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Disability Rights Website Blocked

BT customers were unable to acess Black Triangle’s website for six months

On by Max Smolaks 13

British Telecom has been accused of blocking access to the website of the Black Triangle, a non-profit organisation run by volunteers, which campaigns forcefully for disability rights.

Update: As it turns out, the website was inaccessible due to a combination of hosting security features and server-side errors.

Black Triangle aims to provide a forum for disabled people and their carers to discuss issues of concern. However, for almost six months now the website has been allegedly blocked by BT, alongside extreme pornography and political extremism.

The only way for BT customers to access the website is through TOR or proxy servers. The group claims this has been extremely damaging to its campaigning and fundraising efforts.

BT has been completely unforthcoming with an answer as to why the website was blacklisted, Black Triangle spokesman John McArdle told TechWeekEurope. BT spokespeople were also unable to explain the apparent block, or discuss any reason why it might be blocked, when approached by TechWeekEurope.

Update:  We have received an updated statement from BT, which reads: “BT has never placed any block on this site. In fact, when the issue was raised we found it difficult to find any BT customer that could not access it. After significant discussion with the Black Triangle Campaign’s representative and extensive technical analysis we have as yet been unable to find any technical issue on the BT network preventing access to this site. We have asked Black Triangle for permission to speak its site hosts in Iceland to establish the cause of this issue.”

Update 2: It seems that the problem has been fixed. BT has contacted the hosting company in Iceland, and confirmed that it had put a number of security rules in place that prevented BT customers from accessing the website. A fault on the company’s server also contributed to the problem. Both of these issues are now resolved.

Although BT did not implement the block, the company went to great lengths to help Black Triangle to find the source of the problem.

Kick them when they are down

Black Triangle estimates that around 10,000 people a month could be denied access to articles on its website due to the website block. The organisation has contacted the ISP several times, but at the time of this article being published, had received no definite explanation.

Taking its name from the badge that was used in Nazi concentration camps to mark prisoners as “work-shy”, Black Triangle is campaigning against the government use of “Work Capability Assessments”, operated by Atos Healthcare.

Atos is infamous for taking down websites that it considers to be damaging to the company’s reputation, which has led the group to believe Atos may be involved in the blocking. Black Triangle had previously moved its servers to Iceland to insulate itself from potential corporate ‘cease and desist’ threats to ISPs.

As a grassroots campaign mainly made up of disabled people, Black Triangle relies on donations through the website to fund its activities. The charity estimates that the blockage may be costing its campaign anything up to £500 a month.

“It couldn’t be more damaging to our campaign in a ‘free and democratic society’”, commented McArdle.

When TechWeekEurope contacted the BT press office, it was unable to confirm whether the website was blacklisted, nor uncover any reason why it might be blocked.

“BT has spoken to the website’s IT team several times today and they are aware that we’re investigating the problems they are experiencing. We’re looking into the issue and hope to provide them with an update as soon as possible,” BT told us.

“If these reports are true, then it’s yet another, albeit especially disturbing, example of why website blocking is such a bad idea,” commented Peter Bradwell, a spokesman for the Open Rights Group.

“Through mistakes or abuse, the wrong content ends up being blocked. And it’s incredibly hard for people to find out why their site is blocked and what to do about it. That can have very real and very damaging consequences for those involved, especially when it is a small group like this trying to build support for its ideas and campaigns.”

“Some politicians seem to think widespread website filtering is an easy, pain free solution to difficult social problems. But it’s not. It strikes a blow to the heart of the Internet as a powerful tool for freedom of expression and innovation,” concluded Bradwell.

Open Rights Group has recently criticized the widespread over-blocking of mobile Internet in the UK, justified by the desire to protect children from harmful content.

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Max Smolaks

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13 replies to Disability Rights Website Blocked

  • On June 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm by Mark (ISPreview UK)

    If confirmed this could mark quite a shift for how fixed line ISPs approach web blocking. Until now most mandatory / deliberate blocks have only targeted extreme sites (child abuse etc.) and those blocked as a result of court orders. Mobile operators have of course been somewhat more flippant but most fixed line ISPs have tried to avoid becoming internet police.

    Hopefully BT hasn’t blocked the campaign purely on the back of an Atos threat as that would surely open the floodgates to similar approaches. ISPs are not in a position to make such judgements by themselves.

  • On June 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm by Alexander Shannon

    I have just tried to access the “black triangle” website, and found that my IE8 couldn’t display the page. Whether this is because I am a BT customer using BTInternet, or whether there is some other reason, I can’t say.

  • On June 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm by Rosena McKeown

    I have been unable to access Black Triangle for about 4mths – I can only access it through a proxy server.
    It keeps telling me I’m ‘Timed Out’ if I try directly
    BT customer

    • On June 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm by Bill Cocks

      I found it impossible to access Black Triangle posts on facebook so I knew I was being blocked somehow. It was suggested I try an identity encryption service. And guess what? I suddenly can access all their posts on Facebook. Which internet service provider do I have? BT.

  • On June 14, 2012 at 9:30 am by AFW46

    I too cannot access the Black Triangle web site from my BT internet connection. But using my companies own internet connection (not BT) from the same computer I connect straight away.

  • On June 14, 2012 at 10:49 am by Raymond Kelly

    I have BT as my internet service provider and I can’t access the site directly but I can from the local library.

    I enquired about it to the tech helpline and they tested to see if it was blocked, the symbols by the site indicated that it wasn’t. They handed it to the engineers but they didn’t get back to me.

    I can read it by using a proxy server but I still can’t interact with it. Any attempt to sign a petition say, requires me to copy letters and numbers as a security check but they don’t appear on the site.

    They do appear on the site accessed from the Library, however.

  • On June 14, 2012 at 11:07 am by RLPeacocke

    I avoid ‘British …’ anything. British Airways, British Gas, and British Telecom etc. as a matter of course. I had no problem accessing Black Triangle via my Sky connection.

    • On June 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm by Jollyfrog

      @RLPeacocke

      you mean your internet from British Sky Broadcasting Group plc..

  • On June 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm by John Camus

    Cannot be accessed from BT/Yahoo homepage. Can be accessed through Ask Jeeves.

  • On June 15, 2012 at 8:16 am by ukbix

    BT Broadband option 3 (unlimited)
    cannot access blacktriangle site…

    Can through a proxy though.

    Used to be able to access black triangle on BT in the past..

  • On June 18, 2012 at 11:49 am by brian M

    Suspect its probably another issue – I’m not using BT but did notice the website was very slow to respond. So its most likly a routing issue or possible something on the website design or combination of the two.

    Just done a trace not exactly fast over 200ms. Perhaps might be best to be less parnoid and bring the web site back to a fast UK or US provider.

  • On June 18, 2012 at 11:50 am by Simon Hewitt

    It times out if accessed on my BT broadband without a proxy.

  • On June 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm by Alexander Shannon

    I’ve just tried to access the site for the second time in a few days, and Internet explorer 8 couldn’t display the page.

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