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The UK government needs to stop fumbling with internet pornography

Column Responsibility for internet use should be given back to homeowners
Fri Jan 31 2014, 15:48

THE UK GOVERNMENT is still wrestling with its plans to block adult content and is looking for a way of telling what is pornography and what is not.

Peer review is perhaps the best way to do that, and it is possible that some volunteers would value the opportunity to sit somewhere in Westminster and give a thumbs up or down depending on whether something is a booby - a naked breast - or a boo boo, an error in classification.

Apparently, according to the BBC, there is a review underway that will work out whether websites like Torrentfreak and webpages that offer sex education should be top-shelved like websites that concern themselves with suspenders and terrorism.

This sounds like a mammoth task, and very difficult to arrange. What sort of classifications are used will make telling one webpage from another very difficult, especially if they concern themselves with sex education, health issues, sexuality issues, piracy websites, or websites about cats eating lunch in Scunthorpe.

A lot of web users and the UK ISPs see this kind of thing as the pain in the backside that it is, and would rather not have to go around dancing around blacked out webpages.

This might be an issue of liberty and one born out of respect for free speech, or it might be a way to avoid something that is costly, low in actual benefits, and forces businesses under the thumb of a nanny-like UK government.

We already exist in a country where ISPs can be ordered to block access to websites like The Pirate Bay, and where proxies to these websites, whoever provides them, are stamped down on like cockroaches by copyright obsessed courts.

The best solution to this is to remove the nanny element and put the primary responsibility for internet use back into the hands of the homeowner.

Parents, not just those who work for government, should be well placed to monitor access to the internet and the content that's available on it, and should be in a position to discourage access to anything that they consider beyond the pale.

If parents want to block access to The Pirate Bay that is one thing, since ultimately it is their account and their responsibility, but for a government to blithely assume that it should and act on that is wrong.

The government should understand that this in the Netherlands, and this week a Dutch appeals court decided that blocking access to The Pirate Bay is a blunt tool that achieves nothing.

In that country ISPs now no longer have to take the role of moral guardians, something that I think makes a lot of sense.

Internet filtering and whatever risk it supposedly protects us from seems absolutely moot when you consider that every time on duck farts on Youtube the NSA probably gets an alert.

If you use any commercial communications service and don't use things like encryption, you might as well walk around with your personal details painted onto the side of a cow on a lead.

Just this week Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum said that using popular email clients with no protection via encryption is the same as having sex in high STD risk areas without a condom.

It is not a charming image, but it is an apposite one. Remember that playing a casual smartphone game is apparently like sending a stream of personal information to GCHQ, and you must realise that you've been staked to a board on a pin like one of so many butterflies.

Redone blacklists or no redone blacklists, this government and others are turning the internet browsing into a cat and mouse game that threatens to criminalise and stigmatise users.

George Orwell warned of a boot stamping down on a human face in his book "1984". If he were around now he'd possibly add the suffix "book" to the last word at the end of that sentence. µ


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