The Government, following a lot of wailing from the Daily Mail, is proposing that ISPs should be forced to block “adult” web sites by default. I posted at length about this back in May and I refer you to that post if you’re unfamiliar with the issue. In summary, my objections are as follows:-
- It is not the Government’s job to be babysitter to an entire nation of internet-using children. Children, of course, should be protected, but that is a parent’s job, through supervision and, if necessary, the use of filtering software on the child’s laptop, phone or tablet.
- Any “default block” will be a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Nobody has defined “adult” web sites properly – is it just porn, or will stuff that’s a bit sweary like b3ta and Viz be blocked too?
- Inevitably some innocent web sites will get caught up in the block. Two years ago PinkNews, an LGBT news site, found itself categorised as “adult” by mobile phone providers. Imagine if a small business which relies on web customers gets blocked by mistake. It will lose income and suffer damage to its reputation by being identified as “porn”.
- Anyone wanting unfettered internet access will have to contact their ISP to request it and may have to repeat that request at regular intervals. There are many perfectly innocent reasons for a user to want an uncensored internet, but thanks to the stigma from certain parts of the media, they will feel like they’re putting themselves on a “porn user’s register”.
- This is, essentially, censorship – and who’s to say that the blocking infrastructure wouldn’t be used in the future for less benevolent reasons? Perhaps UK Uncut’s web site will find itself classed as “adult”?
All of the above ignores the fact that the block will be easily circumvented by anyone even moderately tech-savvy and will therefore be largely useless anyway.
The deadline to respond is 6th September. The consultation web page on the DfE web site is a nightmare, requiring users to download and fill in a Word document. Even then, most of the questions are aimed at parents and not other members of the public – it’s almost as if they don’t want us to have our say!
The Open Rights Group, however, have an easy to use web page to respond to the consultation, and it will even automatically identify your MP and copy him or her in on your consultation response.
I urge you to go and respond, even if it’s only a sentence or two. Remember, this is not about porn, it’s about larger issues of freedom of expression online versus an interfering nanny state.