U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced this morning that "By the end of this year, when someone sets up a new broadband account, the settings to install family friendly filters will be automatically selected." That means you'll have to adjust your settings to see things that your ISP, and indirectly the U.K. government, does not think you should see. Like porn. Or what the government thinks is porn.
In a long speech, which you can read here, Cameron laid out the argument for opt-out family settings and a call for search engines to block objectionable or illegal content. Some key points:
- "Many children are viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very young age and that the nature of that pornography is so extreme, it is distorting their view of sex and relationships."
- Search engines should be held responsible for illegal material because they're "like the Post Office helping someone to identify and order the illegal material in the first place – and then sending it onto them in which case they absolutely would be held responsible for their actions."
- "Child abuse images" are a major focus of the speech. Cameron wants "clear and simple signs warning [people who search for these images] that what they are trying to do is illegal and where there is much more accountability on the part of the search engines to actually help find these sites and block them."
- "Put simply - there needs to be a list of terms – a black list – which offer up no direct search returns. So I have a very clear message for Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest. You have a duty to act on this – and it is a moral duty."
- After examples of younger sexuality, including viewing pornography and sexting: "Our children are growing up too fast."
- "This has never been a debate about companies or government censoring the internet but about filters to protect children at the home network level."
- The government is "making it a criminal offence to possess internet pornography that depicts rape."
- The speech ends with "And I will do whatever it takes to keep our children safe."
So! There's an awful lot going on here, both explicitly and implicitly. Cameron is proposing a two-pronged approach: an opt-out filter, and working with search engines to block access to child pornography, simulated rape pornography, and possibly other unsavory or illegal materials.
The first is essentially is a family filter that's put in place by the internet service providers, or ISPs (the equivalent companies in the States would be Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, etc.). The filter can be adjusted or disabled entirely by an adult--not clear how the service will make sure it's an adult and not a child messing around with these settings--but it will by default be put in place. The filters will extend to any device connected to the network, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Those proposed filters comprise what the government plans to do, and what the government theoretically can do.
But in that second prong, Cameron urged international corporations like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to adjust in accordance with his crusade.
There are significant problems with both prongs, falling into three categories: logistical, rhetorical, and, for lack of a better word, moral.
Logistical: This Is Not How The Internet Works
In his second prong, looking outside the U.K. government, Cameron chastises search engines like Google and Bing for making it easier to find, he says, child pornography.
"We need the search engines to step up to the plate on this," said Cameron. "And there's a further message I have for the search engines. If there are technical obstacles to acting on this, don't just stand by and say nothing can be done; use your great brains to help overcome them."
This is absurdly, insultingly presumptuous. A prime minister is demanding a foreign corporation kowtow to his demands and implement a childishly naive proposal based on his own showy morality. It's insane that Cameron would so condescendingly offer a foreign entity that's violating precisely zero laws itself an ultimatum. Google is under no obligation to do anything Cameron wants, and yet Google just last month pledged to spend $7 million to figure out new ways to stamp out child pornography. What makes Cameron think that his proposal--a blacklist of keywords--would be more effective than whatever Google's brilliant engineers are doing? We were indignant when China demanded Google censor itself there; how dare Cameron expect anything different, no matter how many times he hollers "it's for the children"?
Many of the illegal corners of the internet aren't indexed by Google, anyway. Try searching for child porn right now; you won't find any. Try searching for an online store that'll mail you heroin. You won't find that, either. But both exist, and you will find news stories or forums about both that can lead you there. Discussion of illegal activities isn't illegal, but makes any indexing restriction on Google pretty much worthless.
Hidden Wiki, which indexes sites that Google doesn't. Yelling at Google is grandstanding; Google is responsive--too responsive, sometimes--to laws and governmental requests. "We have a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery," said a Google spokesperson. "Whenever we discover it, we respond quickly to remove and report it." Google's got lots of problems, but it's naive to think that the scariest parts of the internet are accessed with a giant corporation's search engine.Many of these corners of the internet are only accessible via anonymizing software like Tor, which masks your identity and allows you to visit sites like the
Rhetorical: This Is Just Amateur Social Psychology
Cameron's speech does not go beyond platitudes like "we have to protect our children." He simply states as fact that "children are growing up too fast," that this is a result of readily available adult material, and that this is an unhealthy development. I don't agree or disagree with him, but those are an awful lot of giant leaps to make without any cited studies or research to back him up. "In a survey," said Cameron, "a quarter of children said they'd seen pornography which had upset them." Well, okay! I don't know which survey this is, or whether it's trustworthy at all, but let's accept that that's true. What percentage of children have seen something on the news which upset them? What percentage of children were upset when Lennie kills the mouse in Of Mice And Men?
The American Psychological Association notes that research about the effects of internet pornography on children is "scarce" and that what research there is tends to lean heavily on correlation.
It's not so much that Cameron is right or wrong in his opinion on exposing children to adult content. It's that he assumes his particular stance is empirically correct, and that it is his obligation to enforce it nationwide. That's sort of the base of all legislation, after all. But I object to his assumption that internet pornography has a studied, proven net negative effect on children. The research doesn't support that at all. And that point of view is the motivation for both his legal proposals and his moralizing in the direction of American tech companies.
Moral: Is This Censorship?
The other major concern, just as regards the opt-out family filter, is that this is the first step--and a big one--towards internet censorship. Pornography, like anything else that offends someone, is a vague term. What's offensive to one person isn't to another, and one person's "extreme pornography" is another person's tame fantasy. The fact that it is a government-mandated filter, the specific contours of which are not laid out in Cameron's speech, is unnerving.
"This has never been a debate about companies or government censoring the internet but about filters to protect children at the home network level," said Cameron in the speech. And, well, that's ludicrous. If this isn't a debate about companies or government censoring the internet, it sure as hell should be. We're naturally wary of slippery slope arguments, but a cursory glance into, say, the People's Republic of China's policy on internet censorship shows just how far awry this kind of thing can go. Cameron is proposing an opt-out filter, which is not the same as censorship. But his urging of ISPs and search engines to make certain items harder to find goes far beyond an opt-out option. If Google stops indexing something the U.K. government doesn't like, you can't opt back in and see it. It's just gone, at least from the single way that the vast majority of internet users uses to find things on the internet.
There are ample warning signs in this speech for anyone who's wary of government intervention in free speech. The repeated explanation that this is for the children--that's an easy way to stifle argument. Are you in favor of children seeing disturbing, violent pornography? That's the stance those in favor of this policy will take. The fact that Cameron phrases this as a "moral duty" is a red flag, too: whose morals, exactly, are we talking about? And the fact that legal and illegal material are being wound together is alarming. "Let me be clear," reads Cameron's speech. "These challenges are very distinct and very different. In one we're talking about illegal material, the other legal material that is being viewed by those who are underage." But the speech, and the major legislative push, includes both. By discussing illegal material first, material that hardly anyone would be willing to publicly defend, it makes Cameron's rhetorical argument against legal material that much easier to swallow. And that's a problem, because the line between the ability to view legal and illegal material should not be blurred or conflated.
La Quadrature du Net said, "Protection of childhood is shamelessly exploited by Nicolas Sarkozy to implement a measure that will lead to collateral censorship and very dangerous drifts." In accordance with these laws, in late 2011 a French court ordered the takedown of a site that showed pictures and videos of French police officers arresting suspects, sometimes violently. But that was passed years ago, before the Arab Spring and before PRISM. And France didn't bother calling on foreign corporations to do their "moral duty" in accordance with its own filter.The U.K. is far from the first nation to seek to filter the internet. In 2011, France fully authorized what's called the LOPPSI 2 law, which allows the government to filter the internet without judicial approval. French internet filtering relies on a blacklist of sites, theoretically, but its goal is merely to filter out child pornography sites in addition to those that promote terrorism or racial hatred. The law has attracted criticism; a spokesman for French internet liberty site
"Of course, a free and open internet is vital," said Cameron. Never has the call for a free and open internet sounded so much like lip service.
Logistical: You Can't Pass This Law
Danny O'Brien, the international director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says, "My prediction is that these set of proposals won't make it to the light of day." It's an empty set of proposals intended to have the public rally around something that, Cameron thinks, nobody could object to. Who would have a problem with protecting children from violent illegal pornography? But it's unlikely to go anywhere. "We see these proposals come by in other commonwealth countries like Australia," says O'Brien. "The more they go through the grinding mill of discussion, the more people realize the terrible consequences." People are protective of internet free speech, especially after the Arab Spring, and are unlikely to believe Cameron's proposals could possibly be as simple as he makes them sound.
Then there's the fact that, well, it won't work. "You're creating a censorship system that's not actually solving the problem that you're trying to solve," says O'Brien. "That content is still out there." And the attacks on search companies are just as ineffectual. "I really don't think you can have an algorithm for morality," he adds. O'Brien did not seem worried about the speech; he saw it as theatrical and not realistic.
Cameron's proposal is near-sighted, attacks the symptoms rather than the root causes of these problems, is based on shoddy understanding of social psychology and the way the internet works in general, and is highly unlikely to get passed in any sort of proper parliamentary bill in the first place. It's exploitative grandstanding, a big clumsy haymaker of a shot fired at what Cameron thinks is an easy target but what is in fact anything but. It's an example of just how clueless government is as to the day-to-day of the dark corners of the internet.
Thank you for your intelligent article. This could do with being published in a few UK newspapers instead of the cretinous knee-jerk tabloid journalism which we have to put up with. Cameron is turning out to be like Margaret Thatcher after all. I'm sure he would think that's a compliment but it's certainly not meant to be.
I think the laws around pornography should also be much more strict. The porn industry fuels a huge human slave trade market. The more porn you watch the more porn gets made. The demand goes higher and more lives get sucked into it. I have watched it myself thinking "who cares, its just a bunch of consenting adults doing things that don't bother anyone". Not true. It affects a lot of people adversely. People are being raped, recruited, lured, abducted, blackmailed and seduced into it. I will definitely feel bad later after doing it again...and there is the psychological factor. You feel bad but eventually you squash that bad feeling. That is a line that desensitizes you and that is the beginning of a bad problem. It's a moral issue in most of us. Not to mention that when you do it all the time (masturbate to porn) it takes a little more to get you off each time. You started off with simple search for "schoolgirls" (example)... but after doing it for five years your search turns to "schoolgirls bondage golden shower" lol. You get my point. Like most things, its only fun in moderation. Porn is a serious problem. Its turning us into the modern day version of Sodom and Gamorrah. A race of people defined by sexual perversion. Not good.
"Do not try and bend the spoon. That is impossible. Only try and realize the truth - there is no spoon."
This is a worthwhile cause. It gives parents the control they should have had all along. Stupid liberals have corrupted the young by claiming porn is free speech.
Dan, I think you're fighting for some good reasons and made some good points, but I find your lack of concern for and blind eye toward the damage being done to children disgusting. I wouldn't let my children near you after reading this.
Morals fill a gap in human capacity to process all the potential outcomes of a choice. They are often based on centuries of collective human suffering. Without them virtually any pursuit can be argued for, regardless of the obvious outcome. You may think you're free from the oppressive morality of generations past, but you and those like you are only gouging your own eyes out.
The number of people attracted to and enabled to engage in soul-destroying sexual fixations is growing quietly. Articles like this one aren't helping.
I do hope David Cameron doesn't do anything that results in the momentum swinging back toward more children being harmed by exposure to brain-altering material (little kids have a natural aversion to most sexuality beyond self discovery) and by exposure to those adults who have chosen to consume mind-altering material that turns them into predators (most adults have a natural aversion to harming little kids!).
Lol got to love the prudes of the world, since someone has the potential to view that which they disagree with, they should not be able to partake in it at all. Anyone who considers this pathetic action by an already pathetic PM anything more than grandstanding (ukip maybe) is simply showing how much they feel about individual rights. Are there illegal aspects of the porn industry? yes. As there are illegal aspects with the catholic church? yes, yet you don't hear a call for these pits of pedophilia to be shut down. How about you parents actually teach your kids about sex instead of putting it off and letting them figure it out for themselves or worse, have your gov explain it to them.
You know what else isn't helping? The link to the Hidden Wiki. I'd bet at least one at-risk, shame-filled, depressed Popsci reader (otherwise a great guy!) looking for greater stimulation along familiar lines will end up in the nightmare rabbit hole of the deep web thanks to this article. Thanks for caring so much about humanity, Dan!
Dan, this is one of the most intelligently-written, professional pieces I've seen you do. Great points and summary of what's going on there. Though I'm a bit concerned as to what you've been doing near tripletiote's children.
Parents: Don't whine about how someone needs to protect the children. Be a goddamn parent. Educate them, talk to them. Sheltering them doesn't do them any good.
We all learn about the disgusting things people do to each other, but the more grown up the mind, the better it can handle it. There's no way to prepare a child for some things.
"Now Honey, if your friend's older brother shows you a video of a puppy being stomped to death..."
If want for a logical argument and respect for individual rights makes you scared of a person being around your children, you're an idiot.
Sure there is a lot of dirty and disgusting content out there, but does that really influence people? My guess is that first influence comes from something outside the internet, you don't go from watching consensual sex to watching rape videos; the same way, you don't go from drinking beer to shooting heroine.
Seems to me that, he's targeting a very small minority of offenders with significant collateral. Restraining information, even the darkest of material, is equivalent to attempting to restrain drugs It'll be a futile battle at most and if anything will just make that environment more enticing to the people that get hooked. In my opinion it is up to education to control this type of human behavior, not limitation.
Relax Dan, I'm sure no one is going to get to your porn stash. Cameron seems to want what most parents of the world have wanted throughout history, a home free from someone's junk in their kids' face. Do you really not get it?
Danny, who in their right mind champions pornography and child exploitation and at the same time sees themselves as a moral defender? Dude, no other Popsci article is written as passionately as a Dan Nosowitz Pornography Puff Piece. Look at your archives because I think your problem IS moral, my friend.
Moral mor·al /ˈmôrəl/
Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.
my roomate's mother-in-law makes $73/hour on the internet. She has been laid off for 9 months but last month her check was $16815 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site...... www.Yad7.com
I do admit Mr. Nosowitz, this is a good article.
As Danny O'Brian says: This is just empty posturing that will not go anywhere.
Cameron is only trying to get the righteous majority behind him. Everybody wants to protect children, but internet censorship in a democracy is sure to fail.
How do you define moral? We have some people here that say it is immoral if a woman shows her face or her ankle. Others say walking nude on the beach is OK.
Alcohol does more damage to children's lives then pornography does.
Pornography didn't create sexting and increased sexuality, the anonymity of the Internet did that. Kids can sign on and chat on 4chan or even a vanilla yahoo chat room and talk about things that even 50 years ago a 14 year old boy would be wondering about but too scared to ask.
You want to save lives? Ban the sale of Alcohol with only a 2-3 hour dinner window when you can buy a few glasses. Then require the internet to tag online IDs with offline identities. That way when I get a spam e-mail, I can look up the e-mail address and see the real live person that sent it.
Anything else is stupid and just being a hypocrite.
gotta agree with NoOneYouKnow...
Parents need to be parents. stop passing off everything to the education system to teach your kids, in Ontario Canada, the provincial government (in 2010) was trying to teach kids as young as the 3rd grade about sex, and sexuality, graphic sexual images, etc. it was very disturbing.
luckily this did not pass due to public outrage.
Many special interests groups are trying to social engineer us. it's no secret. especially Liberal governments. but thats another topic for another time ....
Nudity is not really a grey area. exposing yourself to public view, with out just cause is illegal. if you sleep nude, and your house burns down in the middle of the night - you run out side naked, not illegal.
most nude beaches/resorts are labelled and are in remote areas. not illegal.
child porn - Disgusting, Disturbing and i have no problem with the police invading privacy to get an address and kick down the doors of perps. while they're at it, execute the sick bastards. but that's just my opinion.
There was a study done, that men are wired a little differently. If someone is a sex addict, or Porn addict, the more they do it over time, the more intense it needs to be to get the same effect. it can become a real addiction and an issue. Porn has the potential to hurt someone's life just as much as alcohol. you can believe that excessive porn has ruined marriages / families.
although i disagree with you about the alcohol comparison - you are right about anonymity on the web.
But that brings me back to view of Parents need to be Parents. You need to keep an eye on your kids and be involved with their life.
When i was a teen, we had a family computer in the living room. My parents could always see what i was doing.
Parent's have got to be responsible for their kids, get the internet enabled devices out of the kid's room and into the living room and watch them like a hawk.
if not, wouldnt you be embarrassed when your kid's knowledge of sex exceeds your own. even more embarrassing when the kid says something that you have to look up.
Lot of nonsense posts on this when really, pornography on the internet isn't an societal issue, its a parenting issue. Parents are responsible for what their children see and do. Don't want your kid to see porn on the internet? Spend more time monitoring them or buy software to restrict access. It's not that hard.
The most interesting aspect of this is the guilt that will be assumed, and assigned, to those poor amoral scum who opt in. I can't wait for Cameron's follow up speech three years from now, " and all those who have not opted out, WHY?" "What is wrong with you, are you all molesters?" "I ask the people of this country to do the right thing and shame these folks."
It is a simple, simple mind, that ties the entire world's issues to things like child molesting, terrorism, and education. A simple, almost feeble mind that has reduced the world, in all its complexity, to three bumper sticker memes to generate outrage for personal gain - a feeble mind.
This line: "how dare Cameron expect anything different, no matter how many times he hollers "it's for the children"?"
This website couldn't go a day without an article on how dangerous guns are and has been on the climate change bandwagon for ages. Just 2 weeks ago we had another article of a city underwater lol. Obama and the rest of the liberals bring children to their speeches and appeal in the name of children every day.
Thus I found this line in a pop sci article hilariously ironic, please continue with the comedy pop sci :)
" That means you'll have to adjust your settings to see things that your ISP, and indirectly the U.K. government, does not think you should see. "
And some wonder why we "colonists" had to leave the UK.
Laws and restrictions don't replace good parenting. Forcing us to stick our heads in the sand, or up some other equally dark beaurocratic location, won't make the world a better place. It just makes us have sand (or some other 4 letter word starting with s) in our eyes.
as Lisa replied I'm in shock that a stay at home mom can profit $4134 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you read this web site Go to site and open Home for details
If you think Deborah`s story is good,, 4 weeks ago my friend's brother basically got a cheque for $9744 workin fourteen hours a week an their house and the're co-worker's mother-in-law`s neighbour was doing this for six months and got a cheque for more than $9744 parttime from their mac. follow the information on this web-site... .........zee44.com
My vir**nsfu**edintheas* is still working, as Cameron surely knows.
Idiotic and pointless.
It's a waste of money and what I call the camel's nose legislation.
Will not stop porn but will open the door for other even worse bills.
Want to keep your kids safe from porn put a filter on your side it's not that hard to do.
Once they're clever enough to hack around said filter they're probably mature enough that what they may encounter probably won't do them any harm.