Cameron’s porn firewall – war on [something] at best

I’ve postponed writing on UK porn filter for quite a time. It was almost to easy to predict how things will begin and how it will unwind. Yet with filter blocking site of Claire Perry, MP and one of the biggest proponent of porn block it is impossible to resist smugly saying: I’ve told you so. Three years earlier, in 2010, the same Ms Perry started a debate on introducing such a filter. The points raised were too, almost to easy to predict: children, with their annoying ability to be early adopters of new technology, are particularly heavy users of the internet (that is actually a quote), pornography is widely and freely available on the internet, pornography is harmful and damaging to children, entire history of human perversion and deviation is available at the fingertips also parents does not know how to install filters by themselves (that’s also actually said). It is almost surprising that nobody just stood up and shouted ‘please think of the children’. Let’s not forget that at this time some forms of pornography were already banned due to Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. Specifically it banned ‘extreme pornographic images’ which involved presenting acts which included acts threatening person’s life, acts of violence that might result in serious injury of anus, breasts or genitalia finally, acts of bestiality and necrophilia. Important to note is that it outlawed not (or rather not only) depiction of actual acts of violence but staged acts involving actors who consented. Jumping back to 2013 on July 22 Cameron announced that four biggest ISPs in the UK will block porn on default, threating further law changes if necessary and finally on 13th of December BT announced that new customers will have their porn blocked.

In just barely few days Chrome extension ‘Go away, Cameron, was released which bypassed the filter. Just as soon it turned out that filter block VPNs, educational and charities websites. Opinions on Internet forums were all over the continuum ranging from comparisons to 1984 to ‘it’s not a big deal, it’s just an opt-in web filter’. In my humble opinion the reality is that porn filter satisfies all requirements that were earlier met by prohibition or war on drugs. ‘Noble’ social cause – check, think about the children – check, blurry yet directly defined enemy – check, lack of real possibility of controlling material – check, reference to conservative, puritan views on life – check. So will be the real implications of the filter? Just as in case of ‘wars’ mentioned, apparent moral high ground gives government a lot of freedom in implementing policies. It is almost banal to say that that anything done in the name of protecting the children have higher acceptability, even when highly inconvenient. Second, more troubling, is implementation of framework which may and judging by tone of conversation most likely will be used as means of censoring much more than originally planned. In House of Commons Cameron directly stated that further blocking will involve ‘extremist’ materials (ctrl-f extremist will direct you to the statement).

Will war on porn be as wasteful and harmful as war on drugs? Probably not, though due to the scale of both they can be hardly compared in that matter. More important question is whether it might have such an impact upon society. Unfortunately, trying as hard as I can to avoid the slippery slope, it seems that there is no turning back. With little resistance and lack of public disapproval there is no incentive for government to back off. Furthermore with list of blocked sites expanding slowly it is hard to expect any more profound reaction in the future. It won’t be even surprising if at first blocking radical islamist sites will gain approval. To what extend it will be used to block simply inconvenient sites is yet to be seen.

Due to lack of time, there probably won’t be new post before new year, in that case I’d like to wish You very happy new year, lack of legal problems and impenetrable firewalls 🙂

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