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Friday, 30 March 2012

80-year-old peer dusts off typewriter to pen 'think of the children' UK anti-porn net censorship law

Opt-in to porn (or you might not be able to buy a bra)

Unelected 80-year-old Baroness Howe of Idlicot has seemingly had enough of Government inaction protecting the children and dusted-off her typewriter to draft a Private Member's Bill which will force all ISPs to provide porn-free internet unless subscribers opt-in to porn (and prove they're over 18).

The Online Safety Bill was introduced into the Lords with its first reading last Wednesday (HT @netazen) but sources inside and outside parliament tell me they think it's highly unlikely to become law.

Why? Because I'm told measures to tackle access to adult content are due to be unveiled in the Government's forthcoming Communications Bill. That itself is a bit of a wow, as I was previously lead to believe that the Government had pressurised ISPs into implementing a series of voluntary agreements under the threat that legislation would follow if ISPs didn't start to act responsibility.

I'm told the UK's smut filter won't be "opt-in" but "Active Choice", which essentially means instead of one tick-box for new ISP subscribers asking "do you want porn?" it will have 2 tick-boxes saying "do you want porn, yes [ ] or no [ ]"

No-one knows for sure what will be in Communications Bill. The Government's green paper has been delayed - for how long is up for debate - and even then it won't stop Ministers adding in a few extra measures between the Green and White Paper stages.

But it's clear there's a move not just from an 80-year-old veteran of the 1989 Telecommunications Act (whom I'm told has been overheard telling fellow peers that internet regulation is possible as it's really nothing more than a fancy telephone) but from a range of mainly pro-Christian lawmakers in Parliament to 'sort out the internet'

Well, and this won't make comfortable reading for the Christians... (And they can't even dismiss me as a fundamental atheist as I am a Christian myself)... If you turned off the internet tomorrow you would not stop children sharing and trading in digital pornography.

Memory cards, thumb drives and Bluetooth data transfers - however they do it the data files Baroness Howe wants filtering from the internet are already in massive circulation in playgrounds across the UK - and have been since the late 1980's, pre-dating the world wide web.

Just like the copyright owners, the elderly Baroness is standing like Cnut against an unstoppable tide. Her involvement will do nothing to improve online safety, especially if it gives parents false comfort, but it will impact legitimate businesses caught in the crossfire.

There is no magic net-nanny. All technical measures available today can be easily circumvented by enterprising children chasing a bit of flesh.

Parents need to take responsibility for their children online and offline, and educate them to the moral hazards as they see fit.  Parents of younger children should ensure net access is supervised at all times.

There is no magic definition of what is or is not unsuitable for children.  Content OK for older children won't be suitable for younger children. It's a sliding scale and again parental judgement is key.

@JamesFirth

3 comments:

  1. "Content OK for older children won't be suitable for younger children. It's a sliding scale and again parental judgement is key."

    I couldn't put it better myself. In fact my version was much longer and I just can't bring myself to cut it down:

    http://twoten.is/adifferentphilosophy

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is not a civil liberties issue. There is no chance that parliament would pass a law that would make it compulsory for anyone to make a choice about porn access.
    But it is important that parents have the ability to control what content is delivered into their home. The ISPs and others that profit from selling internet access, and the technology industry as a whole, has a duty to develop technology to empower parents.
    It is not too hard to do this. Compared to the ingenuity and sophistication of the technology directed at tracking citizens (and their children)without their knowledge by the behavioural advertising industry this is easy stuff.
    Of course there would be leaks but parents have the common sense to realise that no technology solution can completely be relied on. But it is naive to think that parents can monitor their children's use of the internet without support from the industry.
    Baroness Howe is simply raising an issue that concerns many parents. It would better to direct your ridicule at those in the technology industries that have refused, or do not have the competance, to deal with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The industry should develop a technology to control what their children access on the Internet? Wrong tense, that problem has been taken care of. Functional porn-type filters are over a decade old; now we have developed a solution to controlling access to content suitable for the age of the child browsing the web. And compared to tracking web user behaviour? No, it wasn't easy...

      The problem has been, as James rightly points out, that the political focus has remained pornography, whereas it should be about suitable content for a given age and child.

      The next, big and ongoing, problem to overcome is public awareness of the available solutions...

      Delete

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