No Online Sex Please, We’re British

(Photo: Tactical Technology Collective)

According to a BBC News report:

Most households in the U.K. will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced. …

Mr Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography was “corroding childhood.”

The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers.

Mr Cameron also called for some “horrific” internet search terms to be “blacklisted,” meaning they would automatically bring up no results on websites such as Google or Bing.

You could spend a week reading the comments, which are quite heterogeneous.

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  1. rationalrevolution says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Gunther says:

      I think it is patently absurd to block legally acceptable online content on an ‘opt-in’ basis at the internet provider level, simply because the government deems it undesirable. So, what, I need to contact my provider and ask them to remove specific content from my IP address blacklist? This time around it’s pornography, but what about other subjectively ‘corrosive’ materials? Will future politicians decide I can only have access to those when I ask for them? A preference which is then recorded in my account history, where it can theoretically be viewed by third parties? You may have no qualms with drinking from that well of sorrows, but I’ll give it a pass.

      Regarding the law, it should be noted that there is already perfectly adequate legislation to combat the propagation of inherently unacceptable online content, such as child pornography and materials related to terrorism. Instead, we’re talking about legal content which, while generally unsuitable for minors, can be adequately managed by direct parental involvement and supervision. As a society, we gain no benefits from this law that cannot be provided by the responsibilities the affected parties /already carry/.

      If certain people cannot keep their children from finding information online which they, as parents, are unable or unwilling to explain and contextualise for them when they do so, why should I be confronted with the consequences of their flagrant incompetence and indolence? And if the main purpose of this law is to reinforce arbitrary moral values rather than to address the abdication of parental responsibility, then where is the public referendum that cemented these values as a universally supported viewpoint?

      I’m no great supporter of democracy’s chaos of many voices, but to partake in a system is to partake in it fully. You can’t simply impose your own morals on the masses in a democratic system, nor can you cut and paste feedback from favorable focus groups and base blanket policy on it. Ask the people the real, no-nonsense question: “Would you like your government to restrict internet access to content it does not approve of, while requiring registration for all individuals who wish to circumvent these restrictions?” I’m sure the verdict on that one would be quite uniform.

      Whatever the means-to-an-end magic behind it, though, this law sets an appaling precedent with regards to the integrity of basic human rights such as freedom of speech, opinion and choice. When access to specific websites and web services is blocked by dictatorial states, Western commentators are quick to condemn such restrictions. How strange, then, that some would turn a blind eye to such practices in their own back yard.

      Naturally, if you feel this law is the best thing since sliced bread, I’d be happy to hear your arguments. In the meantime, I’ll be in your town square, burning your books.

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      • MindTheGAAP says:

        While I see your point, I think you’re still missing it. There are thousands of ways in which the government has imposed regulations on perfectly legal material as precautionary measures to prevent it from getting easily accessed by minors. What about child caps on medicine bottles – are you afraid the government will start putting them on cookie boxes to curb obesity? How about alcohol, which the government already requires you go to stores with special licenses and present a valid ID? There are numerous more ways your everyday consumption of legal goods and services is regulated by the government, or, you are paying for your consumption of goods in some manner solely for the benefit/protection of someone else’s kids.

        I don’t think its entirely unreasonable to accept that the internet has provided access to products over the last 10-15 years in new ways and the government has the right to put in place measures to prevent those products from falling into the wrong hands. I think you would agree that its best that alcohol is not simply laying around easily accessible to minors with no identification, I don’t see why porn should be treated differently.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 28 Thumb down 32
      • rationalrevolution says:

        First, let’s be clear, it’s not as if restricting access to pornography is some great horror. It’s not as if this is some “right” that people have always had from the dawn of time. Let’s be serious, over the past 10 years or so has been the first time in history when anyone can access an essentially endless library of pornography ranging to the most obscene stuff possible for free and with no restrictions, or even effort.

        Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t really have a problem with this for adults, but it isn’t appropriate for children.

        And let’s be clear. From about 50 years ago to about 15 years ago, in order to get access to material not even nearly as graphic as this, one had to go into a store and provide some identification in order to buy such material with their money.

        Prior to that such material basically wasn’t available at all. Maybe a few coin ops going back to the early 20th century, with fuzzy black and whites of naked women.

        Now one can easily pull up endless catalogs of free material ranging from gang-bangs to bestiality to rape scenes to whatever else, gay, straight, group, tranny, etc.

        I hardly think that restricting access to this material is going to “cause harm”, the human race got by without it for all of history up until about 10 years ago.

        I totally agree that it shouldn’t be restricted for adult consumption, nor should there be limits on what type of porn gets made, etc. as long as no one is harmed in the process, etc. but I hardly see how putting steps in place to reduce child access to such material is going to do any harm. And enough of the slippery slope nonsense. “Today is porn, tomorrow it’s restrictions on political speech!!!”

        This really stems from the failure of the industry to regulate itself. And given the nature of the internet its easy to see what that failure has happened.

        “Instead, we’re talking about legal content which, while generally unsuitable for minors, can be adequately managed by direct parental involvement and supervision. As a society, we gain no benefits from this law that cannot be provided by the responsibilities the affected parties /already carry/.”

        This always amuses me.

        The problem is that many parents aren’t responsible, that’s the point. Saying, “rely on good parenting” isn’t a policy. Saying, “too bad for kids with bad parents” isn’t a policy. Yes, if all parents were not only responsible, but also technically savvy, and themselves aware, then maybe we wouldn’t have this issue, but they aren’t, and so we have to do something to account for the ones that aren’t, because their kids don’t deserve to be victims, and because their kids are going to interact with other kids too.

        We had a situation here in the States with a 5th grade boy forcing a 1st grade boy to suck the ****s of a group of 1st-3rd grade boys, we’ve had growing childhood prostitution and gang rapes committed by KIDS UNDER 10 here in the states, it’s probably happening there too.

        I don’t know if this is related to on-line porn or not, but it seems like a reasonable assumption, and something that I’m sure can be investigated and known.

        But here is the main thing. Is restricting access to porn going to cause harm? No. It isn’t.

        Without doing so you basically force anyone who wants access to the internet in their house to also allow access to an infinite library of pornography as well. I think many parents will be very happy with this legislation, and there are many parents who aren’t responsible enough to do this on their own.

        Unfortunately, not only does becoming a parent not require any responsibility, but in fact in many cases becoming a parent is a direct result of irresponsibility. That’s just reality. I fail to see how making adults jump through a very low threshold hoop to get access to the largest library of pornography in the history of the world does any harm to anyone.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 37 Thumb down 36
      • Gunther says:

        Comparing child-proof containers and alcohol laws to blanket bans on internet content is a bit off the mark, I’m afraid. How often have you needed to register your preference for aspirin with a healthcare provider before the packaging allowed you to open it? Have you ever been refused a purchase at the liquor store because /nobody/ is allowed to buy alcohol, regardless of age and admissible proof thereof, without registering as a drinker under local law?

        Many pornographic websites already have age checks. I’d never be so naive as to say they cannot be circumvented by a child, but they meet the requirements specified by law. The same goes for YouTube videos, game advertisements and movie trailers that contain content unsuitable for children. All these checks can be readily passed by a child, but they /do/ exist. In addition, any parent can install ironclad content filters on the family computer.

        If they wish to restrict their child’s access to information, it is their responsibility to do so. If they are incapable of committing to this responsibility, the rest of us should not be burdened by their incompetence. If they feel the material is inherently objectionable or hold other ludicrously restrictive puritanical values over the heads of those around them, they are free to their opinions and the criticism they will receive because of them.

        However, pornographic material does not pose a health risk to the public. If a child eats a bottle of aspirin, he or she could die. If a child drinks a bottle of wodka, he or she could die. If a child watches a pornographic film, he or she could d… Oh, no, wait a second – he or she would simply require some illuminating insight and information from the guardian who is responsible for guiding them on the path to adulthood.

        In short, the act of protecting the public from possible harm is not the issue here. The issue is that the government is curtailing free access to legal information with blanket legislation to either absolve lazy parents of their responsibilities or enforce a one-sided value system, while forcing the rest of the population to formally register their active use of said information.

        This is not like being required to flash your ID card to get a beer at the bar. It’s more like being required to register the party you voted for to your name and/or address, even though you already meet the requirements that allow you to vote in the first place.

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      • Enter your name... says:

        > How often have you needed to register your preference for aspirin
        > with a healthcare provider before the packaging allowed you to open it?

        Yes, I’ve done this. That’s how people with arthritis get non-childproof caps on their drugs. You tell the pharmacist and they make a note in your file.

        > Have you ever been refused a purchase at the liquor store because /nobody/ is allowed
        > to buy alcohol, regardless of age and admissible proof thereof, without registering as
        > a drinker under local law?

        Didn’t Minnesota do this for decades? One of those northern square states, anyway. An id card wasn’t good enough. You had to have a separate license to buy alcohol. Also, there are many counties that require “membership” in a private club to buy alcohol. And almost all states require registration if you’re buying a keg or more of beer.

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  2. jounj says:

    Another classic case of government trying to play daddy and shoving things down other people’s throat.

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  3. Carlos says:

    Maybe the PM Cameron thinks that he is the first leader in the world history with that ‘fantastic’ idea.I suggest a bet about how bad that measure will backfire.

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  4. Crazyplan says:

    The problem with this move is that the underlying assumptions are problematic. First, it is assumed that pornography is a bad thing, at best a necessary evil, that is destroying society. Consensually made pornography not only provides sexual pleasure but can also be a) a useful tool for demystifying aspects of sex, particularly in groups where sex is a taboo topic (don’t forget that UK is multicultural), b) a method of sexual exploration which is a good thing as it helps form one’s sexual identity and c) an art form in itself that allows artists to express themselves.

    Also, the move is based more on conjecture than on evidence. Porn can equally foster healthier intersexual relationships, even if it is being viewed by children. Unless there is evidence to point either way, it is anyone’s guess.

    Lastly, there will likely be detrimental impact young females in religious households, who have limited access to other forms of sexual exploration. Granted that there is sexual education but that caters to a very heteronormative, outmoded sexual model. The world has moved on and the porn industry is better able to portray those changes (customers dictate the supply).

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    • Enter your name... says:

      You might want to read what the “Make love, not porn” people say before you extol the virtues of porn as forming people’s ideas of what good or normal sexual activity looks like.

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      • hanmeng says:

        You can put me in charge of deciding what’s normal.

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      • Austin says:

        The “Make love, not porn people” are selling their own brand of porn. Of COURSE they’re going to express an opinion that all porn other than THEIR porn is bad; they’re trying to peddle their own wares. Come on, please tell me you’re more intelligent than that?

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  5. Isabel says:

    I just worry about how, while, say, a drug has to be tested incredibly carefully before it gets a licence, governments do all sorts of things on a general hunch, and those things could have incredibly bad unintended consequences. With regard to the “horrific” searches, what if viewing pictures of these things is a substitute for carrying them out yourself? I’m not sure it is, maybe, conversely, viewing those pictures does encourage the rape of children etc. But it worries me that I think the government doesn’t know how it will pan out any more than I do. And they don’t bother worrying, because naturally banning those kinds of photographs is popular. Also, restricting pornography is one of the few ways Cameron can appeal to his Conservative base and try to score more points with women at the same time.

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    • rationalrevolution says:

      This doesn’t make any sense at all. People have gone without access to the types of porn easily found on the internet today for all of human existence up until about 10-15 years ago. I fail to see how putting in a modest regulation like this poses the need for any kind of “testing”.

      Even if the governing totally banned all internet porn, all that it would be doing is rolling back the clock to the ways things have always been prior to the internet.

      Releasing a drug is introducing something new, that has never been experienced before. Going without internet porn isn’t “something new, that has never been experienced before,” it’s what has always been true since the beginning of time.

      Indeed the opposite is the case. If anything I’d say that the comparable analogy here would be for the government to ban all internet porn and commission studies on the effects of internet porn before allowing it.

      I’m not suggesting that, but that’s the only makes sense with your analogy.

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      • Austin says:

        Surely you’re not arguing that sexual repression is the norm, or that it’s even desirable for society. ???

        In your arguments about porn not having been so readily available, you ignore the availability of other types of sexual outlets. The banning of prostitution or brothels, for example, is a pretty recent development. Porn seems like a reasonable compromise for the banning of brothels, don’t you think? Also, taking something that is ALREADY available away from a society that’s used to it is much more of a Pandora’s box than simply ‘resetting things to pre-internet conditions’.

        There’s quite a bit of evidence that access to porn is correlative (and possibly even causal) to lower rates of sexual violence and ‘deviance’. Pick your poison: Consensual acts, or sexual violence.

        Either way, the desire to impose one’s own ideals on others, out of some sense of protecting people from themselves is hardly a moral choice.

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      • rationalrevolution says:

        @Austin I seriously doubt it was ever the case that 8 year old kids could go to a prostitute. Even if the prostitutes would take their money, its doubtful they ever had access to the money to go to one, and the idea that kids could easily just accidentally stumble into having sex with prostitutes makes no sense.

        Go to Google or Bing, type in sex, go to the images tab. You don’t even need to go to a “porn site”. Now type in “horse sex”. I mean come on.

        All the law would do is make it so that if you want access to porn, you have to consent specify that preference with your ISP. What’s the big deal? Right now, when you sign up with an ISP, by default you get access to porn. All this law would do is restrict access by default, and require you to say “Yes I want porn”, in order to get it through your ISP.

        How the heck is that a big deal?

        Really, “taking away” super easy access to porn is a “Pandora’s box”? How so? Really and truly, tell em what the heck harm is going to come from this.

        “There’s quite a bit of evidence that access to porn is correlative (and possibly even causal) to lower rates of sexual violence and ‘deviance’. Pick your poison: Consensual acts, or sexual violence.”

        No, there are mixed studies and the results are ambiguous. And at any rate, those are studies of adults, not studies of children. I don’t know of any studies where they have 7, 8, 9, 10 year olds watching fisting movies and gang-bangs, and simulated rape scenes, and girls having sex with dogs and seeing how the kids turn out.

        I think it’s perfectly fine to say that if this is something you want then the people who want it need to be the ones who make the extra effort, not the people who don’t. That’s all this is saying. And I’ll admit up front that I view internet porn, and if I lived in the UK I’d be on the list for allowing it with my ISP. So what.

        This is really the difference, it’s a matter of who has to make the effort, the person who wants it or the one who doesn’t. It’s totally unfair to put the burden on the people who don’t want it.

        This is one of the biggest problems with the modern media environment. These corporations push all kinds of crap at you and your family, and then cry that the burden of avoiding all this crap has to be on the one getting it shoved in their face.

        You probably aren’t a parent, but I can tell you that being a parent in a modern capitalist society is maddening. And let’s not kid ourselves, this isn’t about “sexual expression”, this is about capitalism and making money, that’s why these porn sites exist after all.

        In modern capitalist society corporations bombard our children with junk food advertising, crap toy advertising, all kinds of various subversive marketing schemes, derogatory music and movies, all kinds of unhealthy “teen” magazines, etc., and they keep claiming, “it’s up to the parents to be responsible,” as 50 thieves are trying to pick-pocket their kids, whispering in their ears, and trying to shove candy bars, alcohol, and cigarettes down their throats, while they lecture you on being a bad parent.

        Parents are fed up with it. Parents can’t defend their kids against the onslaught of lust and greed levied at them by corporations, it’s not possible, unless you want to become a f*ing recluse or Amish person and totally disconnect with society.

        I’m sick and tired of the f*ing capitalists doing everything in their power to take control away from parents, beat parents down, and force themselves into our homes, while pointing fingers at parents and telling them how bad they are because they fail to be able to defend their kids on multiple fronts indefinitely.

        It’s f*ing absurd, and make no mistake, this isn’t about “freedom”, it’s about exploitation.

        Look, I’m a VERY liberal person. I’m fine with whatever sex people want to have, in fact I’m fine with stuff that is currently illegal in most places if people want to do it consensually. I’m in favor of decriminalizing all recreational drugs and prostitution too.

        But don’t f*ing FORCE yourself into my house! If people want to get these things, porn, drugs, prostitutes, violence, whatever, that’s fine, but make the people who want it put forth the effort to get it. Don’t throw it in my face and tell me it’s my job to ignore it or stop it.

        And that’s the issue with this porn stuff. It’s just on more straw on the camel’s back. As a parent you see that basically all of society is setup and try and rape your f*ing kid at every turn, and you’re told that it’s your job to single handedly defend your kid at all times. Instead of making the people who don’t want porn in their house try to figure out how to ATTEMPT to block it or to keep it away from their kids, make the people who want it at least say, “Yes, I want that.”

        Is that too hard?

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      • Austin says:

        I think your attitude is one of the biggest problems I have with the law. You’re right that it’s not particularly difficult to get on the list. However, I think there’s something wrong with having to opt-in, in order to avoid censorship. What of people who are going to be in a position of being blackmailed by this information? Not everybody is in a position that other people having direct access to what they chose to view isn’t going to be problematic for them. What happens when, say, somebody runs for political office, and that information somehow ‘accidentally’ gets made public, and is used to blast somebody for being a ‘pervert’? What about married people whose spouses are going to have a problem with it? Now, I’m sure you’ll say that people who’s spouses who have a problem with it shouldn’t be viewing it in the first place, but that’s you imposing your ‘morality’ on others.

        I cannot tell you EXACTLY what harm will come from banning porn, ex post facto. I’d think that somebody commenting on a freakonomics blog would understand the very basic Law of Unintended Consequences. We just don’t always know ahead of time what those consequences would be. I think that was the point of the OP. Just because I cannot predict the future and tell you exactly what all of those consequences will be, doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

        I never said 8 year-olds could go to prostitutes. That was never the counterpoint to my statement. We’re talking about what adults have been allowed to do in the past, without putting themselves on a registry that could potentially be used against them in the future.

        Now, back to your attitude. Parenting is hard. So what? The trouble is with people who are too lazy to be an ACTUAL parent, who require the state to do it for them. Why does your 8-year-old have unsupervised access to the computer, let alone to watch hours of fisting and rape videos? That’s a reflection of downright TERRIBLE parenting. It is the responsibility of PARENTS to ‘protect’ their children from seeing whatever it is you think they shouldn’t be seeing, not the responsibility of society to cower in the corner, for fear of offending some crappy parent.

        I’m not particularly a big fan of religion. Yet it’s crammed in my face CONSTANTLY. I don’t want my children being exposed to mythology as though it were truth. But the reality is that you cannot avoid it. Now, should we pass a law that one must “opt in” before being able to access religious media, in order to ‘protect’ my children; or, more accurately, protect ME from the responsibility being a good parent, because that’s just too much effort?

        What’s so hard about the PARENTS being the ones making the choice to “opt out”. You yourself said it’s not that difficult to call up and get put on a list. Why is it so hard and impossible for parents to assume a little bit of responsibility and opt-out, instead of forcing everybody else to opt in? Other than the fact that so many people expect their government to raise their children on their behalf, with the minimum amount of effort being actually required from the parent.

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      • James says:

        “Now type in “horse sex”.”

        You know, hundreds of generations of kids grew up on farms. You think maybe they walked around blindfolded so they didn’t see what the animals were doing, note the fairly obvious comparisons to their own anatomy, and draw their own conclusions?

        Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3
    • FDUK says:

      We have embarked on a massive experiment on what happens when children are exposed to porn from an early age. I suspect the results will not be good.

      The Government as a legitimate interest in protecting children from this effect. And there is no loss of freedom by this measure, as you will get the choice if you want porn, you just have to opt in.

      Freedom of speech can’t include the freedom to corrupt children

      Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8
      • Phillip says:

        Corrupt is a pretty loaded word. Not everyone agrees with you that the reproduction of our species is a negative thing.

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      • Austin says:

        “Freedom of speech can’t include the freedom to corrupt children”

        Isn’t that pretty much what they told Socrates when they killed him?

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      • FDUK says:

        What has porn got to do with reproduction?

        I have no problem with porn being available but not for children.

        Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5
      • Austin says:

        “What has porn got to do with reproduction?”

        Porn is sex on film. Sex is how reproduction happens… This isn’t rocket science.

        “I have no problem with porn being available but not for children.”

        Then how about not allowing children unsupervised access to the internet? I don’t want my children viewing porn either. So here’s a novel idea I’m willing to share with you for free. How about not ALLOWING your children to watch porn? Who is the adult in this situation? Who is actually RUNNING your household? You, or your children?

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  6. Eric M. Jones says:

    Oops! It turns out the Porn Filter referred to is controlled by a Chinese firm: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23452097

    Buy whatever happened to the .XXX or .SEX top domain idea? It would be easy to block if you wanted to.

    But if they can block porn, why can’t they block spam?

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
  7. Nil says:

    Block regular sites and a good chunk of the kids will learn to work around the filters. Instead of googling or going to mainstream sites their natural curiosity will encourage them to explore Bittorrent sites, P2P networks & Darknets.

    Those sources tend to have much sketchier material, and in the case of Darknets lots of kiddie porn, animal porn and other such illicit/underground files mixed in.

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  8. Mark says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Eureka says:

      You know what else Ariel Castro and Ted Bundy had in common? They drove cars and paid taxes. That does not mean that learning how to drive or paying taxes turns human beings into monsters.

      You know who else has had unfettered access to pornography? Everyone with an internet connection over the past decade. Strangely enough, this has not created an entire generation of monsters.

      Or, in more formal terms, correlation does not imply causation. The relationship between pornography and violent behaviour is certainly unproven and likely tenuous at best.

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