UK Leaders Look To Restrict Online Pornography
This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that “the darkest corners of the Internet” pose a real threat to children, and called for a plan that would block pornography on most computers, smartphones and tablets.
CNN reported that British wireless and Internet providers are even on board and have agreed to put adult-content filters on phones, public Wi-Fi networks and home computers in the coming months. By the end of the year, the filers will actually be the default setting for anyone setting up broadband Internet service at home.
“I’m not making this speech because I want to (moralize) or scare-monger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come,” Cameron said in a statement. “This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence.”
This might sound like a rather difficult proposition; computers and pornography go together like (to quote Forest Gump) “peas and carrots.”
This could also sound like it could be the first step in the U.K. joining the ranks of Thailand, Iran and China in trying to control what people see on the internet. However, Cameron noted that the filters to stop easy access to pornography could be deactivated if the user can “prove” that they are 18 or older.
Now, that seems reasonable actually. It reminds this reporter of something comedian David Schwimmer noted just a few years ago.
“When I was 13 it was a real challenge to get your hands on Playboy. But today unfortunately most kids before the age of 13 have seen pornography online and not just a still image – moving pictures,” he said in an interview with Zee News. “If you`re a nine-or-10-year-old, and your first encounter with sexuality is some kind of pornography online, than that`s definitely a loss of innocence.”
Now critics might content that an automated filer could allow offensive material through by accident, but could also create “false positives” that block inoffensive content. The other concern is that this could give parents a greater sense of false security, who then might even become more lax in monitoring their children’s online behavior.
There is also the issue of what level of pornography is being discussed and even Cameron noted a distinction.
“In one we’re talking about illegal material, the other legal material that is being viewed by those who are underage,” Cameron added. “But both these challenges have something in common. They are about how our collective lack of action on the Internet has led to harmful — and in some cases truly dreadful — consequences for children.”
Just as the issue of violence will remain, so too will this discussion of pornography. The difference is that unlike with violence, and the amount that can be seen, there are actually laws in place as to what constitutes “pornography.”
However, there is another factor in this that needs to be considered as well and that’s economics. Pornography, regardless of its acceptance in society, is profitable. Pornography helped make DVD a hit and continues to be a huge revenue generator online. If there is money there, it is going to exist.
One solution might be to simply require all pornography sites to exist on an .XXX domain, and require an age check. The problem is that they are easy to bypass, and requiring someone to enter a credit card or other personal information could in fact be seen as an invasion of privacy. Some will argue it could come back to ensuring that children should be more closely monitored; but honestly, can any parent watch their kids 24-hours a day?
However it plays out, this is likely only going to get more attention. Perhaps that is what the purveyors of pornography are hoping for!
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