After Four Years Of Failing To Bring Its Plan To Completion, UK Government Pulls Out Of Porn Blockade Effort

from the [consults-physician] dept

At long last, it appears the UK government’s porn blockade has been sunk. The government missed another deployment window in April of this year. Karl Bode reported the government was considering saying the hell with it it all a couple of months later.

But even that report suggested the UK might still try to make its stupid porn blocking plan work. It claimed it just needed an indefinite amount of time to bring its porn filter into compliance with EU law — something it had years to do but apparently only took into consideration at the last minute.

The porn filtering system was to be deployed by ISPs and porn sites. Age verification would be needed to access porn from paid sites. This information would be stored for government perusal by third parties, generating a tempting honeypot of personal information tied to sexual peccadilloes that could be exploited by anyone who had to access it. You know, in addition to anyone in the government who had access to it… like criminals.

In its partially-instituted form, the filtering system was alarmingly easy to circumvent. When it did work (by which I mean, when it was turned on), it didn’t, resulting in over-blocking when it wasn’t being beaten by a single Chrome extension. Almost completely useless. And all in a package that required UK citizens to queue up at the online porn box office and state affirmatively their desire to access pornographic content.

After a half-decade of not happening, the UK government has officially ditched its porn filtering program, as Rory Cellan-Jones reports for the BBC.

The government has dropped a plan to use strict age verification checks to stop under-18s viewing porn online.

It said the policy, which was initially set to launch in April 2018, would “not be commencing” after repeated delays, and fears it would not work.

This was the plan to force porn providers to deploy government-approved age verification processes. Those that did not would be blocked by ISPs, which apparently would be providing this vetting service to the government free of charge. Ignored in all of this were sites that did not sell access to porn, like Twitter, Reddit, and other sites where adult content is accessed freely. So, the children the government was so worried about would still have plenty of options even if this plan had worked.

The Porn Blockade is dead! Long live the Porn Blockade?

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said other measures would be deployed to achieve the same objectives.

Hope springs eternal in the halls of the UK government, where impossibility can be legislated into possibility, kicked around for 48-60 months, and abandoned when it finally becomes clear to the people whose careers depend on misunderstanding the problems finally being forced to confront reality.

Having mishandled everything about its end of the deal, the UK government is now leaving it up to porn sites to keep kids out. It appears to be voluntary, but the kind of “voluntary” where the person asking expects you to do it and will find some way to punish you if you don’t.

In a written statement issued on Wednesday, Ms Morgan said the government would not be “commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography”.

Instead, she said, porn providers would be expected to meet a new “duty of care” to improve online safety. This will be policed by a new online regulator “with strong enforcement powers to deal with non-compliance”.

The only entities truly upset by this turn of events are those that expected to tap into a new government-created revenue stream. OCL, one of the firms hoping to be the vendor of choice for age verification tools, expressed its “shock” that the UK government would abandon its plan to protect children from porn and, presumably, enrich OCL in the process. But nearly everyone else saw this scrapping as inevitable, considering the oh so many unworkable aspects of the filtering program.

I’m sure UK citizens are thrilled the government spent nearly five years allowing its Porn Blockade to drift into the rocky shoals of reality. Since other people’s money funded the losing battle, the government spared no expense and will presumably continue this spending until it has abandoned another two or three attempts over the next decade or so.

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Comments on “After Four Years Of Failing To Bring Its Plan To Completion, UK Government Pulls Out Of Porn Blockade Effort”

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31 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, porn is in the eye of the beholder so to speak. But I think a lot of this stems from the usual Tory prudishness, and they not only barred hardcore from being legally supplied for most of the 80s and 90s but one if them (David Alton) tried banning anything not suitable for children. I imagine they had their sights on everything but in public pretended it was only about 8 year old browsing PornHub.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

"But nearly everyone else saw this scrapping as inevitable, considering the oh so many unworkable aspects of the filtering program."

There was really only two ways this could end – the government abandoning the project or them helplessly watching the inventive ways people used to bypass it that they hadn’t considered. I assume they decided to take the loss while everybody else’s attention was on Brexit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Really it would have been most effective as a tech education initiative – school filters in the 90s and 00s taught mostly that they are dumbasses who block relevant to class material and fail to keep out slacking or lurid material.

Apparently tech literacy has been trending down as a side effect of ease of use targetting and less accessible "hardcore" uses. Still a dumb idea of course.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Speaking of dangling...

You know, in addition to anyone in the government who had access to it… like criminals.

The modifier being dangled, I’ll charitably (and unrealistically) assume you meant that criminals would have access to the data as well as the Government, rather than the criminals having access to the data being in the Government.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Nail hit on head, news at 11

Hope springs eternal in the halls of the UK government, where impossibility can be legislated into possibility, kicked around for 48-60 months, and abandoned when it finally becomes clear to the people whose careers depend on misunderstanding the problems finally being forced to confront reality.

I just wish they’d done that with Brexit. What a bunch of clowns our politicians are!

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