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Opinion: Please, sir, may I have some porn? On David Cameron's proposed porn blocker

By

July 23, 2013

British PM David Cameron plans to filter all adult content from all UK Internet connection...

British PM David Cameron plans to filter all adult content from all UK Internet connections by default.

On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a sweeping censorship plan that would block internet users in the United Kingdom from accessing online pornography unless they specifically request otherwise. British ISPs will be obliged to contact each of their customers to ask whether they want their content filtered, and if no answer is forthcoming, the filter will be applied by default. Speaking of how "online pornography is corroding childhood," Cameron also proposed that search engines stop showing returns for child pornography – and in doing so demonstrated a lack of understanding of the medium.

In an impassioned speech, the British PM heralded plans to clean up the internet. Key parts of the plan include forcing British internet users to specifically request access to pornography, or else have such sites blocked. It was also proposed that search engines such as Google and Bing should filter search results so they can't be used to find child porn. Finally, Cameron proposes making it illegal to possess or view online porn that depicts simulated rape.

Let's take a quick look at some of the issues these initiatives will raise.

Who decides what is porn?

The UK government will have to be responsible for an internet blacklist. But how, for example, do you account for a general image server like imgur.com, which handles a vast amount of user-uploaded content, including, but certainly not limited to, porn? Does the entire domain get blocked? How many naked pictures have to show up on an internet forum before the whole site is blocked? The logistics are nightmarish.

Filters can be circumvented anyway

Anyone who has visited China recently, with that nation's internet censorship regime, might be surprised to learn how many Chinese people have profiles on the banned Facebook site. A proxy server is all you need to bring traffic in from censored areas on the internet, children Cameron hopes to protect from adult images may yet prove themselves to be experts in the art of porn-hunting in the same way they always have done. (And there may be an argument that parents that welcome the action may turn a blind eye to their children's online activities as a result – Ed.)

Most child pornography is already off the web

Online paedophiles, like drug dealers and gun runners, are well aware of the consequences of their activities online. In this age of universal surveillance, you'd be absolutely mad to search for illegal pornography online. No, the majority of illegal internet sites are now located on the much more anonymous dark net or deep net, parts of which which have specifically been designed to prevent censorship. And if curious kids are going to have to install a Tor browser and access the deep net to find regular porn, they're much more likely to run into the really nasty stuff.

The shaming of porn viewers

First, they came for the masturbators (and I am speaking out, for obvious reasons). The very fact that your web will effectively be censored unless you specifically ask your provider for access to porn raises all sorts of issues. For starters, the famous British gutter press will be delighted to reveal the names of famous people who have asked for the filter to be disabled. Somewhere, there will be a very useful list of people who are porn users, and one day it will leak. Not to mention inter-familial issues: family members who want access to porn will no longer be able to get it without consulting with their partners. It's not a problem for all, but a big problem for some.

And finally, there's this ...

Government control of the internet is a powerful weapon against democracy

You only have to look as far as the Arab Spring to see how powerful a tool social media can be in organising protests and uprisings, - as well as how quickly governments can move to restrict access to sites like Twitter when they started to feel threatened. Since the Snowden leaks, it has become very clear that even "upstanding" Western governments like America's and Britain's have scant regard to civil liberties and constitutional due process when the vague and subjective notion of terrorism can be used as an excuse. This proposed legislation gives the UK government a simple process and mechanism by which entire domains can be blacked out: a mechanism potentially open to abuse.

Since delivering the speech on Monday, Cameron has already admitted his plans are vague at present, but hinted that he may expand beyond porn to other sites he sees as harmful to children, including "perhaps self-harming sites."

It's hard to say whether Cameron's motives are those of a noble simpleton trying to cure children of indecent thoughts with a wave of a wand, or part of the broader effort of governments and corporations worldwide to get some semblance of control over the internet. Certainly the free flow of information has fundamentally changed the way media, government and citizenship works in the modern age, and pre-existing institutions are right to fear its capabilities.

No one is arguing that protecting children from pornography is not a worthy end, but the measures proposed demonstrate a misapprehension of the way the web and the inter work. And the rest of us stand to lose when those in power can decide what we can and can't read and watch.

I, for one, am going straight to the dodgy end of my bookmarks list to stage a personal protest, and I encourage the rest of you to do the same.

Source: The internet and pornography: Prime Minister calls for action

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz loves motorcycles - at the age of two, he told his mother "don't want brother, want mogabike." It was the biker connection that first brought Loz to Gizmag, but since then he's covered everything from alternative energy and weapons to medicine, marital aids - and of course, motorcycles. Loz also produces a number of video pieces for Gizmag, including his beloved bike reviews. He frequently disappears for weeks at a time to go touring with his vocal band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
30 Comments

So North Korea has won?

Gildas Dubois
23rd July, 2013 @ 06:39 am PDT

It would do a lot more good to promote parents taking care of their children.

No matter how noble the goal censorship is the wrong tool.

Slowburn
23rd July, 2013 @ 06:48 am PDT

If Cameron has evidence that online pornography is corroding childhood he should stop concealing it. Such an important finding requires immediate public consideration and not disclosing this evidence of corrosion is disgraceful. Porn, like "violent" video game content, has been expanding in access and quantity for years now so showing a direct link to increased violent crime, sex crime, teen pregnancies and such should be fairly easy. Yet these indicators have remained stable or declined during this period of porn and gaming hyper-expansion. So we desperately need to see this new compelling evidence of Cameron's.

Cough it up ya wanker.

Snake Oil Baron
23rd July, 2013 @ 09:17 am PDT

According to the Victorians, nude statues corrupted children. Then it was French postcards and "adult" photographs. Oh! The poor children! Millions of children were "corrupted" by finding prints in Daddy's nightstand. Then it was Playboy. I am sure all the 70-somethings will love to learn how badly they were corrupted by that. (Of course there were worse things than Playboy at the time, but it was considered mainstream and cool at the time.)

Then the VCR came along, and suddenly you could see actual pornographic movies at home. In... let's see... the 70s? So those who grew up with porn movies are now... running the governments!

But wait! Even before VHS, here in the U.S. you could actually watch X-rated movies at some drive-in theaters! At least around here you could. So the 50-and-60-somethings are all corrupted too!

Let's face it: the arguments of censors have never panned out. It's about control, nothing else.

Sometimes it's control by powermongers, sometimes by people who are so afraid of their own shadow, they are honestly concerned that others will be corrupted by the mere sight of it. But their irrational fears have never translated into reality. So my message to them is: grow up, and lighten up. Your attempts at control do nothing but damage.

Anne Ominous
23rd July, 2013 @ 10:05 am PDT

Websites today use robots.txt to tell search engine crawlers what not to index on the website.

Add robotx.txt to any website addresses to see what files and directories they disallow for search engine indexing.

It takes a lot of work to keep an updated master list of all porn on the Internet but many porn sites are openly willing to identify themselves as porn.

Why not augment robots.txt to allow websites to (optionally) categorize content for search engines crawlers so that it doesn't put the effort on a central authority?

The robots.txt file would look like

User-agent: *

Disallow: /api

Disallow: /login

Sitemap: http://website.com/sitemap.xml

Adult: /

The advantage for porn sites for doing this is it would make it easier for people to find content when they are looking for porn and the advantage for people attempting to build parental control platforms or filter content from search results is that most/many adult websites would self police removing a lot of the required manual effort.

There is no free speech issue because it's entirely optional so everybody wins.

Diachi
23rd July, 2013 @ 11:49 am PDT

The internet is full of porn and other extremely objectionable content, I'd prefer to block my children from seeing it. That is censorship and I fully support it. However I don't really have the tools to do that, except by surfing with my children, which is impractical. It's ridiculous to suggest it! The world is full of examples where we require the world be modified to make it safer for children. We have playground speed zones and child labor laws and age limits for cigarettes and dirty magazines. The internet is just another part of the world, what makes it exempt? NOTHING.

I have used K9 freeware web blocker, but it is not perfect. Google, for all their billions of dollars, doesn't seem to do any rating for their web pages or youtube videos.

I am happy to have a central agency perform blocking, that works for me.

Everybody should be crystal clear on the concept, no adult will be giving up any freedoms in order to protect children. The internet has not been used responsibly, so it needs to be regulated. With freedom comes responsibility, collectively we haven't been responsible enough so therefore the freedom of use should be modified. Not curtailed - just modified.

Grunchy
23rd July, 2013 @ 11:53 am PDT

@Grunchy

When an individual is forced to actively state that they want to view porn then they are giving up a freedom. Does it not make more sense to have opt-in filters rather than opt-out filters? You still get to protect your children, but you won't be expecting every other adult in the country to also do the same.

There's also the very real threat that this is just the first stage of censorship. It may be pornography right now, but it could be any number of other things in the future.

Dave Parrack
23rd July, 2013 @ 02:18 pm PDT

@Grunchy go regulate your own Internet and leave other alone please.

This is very well worded article and I have to agree with all of it.

I would like to add another aspect. Sexuality is a very private matter and requiring people to announce it to the government is a very shameful intrusion of privacy. This is not tolerable in my opinion.

If government would really care about people then it would provide tools to satisfy people like Grunchy that they could use in their households instead of applying a very questionable filtering to the whole nation.

I must say that the situation of the human rights in the UK goes darker and darker.

Kris Lee
23rd July, 2013 @ 02:49 pm PDT

@Grunchy are you sure your children are not watching porn or not even seeing nude pics. the more restriction u keep the more they will search. After govt. applies the censor they will search and get to know about proxy server, then what will u do. And it is not hard to visit censored sites.

my personal experience - after my dad started to sneak, i searched Google 'how to hide internet activity'. that's it.

Kong Ben
23rd July, 2013 @ 03:34 pm PDT

@Grunchy Schools and libraries are usually already filtered and for your home OpenDNS offers public DNS with free parental controls (FamilyShield).

It really isn't the responsibility of the Government to filter the entire Internet based on age and it isn't even technically feasible.

Diachi
23rd July, 2013 @ 03:48 pm PDT

@Dave Parrack

Indeed, it could be "hate speech" for next and then already without opt-out filter option. Of course what is hate speech is defined by the government.

Kris Lee
23rd July, 2013 @ 03:55 pm PDT

@Diachi

In my town, library computers are filtered but they allow you to turn the filters off. In the words of the Chief Librarian: "Libraries are not in the business of censoring information."

I also support my library for resisting the Feds. When the Feds said they were going to force libraries to turn over lists of books that patrons had checked out, our library system said, "Fine. We'll stop keeping records."

And they did. They only keep records of books currently checked out, and fines. Records of checked-out books are erased as soon as the book is checked back in.

I love it when people stand up for principle.

Anne Ominous
23rd July, 2013 @ 04:16 pm PDT

@Kris Lee

Exactly. It could, in theory, be any website or blog that is critical to the government, and when that happens you know you're in trouble. It's the first step on a slippery slope being disguised as child protection, and it stinks.

Dave Parrack
23rd July, 2013 @ 06:26 pm PDT

Right, once the infrastructure is in place to block content for simply being adult in nature how much harder is it to justify blocking something like wikileaks for hosting classified information? If a website teaches "children" how to make bombs how do you justify stopping them from seeing boobs but not that? Pornography can be found on many websites like pirate bay along with piracy so that is a block. Even though Reddit has held interviews with Schwarzenegger, Obama, Ron Paul etc. that would be blocked.

Diachi
23rd July, 2013 @ 09:22 pm PDT

The first step would be to ban The Sun newspaper - freely available to any age group - and to then remove all nude portraits from any of our free to enter art galleries. Then and only then could they think of censoring the internet. Double standards.

Unless they specifically block image, based on image recognition, in both still and video formats then any block will not work. What is called pornography today will be called something else that text filters won't pick up.

I don't have children, why censor my internet ?

Nic Lee
24th July, 2013 @ 02:12 am PDT

The old "Make love, Not war" arguments.

Why allowing a government to block porn but not block those bomb making sites and other lookalikes.

Why not also start blocking all those MMORPG gaming sites where you can kill whatever you see moving. there is no working age control whatsoever on most of the free sites.

Why do they have an army then. That's THE place to learn killing (and maybe get payed for it).

Why is it OK to see people killing each other but not OK the see people to make "Love"

Vincent Bevort
24th July, 2013 @ 03:03 am PDT

Censorship of the net in the name of children IS a grab for power and control. Censors do more harm than good by forcing a skewed view of reality upon us.

Threesixty
24th July, 2013 @ 04:54 am PDT

If Cameron is the best that the conservatives can do the UK is doomed.

Slowburn
24th July, 2013 @ 09:21 am PDT

He can get some tips about how to accomplish this massive feat from China, where it only 'sort of' works. Connect through a VPN, and you're tunneled under the great firewall.

No, every time a government does this kind of generalized censorship, it comes to a bad end.

flylowguy
24th July, 2013 @ 12:12 pm PDT

Cudos to Loz for this expose of the govt. menace.

Censorship is a survival response/tool of those who are in the wrong and can't win a debate.

Don Duncan
24th July, 2013 @ 02:43 pm PDT

Loz Blain [a like minded individual who is also a great journalist...] has more or less said it all and if he didn't cover all the angles then the rest of you above filled in the spaces [except Grunchy - a very apt name].

The word that comes to mind is - hypocrisy. And governments are notorious for this human trait, in not being transparent and up front with the proletariat.

Let us not forget that pornography has been around for thousands of years! It is intrinsically human and complex as befits our evolution. Most people [perhaps not so surprisingly] like to see other people having sex. It has been known to re-invigorate ailing marriages. Conversely, sexual frustration can be extremely damaging, leading to extreme forms of behaviour and crime.

To eradicate the exploitation of children; who have no physical power or wisdom to overcome the extreme intentions of predatory adults is a matter for education and/or psychiatry. You wouldn't use a strategic ICBM to mount a 'surgical strike'...

As for the Interwebnet... The governments of the world are running scared of this communication revolution and they should be, thanks to our famous 'whistle-blowers', brave in their endeavours to enlighten the public to the machinations and cover-ups of our so-called 'leaders', or questionable acts of their armies [acting on behalf of whom?]... The proposed 'regulation' of this medium is just the tip of the iceberg,,, Democracy? Freedom of speech?

No wonder that fledgling countries are struggling with the notion of democracy, it does not really exist; or at least its concept has been severely eroded by....

Hypocrisy, corruption, inequality and avarice are, unfortunately the 'creed' by which we appear to live by as societies... We need to evolve, mature and OPEN our eyes and take back control. Do we want an Orwellian or Roddenberry styled future...? Assuming, of course that we have a future...

Herr Kaleunt
24th July, 2013 @ 06:05 pm PDT

Censorship makes porn more attractive. The answer is to launch a coordinated international effort to track down and catch the predators. Web presence leaves a trail. Cameron get off your butt and follow it.

nutcase
24th July, 2013 @ 06:48 pm PDT

Loz, with his well-documented attempts to masturbate in ways no one else has thought of, is the obvious choice to lead this simmering Wankers Revolt. I'll be standing proudly beside you in your struggle with this slippery issue. We must fight before we can look forward into the great wide open etc etc

nutcase
24th July, 2013 @ 08:47 pm PDT

Sex is a basic human "need", hence the curiosity and urge. Teach your children to be "responsible", and they will learn to manage themselves. Trying to control everything never works.

Teach your children the following: Integrity, Responsibility, Inquiry, Service. These are the lessons all human beings must learn.

JC
24th July, 2013 @ 09:48 pm PDT

If you want a ban, ban everything from publication, broadcast and sale on and off the web, other than that there is just another minor soundbyte sticking plaster on a social wound just loud enougth to say I have done something about a problem and yet have done nothing to solve it. Of course there is little written or broadcast today without some sexual content. But quite often people tend not to notice the sexual metaphors in imagery and print unless they are pointed out to them by some expert lobbyist (Captain Pugwash).

L1ma
27th July, 2013 @ 03:38 pm PDT

well, if they really care why don't they just do the opposite, let those who don't want pron content on their internet request that from the providers.. its easy and simple. It is very clear that the government of the UK is doing it not for the sake of minors rather than involving in others privacy.

it is well written article. and i have to agree with everyone against the censorship. even if i don't watch porn myself.

i live in Saudi Arabia tho and probably we have the worst censorship could ever happened which includes ... political , pornography , and many random websites .it seems that the UK is moving backward to become another Saudi Arabia =(

Lupa
29th July, 2013 @ 02:42 am PDT

This isn't about porn at all. Porn is just a red herring to perpetuate state control of internet. Governments the world over (and not just in the middle east) are running scared after the last two years (UK riots, occupy, middle-eastern spring, Indian anti-corruption protests, Greece protests ... and so on) and this is yet another strike at internet freedom, which isn't as free as it used to be, but still far too free for the powers that be to be comfortable with. Censorship is perpetuated in the name of piracy, hate-speech, porn or security.

Akshat Sharma
30th July, 2013 @ 05:30 pm PDT

And now, UK Porn Filter Will Censor Other Content Too, ISPs Reveal:

https://torrentfreak.com/uk-porn-filter-will-censor-other-content-too-isps-reveal-130726/

Absolutely outrageous.

asdf
5th August, 2013 @ 02:21 am PDT

how can they push through something that has been rejected in the EU parlament? (ACTA and co)

MG127
7th August, 2013 @ 03:39 am PDT

There is good evidence that the introduction of easy access to graphic pornography has reduced sexual offences in those countries where it is allowed. That is because a greater number of violent men stay home and harmelssly masturbate instead of going out and hurting others. If the simulated rape of a consenting actress is banned from the British internet, then those men that like that sort of thing will only have the real thing as an outlet. Human nature cannot be changed by censorship.

Mirror16
7th August, 2013 @ 04:33 pm PDT
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