It's been a rather eventful weekend as David Cameron's porn vendetta (porndetta?) is now completely underway. Just in the past week, we found Cameron blaming search engines for child porn, claiming topless women in British newspapers were NOT porn and that the UK government had outsourced its filtering system to a company headquartered in China.
In other, non-Cameron news, a self-appointed Guardian of Purity, Claire Perry, had her website hacked, goatse'd and referred to in a blog post. Perry's response? To blame the hacking on the blogger reporting the news and threatening to call his editor and discuss... well, something, I guess. Long story short: Perry is now facing a possible defamation suit for calling the blogger a hacker.
Over the weekend, the inadvertent gift kept on giving.
First off via Slashdot, the Polish Minister of Justice got swept up in the anti-porn spirit and declared Cameron's filtering system to be just the sort of thing Poland needs. This set off a debate which, unlike many, was resolved by the end of the day, when the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (along with the Minister of Administration and Digitization, Michal Boni) took the idea 'round back and had it shot.
We shall not block access to legal content regardless of whether or not it appeases us aesthetically or ethically.
That's PM Tusk leaving zero room for argument with a firm statement. Boni, showing he's one of the rare politicians who understands how the Web works, added:
I would like to find solutions that are effective and at the same time do not cause concerns regarding surveillance of Internet users or over potential of erroneous limiting our Internet activity. (...) Filtering does not remove the content.
It's a sad statement on the world's political leaders when a little technical know-how is enough to set you apart from your peers. Claire Perry's grasp on "hacking" seemed to rely on the "fact" that screenshots and hyperlinks are interchangeable, as well her assumption that reporting on a site hacking is the same as hacking the site.
On the plus side, Perry's lack of knowledge still puts her ahead on another anti-porn crusader
, Rhoda Grant of the Scottish Parliament who, back in June, posed this question:
“If there’s a watershed on the TV then why isn’t there one for the internet?”
Absolutely, Rhoda. We'll get right on it. We'll send a letter down to The Internet (a.k.a. "Google") informing it of the 10 PM cutoff. Once the kids are in bed,
The Internet is free to resume its regularly scheduled programming of porn and sweary bits. But not before 10 PM. (P.S. That includes Image Search.)
Speaking of obtuseness, Deborah Orr at the Guardian has a lengthy editorial wondering what's so bad about filtering porn and why are so many people outraged
[I]t's irksome to me that I've had to write this piece, which is essentially an appeal for calm in a climate that says, with a baffling disregard for the view of the vast majority, that the right to porn must be universal and that access to it must be protected from all possible inhibitions
There's a lot more to it than that, although if you're paying attention, you already know she's arrived at the wrong conclusion. Orr spends time attacking every argument against Cameron's filtering, including the censorship argument.
The most shrill complaint against Cameron's wheeze is that it's "censorship". This seems to me like saying that not placing a copy of Anna Karenina in every home, pre-web, was censorship against Russian novels. No one is telling people that they aren't allowed to access porn on the web. They're saying that in order to do so, you have to tick the box pretending that you've read the terms and conditions. And why not? Even in the highly sexualised public spaces of contemporary Britain, there's still broad agreement that footage of people humping shouldn't be up on a screen at Piccadilly Circus. There's absolutely no reason why the internet should be any different.
But it is
censorship, Deborah, even if it's a low-flying, somewhat malign, "opt-in" version of censorship, one that proves Cameron's not above using the bodies of murdered children as a platform. With Cameron's plan in place, a person's internet is now filtered by the government (routed through a Chinese third party). No one's expecting porn to come bursting out of their computer unbidden, but people would still like to believe they can use the web un-fucked with by the government.
Illegal images, such as child porn, are already
blocked. So is other illegal material. At this point, the government is treating adults like children in order to protect children from adult images. This makes no sense.
The worst part about Orr's editorial is that she seems completely unaware this really isn't about porn
. That's the just a way to get a governmental foot in the door. "Kids shouldn't be exposed to porn, right?" it asks and then hands out a list of pre-checked boxes that cover a whole lot of non-porn territory
If you can't read the photo, here are some of the other types of content that are filtered:
- Dating sites
- Drugs, alcohol and tobacco
- File sharing sites
- Suicide and self-harm
- Weapons and violence
the slippery slope. Block a crowd-pleaser like pornography and you can set up shop in the public's internet service, ready to toss filters on anything else deemed "offensive." People aren't fighting for
porn. They're fighting against
government intrusion. If they're not doing anything illegal, the government should be willing to let individual responsibility be the watchword, rather than lurking in the background reading over the public's shoulder.
If that's how you
want your internet, Deborah, by all means, support this plan. Most people don't. Most ISPs
don't. UK ISP Andrews & Arnold has no interest in offering a filtered internet
and it's released a statement
making its feelings clear on Cameron's plan.
Active choice is NOT a choice
The government wants us to offer filtering as an option, so we offer an active choice when you sign up, you choose one of two options:-
Unfiltered Internet access - no filtering of any content within the A&A network - you are responsible for any filtering in your own network, or
Censored Internet access - restricted access to unpublished government mandated filter list (plus Daily Mail web site) - but still cannot guarantee kids don't access porn.
If you choose censored you are advised: Sorry, for a censored internet you will have to pick a different ISP or move to North Korea. Our services are all unfiltered.
Is that a good enough active choice for you Mr Cameron?
The ISP also offers a very thorough Q&A/fact sheet at the same site detailing the flaws with this plan and offers advice for those who want to offer a safer Internet for their kids, leaving the decision in the hands of the consumers. As it should be
Finally, via Boing Boing, Jeremy Hardy of BBC's The News Quiz, asks the question everyone's afraid to ask
"A porn filter is all well and good, but who's going to empty it?"