David Cameron’s Internet Porn Filter Is the Start of Censorship Creep

Jan 3, 2014
Adult Business News
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The question of who is allowed access to what data is a defining one of our age – and Edward Snowden has taught us to be wary

by Laurie Penny Satoshi Kambayashi illustration for web filters
Picture the scene. You’re pottering about on the internet, perhaps idly looking up cake recipes, or videos of puppies learning to howl. Then the phone rings. It’s your internet service provider. Actually, it’s a nice lady in a telesales warehouse somewhere, employed on behalf of your service provider; let’s call her Linda. Linda is calling because, thanks to David Cameron’s “porn filter”, you now have an “unavoidable choice”, as one of 20 million British households with a broadband connection, over whether to opt in to view certain content. Linda wants to know – do you want to be able to see hardcore pornography?How about information on illegal drugs? Or gay sex, or abortion? Your call may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes. How about obscene and tasteless material? Would you like to see that? Speak up, Linda can’t hear you.

“The worst thing about the porn filter, though, is not that it accidentally blocks a lot of useful information but that it blocks information at all.”

The government’s filter, which comes into full effect this month after a year of lobbying, will block far more than dirty pictures. That was always the intention, and in recent weeks it has become clear that the mission creep of internet censorship is even creepier than campaigners had feared. In the name of protecting children from a rotten tide of raunchy videos, a terrifying precedent is being set for state control of the digital commons.

Pious arguments about protecting innocence are invariably marshalled in the service of public ignorance. When the first opt-in filtering began, it was discovered that non-pornographic “gay and lesbian” sites and “sex education” content would be blocked by BT. After an outcry, the company quickly changed the wording on its website, but it is not clear that more than the wording has been changed. The internet is a lifeline for young LGBT people looking for information and support – and parents are now able to stop them finding that support at the click of a mouse.

Sexual control and social control are usually co-occurring. Sites that were found to be inaccessible when the new filtering system was launched last year included in some cases helplines like Childline and the NSPCC, domestic violence and suicide prevention services – and the thought of what an unscrupulous parent or abusive spouse could do with the ability to block such sites is chilling. The head of TalkTalk, one of Britain’s biggest internet providers, claimed that the internet has no “social or moral framework”. Well, neither does a library. Nobody would dream of insisting a local book exchange deployed morality robots to protect children from discovering something their parents might not want them to see. Online, that’s just what’s happening, except that in this case, every person who uses the internet is being treated like a child.

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ernestgreene
ernestgreene
6 years ago

Very well said. Censorship is indeed a cancer. Once it invades the body politic it rarely stops at a single site. If you allow that a certain kind of speech is bad for people based on the opinions of the day, on some other day some other kind of speech, including political speech, will be deemed bad for people and silenced as well.

As with radiation, there is no safe level of exposure where the regulation of speech is concerned.

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