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.


rationalrevolution

I think it is a reasonable idea. The la will apparently not prevent people from access to on-line pornography, it will just require them to "opt-in". I think that's fine. I agree that access to on-line pornography is far too easy for children to access.

Note that I have no problem at all with pornography of any kind, as long as it is consensually made, but it is a bit absurd when 10 year olds are easily able to stumble upon free access to sites with pretty much all possible sexual activities...

Gunther

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

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.

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jounj

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

Carlos

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.

Crazyplan

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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Isabel

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.

rationalrevolution

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

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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Eric M. Jones

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?

Nil

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.

Mark

Ariel Castro just got life in prison plus 1000 years. He had a torture chamber at his house where he committed over 900 counts of rape of three women over two excrutiating years. He's also a porn addict. So was the murderer Ted Bundy. Both exposed to it at an early age. What if they hadn't had such easy access? What if a law such as this prevented just one of those rapes or murders? What if it had been your daughter? I have two daughters and I fear for what the acceptance of pornography means for them in their childhood and life as an adult. Shame on those who promote its use.

Eureka

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.

rationalrevolution

The most absurd thing about opposition to this law is the fact that this has always been true of television providers, yet no one freaked out and said, "OMG, How dare we have to request access to adult channels from our cable providers!"

This is really no different than how it has always been for cable providers. If you want the Playboy channel, or Hustler, you have to specify it from your cable provider.

This would be the same type of thing for ISPs, except you wouldn't even have to pay extra, and Playboy and Hustler are actually like child's programming compared to what you can easily find on the internet.

The argument against this is basically like saying that everyone should be forced to get porn channels on their TV, and it would then be the parent's responsibility to block the channels (except blocking channels is 1,000 times easier than blocking porn on a computer)

If you want porn, then YOU request access to it from you ISP, don't for people who don't want it to try and figure out how to block it (which end sup costing extra money and is only partially effective).

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Phillip

It's a false statement to say no one is opposed to censoring TV channels. I am. Always have been. Particularly the censoring of certain words.

I guess the difference was that old people watched TV and young people used the internet. So the old farts could have their silly idiot box. But us young people don't like the old folks trampling on our turf.

Phillip

Surprise, surprise. It's right wing politicians leading the charge of the expansion of the nanny state. I'm opposed to this for two reasons.

1) The government is over-reaching in its mandate here. They should stick to managing the economy and catching murders.

2) Porn isn't bad in any scientific way. It's just senseless humbugury on their part. People have sex. It's part of life. That's how we all got here. When children see sex they aren't turned on by it. They are first, confused, then after, apathetic to it. Teenagers on the other hand like it. And why shouldn't they? I watched a lot of porn when I was a teenager. Guess what, I turned out just fine.

Show me one study that says limiting porn produces any good results.