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Fighting Toddler 'Porn Addiction,' UK Lawmakers Demand Porn Sites Include Age Checks Or Face Closure

from the you-have-no-idea-how-this-works dept

The UK's attempts to filter the Internet of all of its naughty bits are nothing if not amusing, whether it's the nation's porn filter architect getting arrested for child porn, or the complete and total obliviousness when it comes to the slippery slope of expanding those filters to include a growing roster of ambiguously objectionable material. The idea of forcing some kind of overarching structure upon porn consumption in the UK is another idea that never seems to go away, whether it's requiring a "porn license" (requiring users to clearly opt in if they want to view porn) or the latest push -- mandatory age checks.

Seemingly unaware of the way the internet (or law, or the world itself) works, some UK lawmakers are now demanding that porn websites around the world include age verification systems, or face fines or closure. How exactly the UK government plans to enforce these restrictions upon a global pornography industry isn't explained. The only thing the UK is sure of is that these restrictions are absolutely necessary for the welfare of the country's tots:
"Providers who did not co-operate could also be fined. Mr Javid said: "If you want to buy a hardcore pornography DVD in a store you need to prove your age to the retailers. "With the shift to online, children can access adult content on websites without restriction, intentionally or otherwise. "That is why we need effective controls online that apply to UK and overseas. This is about giving children the best start in life."
Well intentioned, perhaps, but it's yet another example of people not realizing how the internet genie has left the bottle, and no amount of thrashing or cajoling is going to re-imprison the agitated djinn. The UK's latest push is being propped up by a flood of recent scary headlines across the UK proclaiming that the country has a porn addiction problem among around a tenth of the nation's 12- and 13-year-olds. In fairly typical media fashion, the stories proclaiming this fact don't really bother to dissect the claims or hunt down the survey's origins.

If they had, they might discover that the survey in question was probably about as far from science as you can get without involving clowns and sacrificial altars:
"It turns out the study was conducted by a "creative market research" group called OnePoll. "Generate content and news angles with a OnePoll PR survey, and secure exposure for your brand," reads the company's blurb. "Our PR survey team can help draft questions, find news angles, design infographics, write and distribute your story." The company is super popular on MoneySavingExpert.com, where users are encouraged to sign up and make a few quid. Here's what that website says: "Mega-popular for its speedy surveys, OnePoll runs polls for the press, meaning fun questions about celebs and your love life." So the company behind these stats about porn addiction are known for their quick and easy surveys and promise to generate headline-grabbing stats. An unusual choice, perhaps, for such a sensitive subject."
While the group behind the effort (Childline) appears well intentioned, there are surely better ways to protect children than by scaring politicians into a global charade of internet booby whac-a-mole. Like, with actual parenting perhaps. Paying attention to what your kids do online, and intelligently explaining sexuality to them before they run into age-inappropriate content would be worlds more effective than demanding the globe's pornography industry capitulate to the whims of the UK's ludditical legislators.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 2:33am

    And then what?

    Ignoring for the moment that the UK seems to have caught the USG's disease of 'Every country on the planet needs to follow our laws', I'm curious as to how they plan to implement these age-checks in a fashion that makes them even remotely effective.

    Many sites today, even ones like Facebook or other social media sites, require 'age-checks' in the sense that the user is requires to affirm that yes, they are above a certain age limit and can legally access the content on the site. You know what stops younger kids from bypassing those?

    Absolutely nothing.

    All they have to do is click the little box that says that yes, they are in fact old enough, even if they aren't, and that's all it takes, and I'm guessing that terribly complicated trick would be enough to bypass a good 90% or more of the 'age checks' on various sites around the world.

    The only real way you can have an 'effective', and I use that term very loosely, 'age check' system would be to tie to to something like a personal identification system, where to log in and access the internet, you had to provide some form of personal identification, like a 'driver's license' for the internet.

    (You know, the kind of system that more oppressive governments either have, or dream about having, given how insanely easy it makes tracking people's online activity and how it makes being anonymous online a hugely difficult thing to manage.)

    Grandstanding about 'stopping children from looking at porn, all without requiring parents to actually act like parents' may make for a nice soundbite, but I don't imagine they'd be too eager to explain how utterly the system required to do that would destroy privacy online.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    An Adult, 7 Apr 2015 @ 4:37am

    Sir, are you an adult?

    [Yes]
    [No]
    [Hint?]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 4:39am

    they could always follow the US example of do what we say or we will attack you/sanction you to enforce their will

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:00am

    I don't think a market research company called "OnePoll" could come up with anything other than "Porn!".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:02am

    it should be noted that there is an election going on in the uk so you may see a lot of this wild promises stuff with little to back it up. After 7th May probably not so much

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    avideogameplayer, 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:15am

    How many porn sites are run in the UK? I'm guessing none...

    Which is the exact amount how many brain cells UK politicians have...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:16am

    Since virtually all computers of any format sold in the last several years have a built-in camera, conducting a crude age verification would not be too difficult. It's a wonder that porn pedlers don't already do this sort of thing to keep curious 12-year-olds away. Well, on second thought, maybe not such a wonder, assuming that most porn consumers probably don't want their face databased.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:54am

      Re:

      "Since virtually all computers of any format sold in the last several years have a built-in camera, conducting a crude age verification would not be too difficult. "

      Really? I think you are underestimating the difficulty in implementation, as well as the lengths kids would go to to bypass such things.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:42am

        Re: Re:

        ...Since virtually all computers of any format sold in the last several years have a built-in camera, conducting a crude age verification would not be too difficult...


        Not a good idea. Lurk around long enough and you'll find hacked webcam videos of minors, some of which would anger their parents.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          sigalrm (profile), 8 Apr 2015 @ 8:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Since when does "It's a good idea" seem to be relevant to politicians.

          that's fine though. Use webcams to perform age verification, and you'll find that the # 1 image search on google will quickly become "UK Politician" or "Member of US Senate"

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      WysiWyg (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      Huh? Are you suggesting that a human would have to look at every potential customer before they are let in? 'Cause that's not ever gonna happen, since that would kill said business.

      Or are you suggesting some sort of automated system? 'Cause any system that would actually work even a little bit would most likely require a small fortune. Or a big one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Y Pennog Coch (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 12:32pm

      Re: "crude age verification would not be too difficult"

      >>> Soon all computers of any format sold in the last several years will have a built-in virtual camera.

      FTFY.

      And who will the camera see? David Cameron, David Cameron, and David Cameron.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 2:18pm

      Re:

      Wonderful idea! I've certainly never known anyone who looked younger than they actually are, that have regular problems with people calling their government issue ID 'fake' based off a 'hunch'.

      I suppose people would have to check in with their face every time too, otherwise a kid might just steal their parents account! Oh, but a clever child might hold a picture of their fathers face up to the camera, better include a mandatory photo ID check as well.

      After all, nothing at all scars a child more than seeing the 3% of chest and crotch modern swimsuits cover up. How ever would they come to terms with the idea of the expression of love physically? I can't imagine anyone would be in a position to explain it to them.. they'll just have to magically absorb the information through brain osmosis like everyone else did when they suddenly turned the age of majority, because we can't taint our kids with such filth!

      Seriously, how long before the UK makes it a crime to have 'the talk' with anyone under the age of 20?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:37am

    I thought we had mandatory porn filters being implemented here in the UK, or are Politicians admitting that they have failed before they have been fully rolled out, in which case they should stop rolling them out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Call me Al, 7 Apr 2015 @ 7:41am

      Re:

      Really good point.

      By default I would never choose to have anything filtered at ISP level. If I want to filter things then I'll sort it out at PC level so that I have control. I suspect many others feel the same way or just don't care.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    HMTKSteve, 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:38am

    Leisure Suit Larry

    Leisure Suit Larry tackled this specific problem by asking the player a few questions that only someone above a certain age would be able to answer. While a novel idea it would not work in today's internet age.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:52am

      Re: Leisure Suit Larry

      "Leisure Suit Larry tackled this specific problem by asking the player a few questions that only someone above a certain age would be able to answer"

      Correction: only people of a certain age, living at a particular time, in a particular country. Some of the questions were unanswerable to a non-American, regardless of age, and many Americans would find the dated references impossible to answer now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        The Groove Tiger (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 7:34am

        Re: Re: Leisure Suit Larry

        Who the hell are Charlie McArthy and Edgar Bergen.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:21am

        Re: Re: Leisure Suit Larry

        This. And even amongst people of a certain age, living in a certain time, in a certain country, many of those questions required a knowledge of pop culture that not everyone had. That's why there were widely circulated cheat sheets at the time.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2015 @ 2:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Leisure Suit Larry

          "That's why there were widely circulated cheat sheets at the time."

          Bingo. People will always find a way to bypass such systems, and nothing inspires security bypasses like people being blocked from using their legally purchased product. Hence why DRM never works, let alone something trying to verify your age through questions that may or may not be possible for you to honestly answer.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 6:01am

      Re: Leisure Suit Larry

      How long before the answers are widely circulated?

      Without a human monitor of age tests, they are no better than providing a tick box for are you old enough, and only serve to keep out those willing to play by the rules. The only question is does it take no effort, or only a little effort to pass the test.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reality bites, 7 Apr 2015 @ 6:07am

    Perhaps a easier solution is to remove the puritans from power

    Since they are the ones that have knee jerked themselves into a zealous frenzy it would just be easier to sedate them.
    Once sedated they could be loaded into a small leaky boat and sent out to sea again.

    When a puritan stands up and spews forth its nonsense the best prevention is apply the sharp bit of a axe across its neck. Stops the crap from leaking out of them every time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 7:21am

    A website outside of Britain is NOT SUBJECT to British laws. So porn sits outside of Britain should tell the British government to go to hell, because there is nothing the British can do about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aldestrawk (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 7:29am

    worried or addicted?

    What NSPCC states in regards to one of the 11 questions in the survey was that, "one in ten 12-13 year olds are worried they are addicted to porn". The Vice article, in it's criticism, states this as "apparently addicted to porn". I doubt those children who took part in the survey were instructed as to what a proper definition of porn addiction is. Some might think that viewing any porn on a regular, or semi-regular, basis is an indication of addiction. An indication that the wording of the questions may not give useful results is that one of the questions produced the result that 20% of 12 to 13-year-olds thinks that watching porn is normal behaviour. Let's assume that normal refers just to whether or not kids of that age watch any porn. Studies show, that the prevalence of internet porn addiction in adults is about 1% of internet users. Yet this survey suggests that fully half of 12-13 year olds who watch internet porn fear they may be addicted. It's not likely there is a huge difference in addiction prevalence between tweens and adults. One problem is that if you ask whether something is normal most people think you are asking "is this acceptable by society?" What their survey does show is that wording of questions is extremely important, particularly with children. This survey is fairly useless, but there is now distortion on all sides.

    The NSPCC's Childline program seems to me to be helpful. They are focusing on providing information to children whose only source of sex education is internet pornography. They aren't trying to stop children viewing Internet porn. Rather they are saying to them that the images in porn don't represent typical bodies and real life sex. I have to agree that sex education in a society shouldn't be coming exclusively from the porn industry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:27am

    you've got to remember, this is the UK we're talking about! it's the nation that jumped in to back Obama and his backers at the first opportunity, you know, the entertainment industries! it's the nation whose government (MP Perry!)went ballistic against porn sites that were supposedly 'grooming children for sex', then shut down a hundred file sharing sites instead, leaving the porn sites open! good old British thinking there!! thick as fuck!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aldestrawk (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:27am

    an obvious solution

    As an engineer, I have learned how to gleen the basic requirements from complex problems and craft a workable design to provide a solution.

    -The main concern of the NSPCC is that children viewing porn gives them a distorted view of what sex is about. Among the potential problems:
    -exaggerated and stylized male and female bodies leading to body image issues.
    -seeing violent and controlling relationships as normal.
    -seeing fetish, or extreme, sex as typical.

    -The survey included a total of 2000 children from 12-17. One of the 11 questions was whether they had taken part in, or made, a sexually explicit video. 12% answered yes.

    -The UK government is convinced that age verification is a workable solution to restrict certain age groups to certain websites.

    Given this, I suggest child porn for children websites. The child porn will be made by children, starring children (no adults allowed), and only accessible by children through age verification. Clearly, this is a much healthier solution than the current situation. What could go wrong?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 9 Apr 2015 @ 5:03am

      Re: an obvious solution

      Middle-aged perverts pretending to be nine year olds?

      As "A Modest Proposal" for internet porn, this works as satire. A serious solution would be to educate families, which we're not doing. What happens is that the kids are being taught stuff that some people are opposed to on principle because religion, etc. If we educate families and carers we should see a reduction in both hysteria and in the problems listed by yourself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:54am

    This means that either the City of London Police are going to seize websites without due process, something they're pretty fucking good at.

    Or the UK is going to start blocking porn sites left, right and center.

    It's hilariously sad.

    And yet somehow the UK wonders why it's classified as an enemy of the Internet by RSF.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:06am

    Ya good luck stopping minors from getting porn. I at the age of 13 could buy it from my local corner store, the owners there did not care it was a sale for them, they even sold me cigarettes, and once I hit 16 I was buying Liquor from the government controlled liquor stores.

    The point is, if minors want it they can get it, the internet does not make it any easier, just more abundant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:56am

      Re:

      Admittedly, this was back in the stone ages, but when I was 13 it was actually difficult to find porn -- but I managed to nonetheless. When I did, it was a real event to be celebrated, much like stumbling across a rare jewel. I sort of miss that, in a way. It made the porn much more exciting, even though it was almost always much lower quality than what you can easily get for free these days.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 2:30pm

        Re: Re:

        Children are a lot like hardened felons. Take away as much as you want, they will find a way. I'm fairly certain Disney cartoons are responsible for a good number of the fetishes I later discovered I had in life, due to recurring themes in alot of their 'child fiction' that appealed to me, long before I ever looked at my first bit of porn. Take nudie shots away, and teens will either go back to staring at swimsuit models or store catelogues (Remember those days?), or start looking for more unsavory and less civil ways of getting that excitement ('accidental' groping, upskirt attempts, etc).

        The UK and the US both piss me off unbeleivably. One is a culture which glorifies in violence, death, murder and brutality, but beleives consentual physical attraction is something horrible and disgusting and needs to be hidden away from the world. The other is apparently becoming a huge intollerably nanny that must cleanse and purify the world of 'filth' for its own good.

        You want to know what we are teaching kids with this crap? Sex is less healthy and more taboo than violence. That showing someone a breast or penis, something roughly 50% of them have in one capacity or another, is more damaging and of greater concern than them witnissing a brutal and vicious beating administered to an unsympathetic individual for amusement.

        How often do we laugh at someone getting beaten up by cops in a sitcom, cheer for the hardened hero as he guns down the last 'bad guy' in his way, or glorify the sense of strength and achivement that comes from fighting your way through hordes of enemies in a game?

        But sex? Get that hippy garbage out of here!

        Clearly humanity has its priorities straight.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:07am

    Clueless idiots and the law

    This cruft is what happens when clueless idiots are allowed to write and pass laws. There should be an IQ test, as well as a tech savvy test, applied to all legislators before they are allowed to write or pass laws, especially tech-related ones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 10:52am

      Re: Clueless idiots and the law

      This is what happens in general, when the decision maker does not implement their decision, but only tells someone else to do the implementation. They can claim any success; or claim that they tried to solve a problem, and blame someone else for all failures. It is the perfect recipe for senior manager and politicians.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 10:30am

    I thought that every porn site already had age verification in place? Isn't that why they ask you for your credit card number, just to verify your age? After, of course, showing you a few hard-core pictures.

    I also have an idea for an interesting survey. Pay a bunch of teenaged boys to take multiple surveys. After about the tenth survey, I predict that you find that most of them have not only seen porn, but have actually starred in feature length movies. After the twentieth survey you'll find that 30% have injured themselves while having sex on a trapeze, while the other 70% successfully pulled it off.. with three girls at once.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dakre (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 10:45am

    Parental Controls

    It's amusing to see what politicians come up with as a "fix" instead of tackling the actual problem. Parents are suppose to be responsible for what their kids do on any device or computer. So why not educate parents on parental controls (in the UK it will be a law i'm sure), which is a better idea and harder to bypass (depending on the software).

    There's parental controls for smartphones too, but the issue is that parents need to learn what tools they have for keeping their kids safe online and/or keep them off of bad sites.

    I will admit, these things can be a pain, but if you have a kid, they aren't going to make your life easy anyways. It's like with anything else, the more effort you put into it, the better the results.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 11:00am

    Global pornography

    "How exactly the UK government plans to enforce these restrictions upon a global pornography industry isn't explained."


    Add them to Cleanfeed as "must block"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 12:20pm

    internet booby whac-a-mole ... someone should like totally make a game of that .. or Angry Boobs

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 1:30pm

    Authorative entitlement much!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JBDragon (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 2:33pm

    I remember back when I was a kid, before the days of the Internet getting my hands on PORN!!! It may be easier with the Internet, but no matter why you try to do, you can't stop a person from getting it one way or another.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 8 Apr 2015 @ 12:34pm

    Ludditical Indeed!

    "...UK's ludditical legislators..."

    hehehehe - even the spell check agrees that this just aint a real word - but damn its so lovely and specifically descriptive of so many of our modern morality morons it oughta be immediately adopted into the English language.

    Thanks.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 8 Apr 2015 @ 1:04pm

    Two thoughts

    1) How would the UK feel if Iran or North Korea issued a similar statement? Would the people in the UK be okay with following the laws from another country?
    Or are laws like these okay as long as it's porn?

    How would they feel if Iran decided that viewing Christian websites was amoral and decided to fine people?

    2) Who are these survey people that get such respect that all of the government listens to them? Oh, that's right, they were probably *paid* by the government to come up with these results. If so, then why isn't the media asking more questions about the survey?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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