Tea and kittens deployed to defeat Daily Mail and Express

Browser add-on blocks “unpleasant” papers

A recent add-on for popular web browsers is claimed to help you avoid accidentally visiting the websites of the Daily Mail or Daily Express. With the new tool, if you click a link that would take you to one of those sites, you are instead redirected to a site featuring nothing but pictures of tea and kittens. Say hello to Kitten Block.

Browsing the internet can be a perilous activity at the best of times. Following hyperlinks - a vital ingredient in the success of the internet- used to be fairly straight-forward. Whether you saw a link to Argos or the BBC, you knew whither you were headed should you click that link.

But increasingly, particularly in the worlds of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, links are 'shortened'. A pointer is used to redirect you to the link in question, saving those all-important characters in an online world where brevity has become necessity rather than choice.

Twitter limits users to Tweets of no more than 140 characters, which helped to spawn a number of services that take the very long page addresses common on websites, and shortens them to something more manageable. Shortened, http://www.newstatesman.com/global-issues/2011/09/afghanistan-iraq-west-world becomes http://bit.ly/nwRw6l.

Both links take you to exactly the same page. That's great for brevity, but terrible for transparency. You no longer know, seeing only the Bit.ly link, where clicking it might take you.

Spammers, marketers and other ne'er-do-wells have exploited this 'trick', using the trust of the reader to get them to click a link in good faith, only to discover it takes them somewhere unexpected - the likely destinations being dodgy sites that are often pornographic or virus-ridden.

But a nifty add-on for Firefox, Chrome or Safari web browsers, called Kitten Block [https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/kitten-block/], promises to protect you from accidentally visiting at least two sites - The Daily Mail and The Daily Express. Instead, clicking on a link to one of those sites redirects you to www.teaandkittens.co.uk, a site built by technology journalist Tom Royal and featuring, you guessed it, tea and kittens.

Royal, who also built Kitten Block, explains:

"When using the internet in the UK it's almost impossible to avoid occasionally accessing the website of one or the other [Mail or Express], even if one finds their political and social outlook unpleasant or offensive. KittenBlock is designed to solve this problem. It performs one simple function: if the browser is directed to either website it will be redirected instead to a selection of photos from http://www.teaandkittens.co.uk."

In fact with web browsers such as Internet Explorer, it's possible to block sites [http://www.wikihow.com/Block-a-Website-in-Internet-Explorer-7] you would rather not visit using your browser's security settings. But while that will block those sites, it won't automatically give you tea and kittens instead.

So there you have it - the combined online might of Paul Dacre and Richard Desmond stopped in their tracks by tea and kittens.

Jason Stamper is technology correspondent of the New Statesman and editor of Computer Business Review.

Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

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Theresa May could live to regret not putting Article 50 to a vote sooner

Today's Morning Call.

Theresa May will reveal her plan to Parliament, Downing Street has confirmed. They will seek to amend Labour's motion on Article 50 adding a note of support for the principle of triggering Article 50 by March 2017, in a bid to flush out the diehard Remainers.

Has the PM retreated under heavy fire or pulled off a clever gambit to take the wind out of Labour's sails while keeping her Brexit deal close to her chest? 

Well, as ever, you pays your money and you makes your choice. "May forced to reveal Brexit plan to head off Tory revolt" is the Guardian's splash. "PM caves in on plans for Brexit" is the i's take. "May goes into battle for Brexit" is the Telegraph's, while Ukip's Pravda aka the Express goes for "MPs to vote on EU exit today".

Who's right? Well, it's a bit of both. That the government has only conceded to reveal "a plan" might mean further banalities on a par with the PM's one-liner yesterday that she was seeking a "red white and blue Brexit" ie a special British deal. And they've been aided by a rare error by Labour's new star signing Keir Starmer. Hindsight is 20:20, but if he'd demanded a full-blown white paper the government would be in a trickier spot now. 

But make no mistake: the PM didn't want to be here. It's worth noting that if she had submitted Article 50 to a parliamentary vote at the start of the parliamentary year, when Labour's frontbench was still cobbled together from scotch-tape and Paul Flynn and the only opposition MP seemed to be Nicky Morgan, she'd have passed it by now - or, better still for the Tory party, she'd be in possession of a perfect excuse to reestablish the Conservative majority in the House of Lords. May's caution made her PM while her more reckless colleagues detonated - but she may have cause to regret her caution over the coming months and years.

PANNICK! AT THE SUPREME COURT

David Pannick, Gina Miller's barrister, has told the Supreme Court that it would be "quite extraordinary" if the government's case were upheld, as it would mean ministers could use prerogative powers to reduce a swathe of rights without parliamentary appeal. The case hinges on the question of whether or not triggering Article 50 represents a loss of rights, something only the legislature can do.  Jane Croft has the details in the FT 

SOMETHING OF A GAMBLE

Ministers are contemplating doing a deal with Nicola Sturgeon that would allow her to hold a second independence referendum, but only after Brexit is completed, Lindsay McIntosh reports in the Times. The right to hold a referendum is a reserved power. 

A BURKISH MOVE

Angela Merkel told a cheering crowd at the CDU conference that, where possible, the full-face veil should be banned in Germany. Although the remarks are being widely reported in the British press as a "U-Turn", Merkel has previously said the face veil is incompatible with integration and has called from them to be banned "where possible". In a boost for the Chancellor, Merkel was re-elected as party chairman with 89.5 per cent of the vote. Stefan Wagstyl has the story in the FT.

SOMEWHERE A CLOCK IS TICKING

Michael Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has reminded the United Kingdom that they will have just 15 to 18 months to negotiate the terms of exit when Article 50 is triggered, as the remaining time will be needed for the deal to secure legislative appeal.

LEN'S LAST STAND?

Len McCluskey has quit as general secretary of Unite in order to run for a third term, triggering a power struggle with big consequences for the Labour party. Though he starts as the frontrunner, he is more vulnerable now than he was in 2013. I write on his chances and possible opposition here.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Emad asks if One Night Stand provides the most compelling account of sex and relationships in video games yet.

MUST READS

Theresa May is becoming adept at avoiding defeats says George

Liv Constable-Maxwell on what the Supreme Court protesters want

Theresa May risks becoming an accidental Europe wrecker, says Rafael Behr

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Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.