Should You Have To Opt In for Internet Porn?

dcLast week, UK prime minister David Cameron announced the introduction of an opt-in filter for online pornography on all British Internet providers. Currently the UK has an opt-out system, meaning that people must make an active effort to install a filter on their Internet to block pornographic content in their households. With the new system, the process is reversed.

Predictably, this has sparked much debate across the pond, which, considering the fact that 99.9 percent of British men have viewed online pornography, is probably a conversation that we ought to be having. One concern is that David Cameron is one blocked website away from full-on censorship. There are rumors that Chinese telecom company Huawei will be involved in the ISP filtering, conjuring up images of draconian oppression and fear of Chinese government involvement.

But, of course, the ban on Internet pornography is not a proposal for censorship. It’s a chance to choose what you view rather than having it forced upon you in the way that Page 3 of the Sun and lads’ mags are stoically displayed in the UK. It’s also a chance for people to take responsibility for their consumption.

Censorship fears aside, another concern is that filtering online content is simply not going to work. Internet blocks are easy dealings for today’s tech-savvy teens, and are potentially harder to control on mobile devices. A lot of pornography exists in the dark depths of the Internet, in places that Google and TalkTalk cannot reach. A general pornographic content filter has the potential of blocking sites that provide educational sexual information, or promote insightful discussions on the topic of pornography. Feminist blog Another angry woman has already faced blocking difficulties on content that merely discussed Cameron’s proposal.

David Cameron may have been optimistic to think that he could be a wizard of the Internet, but neither is he the Lord Voldemort of free expression. He has opened a much-needed debate about pornography’s role in contemporary society. Maybe Cameron can’t block the “sick” people searching for child porn and such, and hopefully the filters won’t be programmed to block out educational information, but he can make us reconsider imagery that has become so normalized in our society. And that is no bad thing.

Photo of David Cameron by The Prime Minister’s Office under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. Obviously this wouldn’t do much to block the hidden and child pornography that exists out there, but for general pornography it seems like one thing that might work for filters would be to use a specific domain suffix (something less silly than .porn perhaps, but you get the idea). That way filters could block sexual content coming from those addresses, but would not block sexual education content coming from a .edu address.

  2. goldmarx says:

    Natasha Turner: “It’s a chance to choose what you view…” Really? Since when did David Cameron give a damn about choice?

    Folks of any gender who like porn have no problem choosing what they view, but prefer privacy in doing so. Having to opt-in makes it easier to shred that privacy, although the NSA probably knows what we all do on-line even before we do it.

  3. and what next? tomorrow I have to opt in for anything critical of the National Security State, and so on. This PATERNALISM frightens me. I’d rather see annoying pictures than give a British prime Minister or his goddamn GCHQ and NSA guys a say over what internet sites I can access.

Speak Your Mind

*