M.G. in Greenbrae, CA must have been inspired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron's quest for a porn-free Britain. The Prime Minister's idealism has resulted in an insistence that all internet providers make access to porn "opt-in." Anti-porn filters are on by default. For the children.
As the Daily Dot points out, M.G.'s petition for online porn blockage is likely to be severely short on support. For one, the US government has been generally opposed to regulating the internet in this fashion. Not that there aren't plenty of little instances where legislators have imposed their will on internet communications, but by and large, a nationwide censoring of certain content is highly unlikely. For another, it's highly unlikely a majority of Americans would be supportive of a plan that makes them ask, in writing, for their internet porn tap to be turned back on.
That being said, it's a large nation with 300 million people, a certain percentage of which enjoy imposing their morality on others. 100,000 signatures isn't completely out of the question. (Not that this will guarantee an administration response…)
But what is M.G. asking for, specifically? Here's the entire petition, which is mercifully brief.
Require Porn to be an "Opt In" feature with Internet Service Providers rather than a standard feature.
Hang on. Let's deal with the title first. I don't believe any ISP offers porn as a "standard feature." Yes, your internet access will provide you with a gateway to porn, but it's not on the feature list right after the breakdown of your underachieving (but overpriced!)
connection speed. So, "porn" isn't a standard feature -- it's just something that's available on the internet. And it's far from the only
OK. here's the entire petition
In its current state, Internet porn seeks out users by email solicitations and massive amounts of free content throughout Internet browser searches. The average person, even children, can type in the word "cat" or "home" or "soup" and instantly be inundated with offensive and disturbing pornographic images. Parents and individuals have to go to great lengths to install Internet filters that often don't weed out all porn. We are asking for greater protection and responsibility from Internet Service providers and our country. We are asking that people who are interested in porn should have to seek it and choose it. They should have to "Opt In" for it by making arrangements to receive it with their Internet Service Provider. Everyone else should be free from it and assumed "Opt Out".
It would appear that M.G. has clicked through on some very questionable ads and linkbait and, worse, provided some sketchy forms with his or her email address. I have yet to receive a porn email solicitation -- or at least, I haven't received one in years. Anyone using a halfway competent email service will find these sorts of solicitations routed directly into their spam folder without ever being made aware of porn's apparent ubiquity. Perhaps what's sketchy here is M.G.'s email provider.
Following up this dubious assertion that "average people" (including children
, which is what this is all about, innit?) can stumble across porn using words like "soup." And "home." You can, if so inclined, perform some iterations of everyday words that will allow
you to "inadvertently" conjure up pornographic images, but for most people, using common words will return common search results, especially considering most search engines provide a "safe" search by default. Sure, you may find some edge leakage, but for the most part, searching for "soup" will net you soup-related images and links, not porn.
And then M.G. tanks the whole thing by complaining that parents have to make an effort
to protect their average children from accidentally accessing soupporn, and notes that even these so-hard-to-use filters don't even filter out all
of the bad stuff. But then
, M.G. ignores this gaping (soup) hole in his/her plan and arrives at a pair of bad conclusions.
1. ISPs are supposed to "protect" users. What?
2. The government can make a perfect porn-proof filter, even if private companies cannot. Wat.
This sounds like someone who wants
to look at porn, but believes he (or she) shouldn't and feels this "responsibility" should be entrusted to higher powers in order to protect he/she from his/her vices. Anyone can be almost completely free of porn (edge leaks excluded) with a minimum of effort. What M.G. wants is something that prevents
users from accessing porn, even if they want to
. Signees want the government to force ISPs to be their conscience, so to speak.
Don't believe that? Check out the list of signatures
. One state is hugely over-represented.
Now, I won't paint everyone in Utah with the same brush, but the state does have, shall we say, a prevailing religion. Now, like most religions, Mormons believe porn is "wrong." Thus, it would follow that they'd like to see it blocked. But why would they feel the government should get involved, what with church and state and all that?
Because Utah can't help itself
A study by a Harvard Business School professor shows that Utah outpaces the more conservative states -- which all tend to purchase more Internet porn than other states…
Utah has the nation's highest online porn subscription rate per thousand home broadband users, at 5.47, while the nearby states of Idaho and Montana showed the lowest rates of 1.98 and 1.92, respectively, according to the study.
All speculation, of course, but this looks
a whole lot like a bunch of people want assistance curbing their vices. This puts the onus (a word that only sounds
dirty) on someone else to put them on the path to righteousness. More "evidence?" The next two states listed most frequently are Idaho (Utah Lite) and Texas (a state that elected Rick Perry, someone who still makes political hay complaining about the disappearance of prayer from public schools).
Now, the petition is gaining new signatures at a slow but pretty steady pace, making it a long shot to make 100,000. But not impossible. So, there's a slim chance the administration may have another petition to ignore
(or talk around) by the end of November.
Conversely, if you're one of those people completely unaffected by this sort of moral panic, you may be finding your internet is woefully inefficient when it comes to delivering the porn-y goodness. Good news! Someone out there, also
inspired by David Cameron's porn blocking, has compiled a bit of scripting to help you properly filter the internet
[possibly NSFW - "denial" page contains hand-drawn penises] by swiftly separating the porn wheat from the overly-inhibited chaff (via Egg Miliband
) by using a porn filter against itself.
The filter is a dns server which checks all queries against the OpenDNS FamilyShield DNS server. Any request that is denied by OpenDNS is then allowed by our DNS server, and any request allowed by OpenDNS is blocked by us.
The server itself is built using the python Twisted framework which handles both the DNS requests and acts as a simple web-server to host the denial page.
Here's a brief video explaining the HOW. [Again, NSFW - penis drawings]