Tag: Censorship in the United Kingdom

Cameron’s Firewall

British Prime Minister David Cameron is proposing a new firewall on British ISP’s. In addition to blocking material like violent pornography, it will included an “opt in” option for any pornography. If you’re wondering how long it will be before the list of people who “opt in” to porn gets leaked to embarrass them, it will probably be measurable in femtoseconds.

Even on its own terms, Cameron’s Great Firewall is objectionable. As EFF points out, there is little reason to believe it will stop people looking for illegal content who are web savvy. It is likely that a host of website and search terms will get “accidentally” swept up in the net. And it puts the tools in place for much more abusive censorship (put a pin in that for a moment).

Moreover, there is almost no evidence that internet pornography is “corroding childhood” or provoking violence. There is no evidence that even violent porn does this. In fact, as pornography has exploded over the last twenty years, every social trend has been positive. Rape and sexual assault are way down; divorce is down, domestic violence is down, abortion is down, even teen pregnancy is way way down. It has fallen faster in states with more web access. Even the most extreme porn shows no connection to any real world harm.

(I’ve previously blogged, in the context of movie violence, about why I think violent entertainment can reduce real-world violence.)

So why is Cameron pushing for something that will put women and children in greater danger in the UK? Why is he suddenly …

Oh:

The British prime minister’s internet filters will be about more than just hardcore pornography, according to information obtained by the Open Rights Group.

The organisation, which campaigns for digital freedoms, has spoken to some of the Internet Service Providers that will be constructing Cameron’s content filters. They discovered that a host of other categories of supposedly-objectionable material may be on the block-list.

As well as pornography, users may automatically be opted in to blocks on “violent material”, “extremist related content”, “anorexia and eating disorder websites” and “suicide related websites”, “alcohol” and “smoking”. But the list doesn’t stop there. It even extends to blocking “web forums” and “esoteric material”, whatever that is. “Web blocking circumvention tools” is also included, of course.

Needless to say, there is little justification for any of this. People don’t commit suicide because they read about it on a website. People don’t develop eating disorders because they read about it. People smoked and drank alcohol and beat the snot out of each other long before Algore was even born, least of all before he invented the internet. Blocking all this stuff and effectively imposing an ASBO on the entire nation is not going to make Britain any safer. It’s just going to put the British government’s claws into the information superhighway so that they can control content and, with it, people.

I have no problem with internet filters being available to people who want them. I’m a dad and there’s content I don’t Sal 11000 Beta to see, at least until she’s figured out my router password. But an automatic opt-in dictated by government is simply unacceptable. And don’t think for a moment that our own SOPA-supporting, CDA-befuddled politicians aren’t casting an eye across the pond to see how much freedom Cameron’s firewall can take away.

(H/T: Dr. Brooke Magnanti.)