The Inquirer-Home

David Cameron is wrong about blocking online porn

Opinion Ill-judged, ill-advised and over here
Mon Jul 22 2013, 13:24
David Cameron at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos 2010

UK PRIME MINISTER David Cameron is setting himself up for a fall.

He seems to believe that it is possible to effectively block adult content in its various forms from people that want to access it.

The problem is that his wish for broad sweeping rules will not do anything to stem the worst kind of content and the interests of the worst kind of people.

What he is proposing sounds simple enough, an opt-in system for adult content that would ask every ISP user in the UK whether or not they want access to such material, with online age restrictions and pop-up warnings.

He must have missed what's been happening in the war against so-called online 'piracy', that is, alleged copyright infringement.

Tabloid readers might feel safe in the knowledge that their ISP is blocking download websites like The Pirate Bay and Fenopy, but the truth is that those websites are still available.

Proxies and alternate addresses take users to webpages that are assumed to be banned and will continue to do so for as long as there is demand for them.

Prohibition does not work. It just drives things underground. Online pornography, illegal content and images of abuse do not need an excuse to go any deeper underground. The very worst excesses are already there.

There is already a darknet, a silk road of illegal commerce and trade. Does Cameron expect to have an influence on that? Good luck to him. That isn't happening.

Working with the ISPs to ban content is admirable, we suppose, in a sort of jump up and down, look at us we are doing something way.

Cameron is free to make a lot of noise and blather and ban things and shut off other things, and when he uses the child abuse argument it becomes very difficult to argue with.

But, it is important to remember that that sort of filth is already illegal and no known ISP will be gladly linking to it or serving it.

The ISPs are happy to play along, however, though I suspect that they know as well as I do that it won't really work.

"We're committed to ensuring every Virgin Media household makes a clear and informed choice about implementing parental controls and we continue to work closely with government, law enforcement, expert organisations and the rest of the industry to tackle this issue and help keep families safe online," said Virgin Media.

Talktalk too is in the game. "Talktalk has taken, and continues to take, significant steps to help our customers protect their children online. Homesafe - which we launched two years ago - was the first, and as of today still the only, whole home parental controls system that lets parents protect every device in just one click for free. We were also the first provider to ask every new customer to make a decision about their internet safety setting," it said in a statement.

"We take our responsibility very seriously and that is why we are now contacting our existing customers to ask them if they want to use HomeSafe, and we will be pre-ticking Homesafe as on for new customers from the end of the year. We have already contacted half a million of our existing customers. One in three customers are choosing to turn on parental controls when offered the chance to, and currently this equates to 30,000 more homes a week keeping their families safer online as a result."

The point with Talktalk and Virgin Media is that these firms are both close to home. Cameron also has to take his talk over the pond to companies like Google, a firm that plays the UK tax game very well. Cameron has not had much of an impact on the firm's tax bill, so what makes him think he can make it change the way it spiders and indexes the internet? Why on earth would it even think it has to talk to him?

It's not the internet that is wrong. It is the people that use it, and the white hat wearing cowboys will always have a tough time ridding the wild web of all the black hatted ones. It's going to take far more than political posturing and pretending to flick an imaginary switch that doesn't exist to fix the problems that Cameron thinks he is solving. µ

 

Share this:

blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement
Subscribe to INQ newsletters

Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ

Advertisement
INQ Poll

Dead electronic devices to be banned on US-bound flights

Will the new rules banning uncharged devices be effective?