Free Speech

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
porn, porn filter, uk



UK Refreshes Stupid Porn Filter Law, Making It Fresher But No Less Stupid

from the only-the-shiniest-solid-waste dept

The UK government is still polishing its porn filtering law. The latest updates to the law show there's been some effort put forth to make the law less stupid, but even these additions don't make the law (or its implementation) much better.

There are still threats of fines and other governmental pressure should sites fail to "voluntarily" adopt the measures recommended by the UK government when the law goes live next year. One noticeable change is that the responsibility of deciding what is or isn't porn will be placed in the hands of the UK's film classification board, the British Board of Film Classification. If it's anything like the MPAA, it won't necessarily know porn when it sees it, but it will know what it doesn't like and regulate along those lines.

The updated guidelines [PDF] try to blend suggestions and mandates into something cohesive and palatable, all while removing as much government accountability as possible. The updates recognize collecting personally-identifiable info on British porn filters creates a juicy target for malicious actors. It also notes this data collection must somehow comply with the UK's tangle of privacy laws, meaning companies should put some sort of protections in place, but not so much they undermine positive identifications.

The BBFC suggests a possible compromise: verification of age only and no retention of site access logs. But, like everything else, this too is only a suggestion. This means sites are free to gather and retain as much info as they'd like and potentially dodge privacy-related legal battles by pointing to the UK government's porn blockade demands.

In this ridiculous pile of "would you kindly (under possible penalty of law)?", one aspect of the porn filtering plans continues to stick out. And it promises to make the BBFC's job extremely difficult, if not completely impossible. One round of updates on and the UK government is still no closer to resolving the issue, as The Verge's James Vincent points out:

A final addition in the BBFC’s guidelines is a newly clarified exemption for any site where “pornographic material makes up less than a third of content.” So if a site is two-thirds safe for work, it won’t have to verify users’ ages. This means social media platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr — which are home to a lot of pornographic material — will not be policed. (Sites that advertise pornography are not covered by this exemption.)

However, the current wording of the guidelines still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. For example, how exactly will regulators measure the ratio of SFW to NSFW content? “Are they going to measure this in URLs, number of files, pixels, or what?” asks [Open Rights Group director James] Killock.

Good question. And, at this point, one the BBFC can't answer. This will compound the problems plaguing any content filtering system: overblocking, underblocking, and easy circumvention. The filtering offered by ISPs has already dabbled in all three, and the law is still a few months away from its official debut.

The one thing the filtering law is almost guaranteed to accomplish is increase the marketshare of incumbents -- both in terms of ISPs and porn providers. One of the age verification methods being shopped around was created by the media company (MindGeek) that owns some of the largest porn sites in the world. If MindGeek's software becomes the de facto solution to verification problems, the company will be able to tie its competitors up with licensing agreements for years to come (and to collect data on competitors' users during the verification process).

The UK government is addressing a problem that cannot be completely solved by offering up a handful of half-assed suggestions backed by ethereal threats of punishment if the internet in general fails to comply. The embarrassment it's been throughout the course of its development is in no danger of redeeming itself in the future.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 11:43am

    UK Refreshes Stupid

    And you should have just stopped right there!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 12:03pm

    The ISP's should just give the BBFC the middle finger and openly broadcast that it will be filtering all content, collecting all data (from every user) and then blame the UK Government for how ridiculous this new law really is.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 12:39pm

    A final addition in the BBFC’s guidelines is a newly clarified exemption for any site where “pornographic material makes up less than a third of content.”

    So a ratio of 3 hours of children's content to one hour of adult content would avoid the need for age restrictions.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 12:45pm

    I wanted the original plan where you got "a certificate" from the elderly lady at the post office.

    I wanted to be sure I got the right one and was ready to describe to her IN DETAIL the type of ass to mouth to donkey to goose to ass and back to mouth porn I was going to download!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 12:51pm

    All this will achieve is a proof of age exists has been offered, but not who is using it, or will they exist on using a webcam to see who entered the credentials?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 1:09pm

    Umm... VPN? There is no way on Earth I'm putting age verification details into a porn site. There's a reason it says Anonymous Coward above.

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

  • icon
    afn29129 David (profile), 19 Oct 2018 @ 1:39pm

    BitTorrent

    BitTorrent... Exabytes of porn free for UK the downloaders

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 1:56pm

    It's just being consistent

    The UK government is addressing a problem that cannot be completely solved by offering up a handful of half-assed suggestions backed by ethereal threats of punishment

    The UK government is just applying all the skills it's learned in the Brexit negotiations.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 8:10pm

    "Would you kindly..."

    If that was a Bioshock reference, it might possibly be the most fitting video game reference for this topic.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2018 @ 11:59am

    A police state pretending only to be a nanny state.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 22 Oct 2018 @ 6:15am

    It still stinks as bad

    A bad law, like a soiled diaper can be 'freshened' by replacing its contents with newer, fresher contents. But it does not become more appealing, useful, helpful or otherwise beneficial in any way.

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


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