UK May Have Finally Ditched Its Absurd Porn Filter Plan

from the censor-the-naughty-bits dept

As we've noted for years, internet filters don't work, routinely censor legitimate content by mistake, and implementing them is a massive waste of money, time, resources, and precious calories. In the UK, that's been a lesson that has been painfully difficult to learn.

The UK has long implemented porn filters in a bid to restrict anybody under the age of 18 from accessing such content. New age verification controls were also mandated as part of the Digital Economy Act of 2017. But as we've previously noted, the UK government has seen several fits and starts with its proposal as it desperately tries to convince the public and business sectors that the ham-fisted effort was going to actually work.

Back in April, the UK government announced that after numerous delays the program would effectively be taking effect July 15. Under the proposal, websites that failed to comply with the country's age verification program face fines up to £250,000, risk being taken offline, or may lose access to payment services. Randy folks who wanted to view some porn were to be redirected to a special subsite where they'd be prompted for an email address and a password, before verifying your age using a driving license or a passport. They'd then, theoretically, happily be passed off to compliant porn websites.

Of course anybody who has watched anybody with a whit of technical prowess bypass these costly blockades using VPNs or proxies knew this wasn't going to work. Getting global websites to comply with UK law was largely preposterous, and the creation of a database of porn habits created fairly obvious privacy and security issues.

After years of grumbling, the UK government appears to have now scrapped the proposal "indefinitely." UK outlets are suggesting that bureaucratic dysfunction -- not any epiphany as to the stupidity of the program -- was to blame:

"The UK’s age-verification system for online pornography will be delayed for around six months because the government failed to inform the EU of its proposals, the culture secretary has said.

The already delayed policy, which will require all adult internet users wanting to watch legal pornography to prove they are over 18 by providing some form of identification, was due to come into force on 15 July.

However, the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, told the House of Commons, that would not happen, because of a failure to comply with European law in how statutory instruments are passed."

Some have argued that the claim of bureaucratic dysfunction is a polite way to kill the program, without making it obvious that the UK government is killing the program. Regardless, the quest to filter out the internet's naughty bits will now be kicked down the road for the next Prime Minister to worry about.

Hopefully said Prime Minister realizes that 1) collecting everybody's porn interests poses a terrible potential privacy risk, 2) internet filters routinely wind up censoring legitimate resources, and 3) the filters can be easily bypassed by any halfwit utilizing a proxy or VPN. The solution on the porn front has long been better parenting and parental controls and not putting government in charge of policing porn consumption, but it's a lesson some government leaders simply refuse to learn. In other words, you can probably expect this dumb idea to resurface down the road with a fresh coat of paint.

Filed Under: censorship, filters, porn filters, uk


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 4:19am

    The article frames the issue as a technical issue. It is not. It is a social issue.

    One may recall the were two noted Greek philosopher Aristotle 384–322 BC and Plato 428-348 BC.

    In modern words Aristotle's basic philosophy was freedom; Plato's totalitarianism.

    What is being discussed here is just more of the same fight. One side believes they have the right to tell you what to do the other side denies that they have that right.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 4:29am

    If the government cannot handle one piece of paperwork for the filter how do they expect private companies to handle millions of bits of paper work to allow people to access porn?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 8:42am

      Re:

      What makes you think they expect the private companies to be successful? Only UK companies will have to collect this data, and it's hard to imagine any viewers making an effort to give up their privacy rather than just going to any of the thousands of foreign sites. That suggests that the government is just trying to kill the local industry while pretending they didn't.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 5:25am

    Porn is legal for adults to view in the uk,
    its pointless for the government to get involved in monitoring who views
    adult websites .
    Also theres private companys who will handle the registration of the license to view porn.
    How long till the data base is hacked ,
    and the viewing habits of millions of uk adults released on the web.
    this data will be in the hands of american private companys .
    Yes people can uses vpns and proxys to get around it,
    but not every uk web user is a tech expert.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 5:29am

      Re:

      Don't worry, but the US government will call the registration sites social media sites, and require people to hand over thei details when they apply for a visa.

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

  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 21 Jun 2019 @ 6:02am

    I'm sure Boris Johnson will handle the situation magnificently! Who am I kidding I'm sure that whatever the worse possible outcome we can collectively imagine for this to be he'll manage to find a way to make it even worse!

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

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 21 Jun 2019 @ 7:21am

      Re:

      And then you have the faceless annoying er anonymous EU beaurocrats and judiciary finding ways to make things worse.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 6:39am

    Hope for Brexit?

    At last they prove capable of admitting something they passed is an ill considered and half-baked shit idea that isn't even viable enough to be implemented and backfire horribly.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 22 Jun 2019 @ 1:25am

      Re: Hope for Brexit?

      I personally suspect that the whole filter plan was as much a method to filter money to some Tory's family business as it was an actual plan. With Brexit, I'm not so sure, although the damage done to the UK economy and the lengthy ties some Tories have to EU countries does raise the question. Hell, Farage gets a juicy EU pension and has bought German citizenship for his kids to protect them for when the economy inevitable collapses under the weight of the stupidity, so it wouldn't surprise me if there's more to it for him.

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 21 Jun 2019 @ 7:45am

    the program would effectively be taking effect July 15.

    I think there are more effective ways to phrase that...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 8:47am

    I am guessing it is more about definitively identifying everyone online, and porn filters were just a poor choice of where to start the planned mission creep.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 22 Jun 2019 @ 1:26am

      Re:

      Nah, it was just the typical one. Choose porn as the target and when anyone says it's a bad idea, paint them as being pro-porn for kids. That's how they get so much stupid crap through - make anyone who pushes for common sense look like the bad guy.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 9:50am

    i wouldn't bank on it! the UK government is notoriously stupid when it comes to even trying to use common sense! that is even worse when there is a few 'little brown envelopes' flying around!!

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

  • icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 21 Jun 2019 @ 1:11pm

    Ermm..

    "The UK has long implemented porn filters in a bid to restrict anybody under the age of 18 from accessing such content."

    That's a bit misleading. The UK hasn't long implemented porn filters, some private companies such as ISPs have offered optional filters to consumers. The filters mandated by the "UK" have not been implemented yet, and probably never will be.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2019 @ 2:37pm

    Proxies? VPNs? We need not these things!

    ... when we have mom's driver's license details!

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

  • identicon
    Pete Austin, 24 Jun 2019 @ 3:48am

    Google search is not finding Pornhub in the UK

    A friend pointed out to me yesterday that Google search is not finding pornhub in the UK. Presumably a side-effect of the proposed ban.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2019 @ 5:34am

      Re: Google search is not finding Pornhub in the UK

      That friend must have safe search turned on, as with it off that search gives the expected result here in the UK.

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

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 1:13pm

      Re: Google search is not finding Pornhub in the UK

      I'm in the UK and Pornhub shows up in Google. First result. Your friend must have safe search turned on.

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


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