UK Prime Minister More Interested In Regulating The Internet Than Regulating Porn

from the the-internet-is-for-smiling-politely dept

By the end of next year, every person connected to the internet in the UK will be subject to a government-mandated porn filter. The filter will be on by default at the ISP level, and if subscribers wish to be unblocked, they have to contact their providers by the end of this year and opt-in. Otherwise, it's gone.

Prime Minister David Cameron also recently made a series of unintelligible statements aimed at search engines, claiming they were the third part of a "triangle" that "enabled" child porn producers to find an audience. His proposed "solution" was to make search engines (and ISPs) filter the web and search results according to a government-approved blacklist. These bold "for the children" statements ignored the fact that both ISPs and search engines already actively block illegal images and supply info on these images to investigative agencies.

Cameron has had a hard-on hatred for porn for quite some time. But when recently cornered about the Sun's notorious Page 3 topless photos, he revealed his porn concerns are strictly limited to the Wild West Internet.

David Cameron has said he would never support a ban on topless images on page 3 of the Sun newspaper, as he set out plans for greater regulation of online pornography.

Pressed to explain the distinction between his proactive position on online pornographic images and his laissez-faire stance on topless images in newspapers, he said that it was up to consumers whether or not they wanted to buy the Sun.

"This is an area where we should leave it to consumers to decide, rather than to regulators," he said in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.
So, what's the distinction? Why should some offensive images be regulated and others graciously allowed to be subject to consumers' desires?
"We have to always ask the question where should we regulate and where shouldn't we regulate, and I think on this one I think it is probably better to leave it to the consumer," Cameron said. "In the end it's an issue of personal choice whether people buy a newspaper or don't buy a newspaper."
If that question actually gets asked as often as Cameron makes it sound, I'd be surprised. And if it does, the first question receives a lion's share of the affirmative answers. And he's right, it is a personal choice if people decide to purchase a newspaper containing gratuitous nudity. It's also a personal choice if people decide they'd rather have unfiltered access to the web. But only one of these choices is being actively limited by the guiding hand of government.

If Cameron wants to be against porn, then he should be consistent in his views. If he wants to be for letting the public decide, then he should do that across the board. Hypocrisy is annoying enough without the weight of a government mandate behind it.

It could be argued that "opting-in" for open online access to porn is equivalent to making the decision to purchase the Sun, thus leaving the fate of both strictly in the consumers' hands. But this argument is wrong, even if the difference between the two is barely noticeable to the consumer. Dropping a mandatory porn filter on ISPs adds an extra expense and a regulatory/liability burden these companies didn't have previously. Associated costs will be passed along to subscribers and whenever something goes wrong with the filtering software, it will be the ISP, not the government, that has to deal with it.

Meanwhile, porn is available at newsstands (and browsed at the parliamentary estate), unrestricted by Cameron's anti-porn crusade and free from regulation. Choosing to ignore one form while using the other as a whipping boy just sends the message that Cameron's more interested in controlling the internet than solving the porn "problem."



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Rabbit80 (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 7:50am

    The problem with these porn filters is that they block legitimate sites. For example - TalkTalk already has an opt-in porn filter - but if it is enabled, I can no longer visit torrentfreak.com

    Not only that, but these filters do not block the porn adverts that you see littered around the web, they cannot address tor, vpn access, usenet, web proxies etc..

    This plan of Camerons is just another wasteful use of taxpayers money - it could be used far better to chase and prosecute those who put the illegal (child porn, bestiality etc) images on the internet in the first place.

     

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      fogbugzd (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:05am

      Re:

      You highlighted some real problems, but my concern is mission creep. What comes after they have the filters in place under the guise of "Protect the Children!" Terrorism is probably up next, and that part of the filter won't be optional because "only terrorist sympathizers could be against blocking terrorism sites." After the mandatory filters are in place the next public enemy will almost certainly be PIRACY. I suspect this is the actual driving force behind the current movement since simply blocking torrent sites has not worked. After that they have some wonky defamation laws in England, so sites that make celebrities look bad are a likely candidate, especially if they can be extended just a bit to cover politicians. And that opens the door to blocking any type of "subversive" sites, especially those that criticize the filtering system itself.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:54am

        Re: Re:

        Most of the western censorship is done on an ISP-basis and getting around it is a very easy, thank god. AFAIK the british blacklisting will only hinder inadvertant porn viewing so in itself it is of low value as a true censorship tool. If he wants to run the internet into the ground he needs to extend the effectiveness of tools significantly and not just extend the scope. If he only extends the scope you will end up with most brits just turning the blacklist off by default. Internet analphabethy is on the way down in most of the western world so the people getting trapped by the blatant censorship will be a minority. Meanwhile I am pretty sure that the Torries will get politically obliterated if they did go that far.

         

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          fogbugzd (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There are already efforts block some of the easy work around methods. VISA was making threatening noise about not making payments to services like VPN's use usenet.

           

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          PaulT (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "AFAIK the british blacklisting will only hinder inadvertant porn viewing"

          Only *deliberately* do so. If you think there won't be mission creep ("but there's this Islamic site that offends us...", enforced methods that overblock content or simple moral panic (the video nasties happened last time these clowns were in power), you're sadly mistaken.

          "Meanwhile I am pretty sure that the Torries will get politically obliterated if they did go that far."

          No, the people who swallow the propaganda in the British press and believe whatever the Daily Mail bothers to print in between rants about immigrants and hoodies. They'll either not realise it's happening, blame some 3rd party or be convinced that it's somehow for their benefit to have their rights removed. It's worked on them before.

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:40pm

      Re:

      It's my life. Don't you forget.

      (Gwen Stefani said it better.}

       

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    Robert, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 8:28am

    Censorship

    The basic idea of those filters is to 'accidentally' censor web sites whose message oppose the government mandated message.
    Of course given some months in court you can get the censorship lifted but then it accidentally happens again.
    It doesn't take too long and that political protection extends out to corporations and the rich and greedy.
    Basically mandatory censorship is the means by which the cost of publishing on the internet can be pushed out of reach of the majority, simply by burdening with the legal costs of having censorship lifted after it has been arbitrarily applied without penalty for abuses.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:17pm

      Re: Censorship

      It's the early stage of a slippery slope to complete filtration of the internet: blocking anything that doesn't have the blessing of the government or a corporation. Yay democracy.

       

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 8:43am

    And also distracting people from how crap his government have been on the economy and the issue of how his party is funded.

    What amuses me about these conservative governments is that they claim to be all about smaller government. They say that they want to minimise government intrusion into people's lives but they want to monitor and control everything we do on the Internet.

    This is just one example of how incompetent his government has been.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 8:55am

      Re:

      What amuses me about these conservative governments is that they claim to be all about smaller government.


      I don't know much about the intricacies of UK politics, but in the US, this is evidence. I regularly hear about how conservatives want smaller government, but I have yet to see any behaving as if that's what they want.

       

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        Mogul, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:30am

        Re: Re:

        In the UK The Conservative party pushed this idea of "Big Society" where the idea was that the government played less of a role in organizing many social services and activities and let the people decide what they wanted.

        In reality it's just a way for them to offload responsibility for systemic failures.

         

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        That One Guy (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:39am

        Re: Re:

        'want smaller government*'

        The problem is you're missing the implied asterisk, that notes that the 'smaller government' only applies to business concerns and matters, as they seem to have no problem with a more intrusive government in non-business matters.

         

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    Simon, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 8:44am

    Claire Perry appears to be Cameron's mastermind behind this years iteration of porn-blocking.
    Her site was recently hacked in response to Cameron's proposal and in turn this e-illiterate woman accused a reporter of sponsoring the hack because he wrote about the site's defacement.

    No wonder Cameron's proposal is ludicrous.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    Don't you know?

    When you add "On the Internet" to something, you multiply the effect by 10000. That's why boobies on the internet is much, much worse than boobies on the newspaper.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:22am

      Re:

      If you read about copyright it is actually more or less explicit.

      Internet is one of the biggest threats to the classic notion of nationality. Breaking down boundaries will force competition in an area where the western world is inherently uncompetitive. Therefore western governments dream of a more politically submissive setup where they can legislate it into oblivion.

      Since their latest effort with using ITU was hijacked by a russian and chinese "national value" definition the western world do not accept (heavier censorship and to enforce it, DPI), it is getting more and more of a priority to gain international control of the internet.

      The biggest problems about internet regulation is that USA and EU fundamentally have different agendas on especially data protection (hello NSA) and how to regulate (EU wants a far more extensive regulation than USA)!

       

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    saulgoode (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 8:55am

    These bold "for the children" statements ignored the fact that both ISPs and search engines already actively block illegal images and supply info on these images to investigative agencies.
    The problem is that ISPs and search engines are currently doing this voluntarily. It would be much better (for overly repressive governments) if they were forced to do so by law; that way, when it is decided that other types of content should also be censored, the legal mechanism will be in place to do so.

     

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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:13am

    Monty Cameron's Flying Circus

    On this week's episode:
    After discovering Larry (Pytor Gundavich) hasn't left his room for two weeks and is masturbating 20 times a day whilst watching online porn, the lads embark on a mission to make watching internet porn an opt-in registration throughout the UK. Hilarity ensues when the Ministry of Dirty Pictures announces the entire population of the UK is now named "Mr. Smith".
    Tonight at 10 PM on BBC2

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:16am

    There's always ways around such blockers, like online website translators, or anonymouse.org.

    So only the technology illiterate will be blocked from porn and other stuff.

     

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    Guardian, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:21am

    THEY are scared it leads to democracy and freedom for all

    THEY are scared it leads to democracy and freedom for all.
    THEY do not wish this and wish to continue there lil royal babies and lil yacht trips and golf games with other rich wealthy lazy fucks

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:26am

    Why go after search engines?

    To be able later to make it illegal to access distributed search engines that have no way to censor anything?

     

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    Titania Bonham-Smythe (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:29am

    Cameron may have already have hoisted himself on his own petard

    The reason they talk about The Sun on Radio 4 is because it is at the heart of Murdoch's ability to determine which political party is elected next. If Cameron caused The Sun to fall foul of his poorly thought through censorship system it would be political suicide. So he has to invent an illogical line in the sand that allows their topless models and occasionally salacious content, but disallows things that would increase his political capital.

    When he says something will or won't be censored, this means nothing. He has no say over the details of how each ISP runs their censorship. He's just saying whatever seems like the right answer to him at the time that will keep him in power.

    In this article in The Sun today they are clearly firing a warning shot across his boughs. He's lost their support even though he's saying The Sun won't be censored.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    As far as I can see he is not too worried about publication that goes through a gatekeeper, as the owners of those publications play in the political playpen. He is very worried about the Internet because it has no gatekeepers, anybody can create a blog etc., and these can be political dynamite. They allow people to make their opinions known to the government by organising themselves, and could lead to new political parties that oust him and his friends.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:30am

    They watch the VPN business in the UK take off, as people use VPNs to circumvent the "Great Firewall of Cameron"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:58am

    'Cameron's more interested in controlling the internet than solving the porn "problem'

    and we all know why, because the next step will be to ban music downloads, then movie downloads then something, anything, everything else! and all to please the USA government that is hell bent on dictating what can and cant be available, on the internet, that the entertainment industries produce and want stopped! this is just censorship, plain and simple, brought on by an industry that wants to run the internet in it's own fucked up image, making as much money from it as possible, with as little concern for the customers as it has had from day one!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    Whaaaa?? Since when is it not a matter of personal choice to search for porn on the Internet?

     

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    PRMan, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    Big guy little guy

    It's just more of the same. We can roll over the small guys, but the big corporations, well, that's up to you as the consumer.

     

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    sharp as a marble, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 7:01pm

    the problem that may be overlooked the most is piracy. while there is currently tons of free porn available if this is taken away many people will probably switch to services such as bittorrent to get their fix as opposed to getting put on a list (or asking their parents to please enable porn) this will contribute to more of the speculative invoicing lawsuits and will overall have an even greater negative impact on everyone.

     

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    shaun b martin, Sep 17th, 2013 @ 4:31am

    shocking

    In the Uk these types of website are a huge problem to our society and children. The focus should definitely be on regulating these types of terrible sites.
    SHAUN.M
    regulate

     

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      PaulT (profile), Sep 17th, 2013 @ 5:49am

      Re: shocking

      I'd say that people who spam 2 month old articles with crappy irrelevant links baited with fearmongering comments are a bigger problem, myself. Is this really the only way you have to sell your crappy themes?

       

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