Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blocked

In January (or this week if you're on BT) the widely derided "porn block" that the government are shilling will come into force. If you don't know, it's basically a opt-out system of blocking of pornography at an ISP level enacted by the government that the main ISPs have all signed up for.

What this means is that you're going to get it no matter if you want it or not. And if you want to be able to access porn you'll have to sign up for it - opt out of the block. And, at a principle level this is fair enough right? Block access to material not suitable for under 18s at the source, makes sense - I mean we do it for movies, TV, games and print pornography, right?

Well... absolutely not. There are many things wrong with this, and we'll start at the top.

1) This is Censorship
Of course, certain censorship is fine. I don't mind certain art, like films or computer games being censored, and think that it is key to keeping a powerful art community when protecting those from harmful images or powerful material. For example, I am sure no one is against the idea of keeping something like Last Tango in Paris a film that minors can't see.

However, what this block does is stop consenting adults above the age of consent from watching what they want. Pornography is not illegal (certain types are, of course) and watching porn isn't either, but blocking it wholesale and having to opt in to have it unblocked is a strange way of dealing with it. I am old enough to direct, film, write and even star in a pornographic film, but then I go home and I have to tell a company I want to watch it? That's pretty odd.

2) It Removes the Responsibility from the Responsible
This is something I've actually moaned at length about before, but it's something that this is at the core of - children shouldn't be seeing porn online. However, blocking it for everyone is not the solution. The key here is that the parents of those who are under age should not be allowing their children to see those things, and those responsible need to step up.

There are hundreds of tools allowing you to block sites even without antivirus software. If I wanted to I could easily go into my router and block access to sites for anything using my router. I know how to because in the future I will have to. I see kids playing 18+ games at the age of 12 and wonder what is going on - my parents used to pre-screen London's Burning for me when I was aged 8 for goodness sake, and all that was was fire!

By taking the responsibility away from parents you are excusing them from getting educated, and then you're also removing it from those you're are protecting. It's similar to banning sex instead of educating about safe sex, and we all know abstinence doesn't work.

3) Why Porn?
Ok, say you don't mind the idea of the government blocking porn, why stop there? Or why just porn? Why not other things that actually do harm to the country, like smoking? Or Drinking? Or... driving? People die when they drive badly.

This is the weakest point, but it's one to consider - why porn? Well, because it carries a stigma - an easy target. And I have watched porn many times in my life and I don't care who knows it. It's a normal thing to do as an adult (see Nuts, Zoo, or Playboy's sales figures). It's just a tiny bit taboo amongst a certain group of people that the government are pandering to.

4) Do You Want to Be On That List?
I am going to opt out of the system because... well, for these reasons. And for number 5 below too. But that surely means that I am suddenly on a list somewhere. I mean, Virgin Media (an amusingly apt name) will have to track everyone who says to opt out, and then my name is on a list of people who "want to watch porn".

As we know, lists don't stay hidden. I would imagine people don't want to be on a list that is possibly accessible by anyone (Virgin Media or not) that says they're into porn, right? I can imagine politicians, media personalities, church goers etc don't want to be on the list, and thusly are blocked because of fear. That's an insane jump for our government.

I already know that Virgin have a list of where I go. That's fine, I have reconciled with that. As long as I don't do anything illegal... why should I have to ask again?

5) It's Using Bad Tech
Imagine it could work, that you could block porn. That'd be great! Then it might work perfectly. But here's the thing.

It won't.

Why do I know this? Well my phone has a block on "18+" sites when on 3G that I've never bothered to unlock (see number 7) and it blocks nonsense. Stuff that isn't even 18+ by their own definition. This is because automatic filters don't work. No technology will be perfect. In fact, by the definition of the system that the government are rolling out sites about sexuality and sex education will be blocked - blocking information for the most vulnerable of our children and teenagers (and adults, why not), who need access to this information, is borderline insane.

So yeah, the tech won't work. It can't. Because...

6) What is Porn Anyway?
What is porn? Tits? A flash of cock? An ejaculation? Well, if I can't decide (and society can't) then how is an automatic filter supposed to? I see sites like Wikipedia with their informative descriptions and pictures being blocked because of language and photos of naked bodies. Nudity is not porn. In fact, that'd mean many publications that the Conservatives endorse would be in deep shit, like The Sun. So here's the big problem - porn isn't a thing.

It's not a thing you can block because it doesn't exist as a steady thing - you could block the word "five" easily enough, because any time it comes up you can block it. Porn is a spectrum, and especially in the form that the filter will take, from nude art to illegal rape-porn.

Where is the line drawn then? Well, that's the thing - if I am in charge of my internet when I have kids I'd block it to a point. I'd block what I want to block. But it'd be me, working at it. I can't just block everything that might be porn, so why should the government?

7) I Can't Be Bothered to Change It
See number 5 - I've had a porn block on my phone since I got it in 2007. It works over 3G only, of course, but it requires a credit card to authorise, me spending £1 and them crediting it back to my account. I have never done this because it's an arse ache! Loads more won't bother to do it for their service either.

8) Who Cares Anyway?
And finally, who cares in the end, right? It's just porn! But that's the problem - here you are blocking a type of expression. No, come back, let me explain! Porn in certain circumstances (some would argue in all circumstances) is a form of art - admittedly, low art (in my opinion), but some films have money and time spent on them. And... are not real. Fictional events. So there's an odd leap for the government - suddenly you're blocking fiction. That's a very hair-raising idea, the concept of blocking something that doesn't even exist and isn't true.

The fact that there is a filter at all should alarm some people - imagine it was suddenly blocking certain websites for political reasons? The Internet is the great democratic enabler and has the power to change everything in the world for the better or worse. But if you don't allow the bad stuff, the good stuff won't be able to grow either, because what is "good" and "evil" when nothing you're blocking is necessarily illegal?

The whole thing is a farce. It's petty, bullshit, disgusting and pandering. It's a government playing directly to those who don't understand, don't grasp the enormity, and don't appreciate the implications. The same folk who complain about "nanny-state" and "political correctness" as things (which they are both not) are being played by the government as idiots and they are lapping it up. It enrages me that trans or gay children might not get to read about their options because some old twat without any understanding of how information frees people has decided that you can't see some tits on the internet.

And the worst part? I have no representation in government against it. All the parties support it. This is why politics in the UK is so terribly terribly rubbish.

A petition, if you think that'll do anything, is found here.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

My company blocked the petition link!

William Payne said...

Why block porn? The cynical answer is this: Government is about power, and power is about sex.

Boiled down to it's raw animal fundamentals, having power is about being able to maximise your reproductive chances and suppress the reproductive chances of lesser males.

As a result, the powerful will always impose a (hypocritical) morality on the weak. Even if it just provides a symbolic victory over their libido, it plays an age-old role in cementing the pecking-order of society.

Dave said...

My first experience of "porn blocking" was on my mobile phone. I was in hospital nervously awaiting cancer surgery, a nurse gave me a URL for a cancer sufferers forum, but Orange had blocked it as porn. I could access numerous pornographic videos on multiple sites but was prevented from accessing health sites which contained the words "breast cancer".

I will be requesting removal of the block on health sites, womens refuges etc, but will never be calling it a porn block again because it doesn't block porn. It's a health and wellbeing block.

Billy said...

Your weakest point of "why stop there" is actually quite relevant.

David Cameron has already said he intends to use Cleanfeed to block "extremist narrative". It's already been hijacked by the music and movie industries to implement questionable "blocks" on torrent sites and NNTP indexing sites (no more than search engines)!

The obvious issue arises: Who's deciding what's extreme? I personally think UKIP have quite an extreme agenda, I'm sure many people would think the same of SNP. Poor Cameron can't convince Facebook to remove extremist (beheading) videos, is that why he's taking this extreme stance against extremism?

It really feels like there's an escalation in censorship.

Anonymous said...

"I am sure no one is against the idea of keeping something like Last Tango in Paris a film that minors can't see."

I'm sorry which country do you live in you said?

Tim S said...

Another example of the problem. I use 3 for my phone and they used to filter for 'adult material' and blocked Urban Dictionary I guess because it has naughty words in it. When I complained they would only let me access that kind of stuff if I paid £5 a month extra. I guess using a dictionary with naughty words is only harmful if you are not spending much. Hope broadband does not go that way.