. The widespread use of filters to block alternative beliefs on public networks, while allowing access to traditional/mainstream beliefs, raises issues of censorship, discrimination and prejudice.

There are various web filters available that can be customised to block just about anything. They are sold to households as “parental controls” and allow carers to block content they don’t want children to see. Organisations use them to prevent staff from visiting sites deemed inappropriate or a distraction from work. And they are installed on public internet networks, such as in libraries, cafes, schools, to make the internet “family friendly”.

Sometimes internet service providers (ISPs) have filters directly over their network which customers can opt-in to, while in some countries ISP filters are mandatory for Government censorship. But in Western countries, filters are usually an extra product or service an individual household, organisation, school or library chooses to put on their internet connection independently.

Typically filters use automated algorithms to classify sites into categories based on their content. But no filter is foolproof and they inevitably allow access to sites they are meant to block, while over-blocking some sites by mistake. They may compensate for this by allowing users to report wrongly-blocked sites and suggest how sites should be classified and blocked.

When you consider the range of content on the internet, it’s easy to understand the appeal of filters if you have children or underage users to cater for. Despite their flaws, their broad appeal is that they provide some control over the content on a family’s or organisation’s internet connection. Provided filters are not controlled by the government and used to suppress dissent, as happens in authoritarian countries, or forced onto the public under a false pretext and operated without transparency, as has happened in UK, then there is nothing wrong with individuals or organisations choosing to put filters over their own connections, is there?

In principle, no, but in practice, apart from over-blocking, filters can have serious issues of bias built into the way they choose to classify and describe certain content. This is apparent in their often prejudicial treatment of “alternative spirituality/belief.” I believe that the way filters separate alternative spirituality and beliefs from mainstream/traditional religions and beliefs is a form of cyber-segregation. I doubt such segregation would be tolerated if filters separated and blocked websites based on racial content or origin. And when filters are used to selectively block alternative spirituality in public places like libraries, it can even be illegal discrimination.

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  1. A very interesting doco about censorship: http://youtu.be/c36eRsn4z-k

    Expressing dissent via your PC can get you imprisoned on average for longer than a paedophile!

    Governments can switch on or off the whole internet not just filter and block.

  2. Hearing of this happening all over the place when people are trying to use public internet services (like at libraries, universities, car dealerships, cafes, etc.) and it’s really concerning. I’ve also seen it in other areas – for instance if you have a google adsense account (for displaying ads on your website), then you have the option to disable certain types of ads from displaying on your site — like if you don’t want ads about adult content, for example. There is specifically a section for “sensitive categories” that includes 12 categories, the first of which is “black magic, astrology & esoteric.” Another category is “religion”. Now it makes sense why someone may not want those types of ads displayed on their website (everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs and should have the freedom not to advertise things they don’t support on their website), but the wording is still strange, particularly the term “esoteric,” which seems to be on a track to being lumped in with darkness, violence, drugs, sexuality, and just in general something undesirable these days. I don’t recall noticing this term being used so much in filters in the past, and nowadays it seems to be on everyone’s hit list… Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but… something tells me it’s more than that.

    • Yes, I’d noticed that also about Google Adsense. Here is a link to a help page where they discuss sensitive ad categories (you have to click the + sign to view the ad categories). https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/3016445?hl=en

      Like you mentioned, they have esoteric information lumped into the ‘sensitive’ category of ‘Black Magic, Astrology & Esoteric’.

      The description of this category is: Includes zodiac, horoscopes, love spells, potions, and psychic-related ads.

      I agree that this is another way alternative beliefs and esoteric information are being misrepresented and categorized such that people will eventually associate all esoteric material as being dangerous, harmful, or morally questionable. It seems to be happening way too much to be a coincidence.

      • This is apparently the play with the words. If they say “esoteric” is spells, potions and black magic, then I guess those who are into real esoteric knowledge and sincere search for spiritual truths will have to call themselves differently. I am noticing this happening with many things, they twist the meaning of the word (or a symbol), and then the masses associate that word or symbol with something different than it has originally been, or even the complete opposite. Then the real thing obviously has to be renamed, until they find out and defame that word as well, etc. Its nasty and very confusing indeed.

  3. In the link below ORG (Open Rights Group) are bringing awareness on this topic, You’re also able to can check whether you are you being blocked.
    https://www.blocked.org.uk/

    More on the topic from ORG.
    http://www.departmentofdirty.co.uk/

    • Blocked.org.uk is specific to checking what UK internet service providers are blocking in Britain with the new filters they have installed on their networks at the government’s behest. It’s a great initiative setup by Open Rights Group, becasue the ISPs were not providing an easy way to check what they were blocking, so now we have a transparent way to monitor what is happening.

      Thankfully the UK network-level filters do not seem to be targeting alternative belief websites… for now.

      But there is a lot of other filtering going on that is not carried out by the ISPs themselves, that blocked.org.uk won’t pick up. For example, if a public library in the UK installs a stricter commercial filter, blocked.org.uk will not show that as it only shows what the ISPs are doing. It also will not pick up filtering in other countries like Australia or the USA for example.

      There are a whole host of commercial filters out there, being installed in education institutions, libraries and ISPs in western countries, and these filters often target alternative spirituality, and there is no single website you can check to find out the scale of it. People are unlikely to realise this filtering is happening unless they happen to attempt to visit alternative belief websites in these locations — as happened with the lady in Salem Public Library — and discover the censorship is happening and then do something about it.

  4. This is deplorable! It isn’t a good sign of what a free society should be.

    I had a look at the Blue Coat site and saw their slogan “Security Empowers Business” which straight away sounded to me like it could have been a slogan straight out of the book/ movie 1984 (eg. “Ignorance is Strength”)

    On a related note, does anyone know if alternative spiritual sites are actively being blocked yet by ISP’s in people’s homes in the UK? That seems to be the next logical step of where this is incrementally going. First access is blocked on public wifi and mobile phones in the UK, and next would seem to be a block on people’s home internet connections.

  5. This page was shown when I was trying to access scribd.com when I was visiting Turkey last year:
    https://fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpf1/t1.0-9/1380793_210338662470735_2130322052_n.jpg

    Other sites (such as Facebook or YouTube) would regularly ‘disappear’ for days on end, for no apparent reason, while the rest of the internet operated normally.

    The problem with ‘optional’ filtering is that once it is in place, the politicians only need to make a small change to a law to make it mandatory across the whole country, for all citizens, as it is in Turkey already.

    In the image the text (according to google translate) says, indicates that the website was blocked due to the decision of the Magistrates Court of Istanbul on 08.03.2013.

    I think, ultimately, this is the system we should expect to receive: despite public outcry. The unfortunate side effect will be more radicalism as people react against removal of individual freedoms.

  6. When I was in collage I knew which computers I could access my favourite spiritual websites on and which ones I couldn’t! I felt it was just collage being over-protective of their students at the time, with no idea it could develop to being something akin to what was being criticized in countries like China at the time – this blocking of ‘free-thought’.

    Those websites (ones like these) were such a help for me growing up in a world that didn’t provide the spiritual sustanance I yearned for, and people surely face the same need today. It is really sad to imagine a new generation who would have little or no chance to access interactive places like websites, to help them reach further than what the materialistic culture around them will encourage. Ofcourse people already involved in spirituality will suffer too, but it is in imagining a future where these laws could get tighter and tighter, for a new generation, that makes me want to do what I can to prevent it from happening.

  7. Great article from Matthew. He laid it all out really well.

    For me it’s just really ridiculous when you step back and see something like “alternative spirituality/belief” lumped in under the “adult content” category with other things like pornography, gambling, and drugs. It’s such a set-up whereby people who want to block access those other things due to the “mature content” for instance select it, but then automatically all the benign things that are of “alternative spirituality/belief” get blocked too. Definitely an agenda there and thanks to Matthew for helping to bring some of the possibilities to the forefront.

  8. Thank you for bringing this on.

    As we become so attached to technology, and its improvements provide more opportunities, it makes total sense that the dark forces will explore methods of controlling us through it, and feed us with an illusion of choices between different forms of “opium for masses”, while cleverly blocking our access to things, which can actually help us to Wake Up.

    I think it is important for all of us to become more aware of what’s happening, and see how we can do our best to prevent it from happening, or at least minimize the damage.

  9. That’s really disturbing that websites are being blocked in this way.

    It feels like the internet is this big open and free place but it seems to be getting narrower and narrower in scope in reality, with the cause of that being an even more disturbing agenda.

  10. Thanks Angela and Matthew for this information. I can understand why it’s very important to let everyone know about it. It’s very clear to me that if we don’t speak out and do something about it, these people will one day very soon have total control on all spiritual information and surely their aim is to totally wipe out all alternative spiritual information.

  11. This is horrible indeed! I am surprised by the speed with which all this is being implemented, the number of the filter providers, as well as the readiness of the ISP providers to implement them. It seems to me that ISPs are either not aware that they are becoming an accomplice to evil, or maybe there is something else at play – bribes or maybe even some connections to the governments and their questionable policies, as is the case with the UK. All this definitely looks like just a part of the puzzle and smells of the NWO. :-(

  12. Recently I went to a public library in a major Latin American city and noticed my own website was blocked. I think people will find what they’re looking for if they look hard enough though. We found spiritual teachings before the Internet didn’t we?

    • Michelle says:

      After over a decade of searching in the physical, I found the spiritual teachings that changed my entire life through the internet. I don’t take it lightly. Control of information is a dangerous thing, we can see it all around us with the news we are spoon-fed. I really liked the idea of boycotting businesses that do this and fighting for the right to freedom of information.