The UK’s War on Porn
Public wi-fi will soon ban access to porn in the UK, pornography depicting rape and child abuse will be outlawed, and all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will use a specialized filtering system called “default-on” that requires Internet users to “opt out” of the filter if they wish to view adult content. Those are just some of the terms on the list of reforms that British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.
Cameron also said, “The Daily Mail has campaigned hard to make Internet search engine filters ‘default on.’ Today they can declare that campaign a success.”
Turns out, that’s not really true.
According to The Independent, many of the ISPs didn’t actually agree to a “default-on” system, but agreed instead to something called Active Choice + — a software restriction allowing people to filter out violent or sexual content if they want to (meaning that not all providers filter porn by default).
A Department of Education letter (that was leaked to BBC) was sent to these ISPs on behalf of Cameron, demanding that they promote their software protection as “default-on” when it’s really not. The letter says:
The Prime Minister believes that there is much more that we can all do to improve how we communicate the current position on parental Internet controls and that there is a need for a simplified message to reassure parents and the public more generally. Without changing what you will be offering (i.e. Active-Choice +), the Prime Minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions as “default-on.”
Basically, Cameron wants to give the public a false sense of protection against adult content by telling people the new filters have been fully implemented.
New York Magazine describes Cameron’s method as “soft paternalism,” a term defined by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book, Nudge, as a way to incentivize people who are otherwise “inherently choice-averse” by changing the environment ever so slightly; the change could then influence people to behave in whatever way desired. So, in theory, if people are given the sense that their Internet doesn’t allow porn, perhaps they won’t go searching for it in the first place.
Former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre Jim Gamble told CNN that the UK government is having this averse reaction to porn because in two recent child murder cases, it was discovered that the killers had viewed child porn before the murders occurred. So, what started as a fight against child pornographers escalated to a fight against all porn.
Gamble says that what the government is doing is ineffective. Blocking porn on the Internet doesn’t stop the child pornographers from abusing children, it merely erases some evidence of it. Child pornographers don’t use Google for their pornography; they’re generally very knowledgeable about the Internet, and typically host these images on peer to peer sites deep within the web. So even if Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook, among others, agree to remove and report what they discover, they’re not finding the majority of the content. More money should be spent on rescuing these kids, and it’s not being done.
FJP: One feeble method that’s in place to try to catch the perpetrators involves an online photo database of children that are thought to be at risk of abuse. If these child pornographers are as Internet savvy as Gamble says they are, and the government is creating an online gallery of children who are at risk, you might as well paint targets on their backs. - Krissy
Related FJP Porn Posts: Banning Porn, The Internet’s Effects on The Porn Industry