I was asked today to explain why the UK plan to censor the internet (yes all of it) in the name of keeping children safe, is a bad idea.
Pandora Blake has written a far better post on this topic than I will, but I am writing this anyway with some additional details for those who aren’t aware of how things are different in the UK. I will list a few things that might surprise you.
When you buy internet service for your home, adult sites are filtered out by default. When I say adult sites I don’t mean just porn. The sites blocked include breast cancer research sites. LGBT support sites, even sites about Macbeth, oh and let’s not forget the undefined category of sites known as “esoteric” You must actively out your self as a porn user to your ISP to avoid missing out on what the government wants them to block on your behalf. A little secret you might not know about how filters work. In order for them to work all traffic from your devices to the internet are monitored and that data is matched against a list, this is true even if you have opted out of filtering. I know this because I used to install and configure these devices. The UK government knows this and plans to use it if the manage to pass the IPBill which will require ISPs to record and keep all web activity for the entire country. Handy to have the mechanism already in place to handle this.
When you get a cell phone plan the same filtering system is in place and also turned on, turning it off also requires telling your mobile provider that you are a big old giant perv too, except for reasons known only to the companies in charge they tend to turn it back on, over and over again. So you need to keep reminding them what a sick and twisted individual you are.
The UK government ordered ISPs to block all torrent sites, they have done so by breaking how DNS works and showing that they are willing to stop sites they don’t like simply by fiat.
You can buy porn DVDs in the UK, but only in licensed sex shops (or from offshore companies) and this subject matter is closely monitored. Here is a list of some of the things the government says you can’t see.
Penetration by any object “associated with violence”
Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual)
Urolagnia (known as “water sports”) This includes squirting which they decided is just pee
Role-playing as non-adults
Female ejaculation~ still pee… they asked one female doctor
Not content to just shut down UK based sites they now want to extend their reach and make their own version of the Great Firewall of China and once again take the world lead in censorship back from those damn foreigners.
There is more I could point to, but suffice to say the UK government has targeted adult content with a very wide brush. All in the name of keeping children safe. But the thing is, does this really keep children safe? And are we to believe that this is really about child safety and not ongoing censorship? Pandora’s post has the links to research that shows that the government doesn’t have a leg to stand on but they will happily distort statistics and fearmonger to raise enough Moral Outrage to get what they want, an expanding wave of censorship to replace knowledge and education with ignorance and fear.
Why else would the Tories have stripped mandatory sex education from schools when even the Minister for Education had vocally supported it? How can spending money on policing the web be the answer instead of teaching children and their parents about the facts of sex and porn and pleasure?
Molly and I are currently raising two children in this shockingly dangerous time with no internet filtering turned on. How can we leave these precious bundles of joy vulnerable to the horrid dangers lurking one tiny finger click away?
We talk to them.
We let them know that the browser history on their devices will be viewed, oh I might have mentioned that we TALK TO THEM. Because if you do that then kids will learn. It seems a much better approach than attempting to hide porn under the mattress of censorship so that when they get to be 18 it is dumped on them with no warning.
As I tweeted this morning, you might think that this doesn’t apply to you, after all you aren’t porn, you are a sex blogger. Pay careful attention to these next words
If you aren’t based in the UK you can’t get shut down, but you can lose all your UK traffic. If you think “I’ll be safe, my host is in the US” Nope they count the residence address of the site owner.
So for the love of all that is sexy and sane, if you live in the UK (I have just been informed that this is open worldwide, so please do fill it out wherever you live) please help stop this. Read Pandora’s cribsheet and fill out the damn consultation. Or start thinking about starting that knitting blog you have always dreamed of having.
P.S. Some of you will tell me that I am wrong and that they are only after the nasty porn sites. I have heard this before whenever the pornocolypse strikes again, and you know what, I have been right each and every time. I hope I am wrong, but I know I am not.