Why you shouldn't support legislation blocking internet porn

(900 Posts)
Andrewjh Mon 07-May-12 00:21:17

Ed Vaizey and Claire Perry and a number of other politicians are trying to force ISPs to block adult content under the pretence of "think of the children", however this will have the opposite effect and could lead to children being exposed to far greater problems.

- Children these days are very tech savvy, especially with regard to the internet. And they need to be - the UK is the largest internet economy in the world. To succeed in the UK in the future, you'll need to know your way around a computer and around the internet from an early age.

- What happens when ISPs block sites is something called the Streisand Effect. Basically by banning it, they generate a huge amount of publicity and support for the sites. The Pirate Bay site last week got blocked in the UK, and it received traffic increases of 12 million users downloading millions of pounds worth of software, music, films and games. Blocking something increases its internet traffic, its exposure, and suddenly 30 times more people know about it than did before.

- What also happens when you block these sites is a huge amount of internet users figure out free and easy ways around the blocks. ISP's don't have the resources to stop this, and in most cases, it is impossible for them to do so. anyway. The Pirate Bay blocks can be got around within 20 seconds, and that is just googling "how do I get around pirate bay blocks".

- Many of the methods employed by users to get around the Pirate Bay blocks so they can illegally download files will also be posted as guides to get around porn blocks. These are accessible through any search engine (google, bing, yahoo).

- The problem is that tech savvy children (it only takes one to find out how from the internet or an older brother, then tell his friends, who tell their friends etc) can easily find out how to get around it. I mean it is as easily as it is to look up something for their homework, if not easier.

- The other more dangerous issue is that whilst once they've gone through those guides, they can easily find links to far darker sites which host horrific viruses, hackers, as well as references to drugs, drink and other adult content. They can also find links to anonymous chatrooms where they could meet anyone without you knowing.

- This is the danger that opt in and blocking poses. They will give you a sense of security when there is none.

- This is also based on the assumption that the block actually blocks all porn. They rarely ever do, and sites posing as sex education sites which don't get blocked get through with adult content. So you'll be under the illusion that the internet is safely blocked when it isn't.

Think of it like this. Imagine the internet is a cliff, and we are having a picnic at the top of the cliff. It's a mostly beautiful view, but if you let your guard down, you could fall off. You wouldn't let your child play near the edge. Installing the opt in system is like putting a strong looking but flimsy fence in place. You could be fooled in to thinking it was safe but left to their own devices your child, could easily fall through. We can't put a brick wall there otherwise it spoils the natural beauty of the view (the educational benefits of the internet).

So what to do? Firstly don't support legislation calling for blocks. It doesn't work, its been shown not to work in the past as well as more recently. Children can easily find a way around it, and in doing so find a far darker side of the internet.

Secondly: If you are concerned, use censoring software on your computer, but don't be content with just that. Use Browser tracking software like this - http://www.any-activity-monitor.com/free-browser-history-recorder.html so you can accurate tell what your child has been viewing, even if they delete it off the browser. There are also many simple, free and easy tutorials written online on how to better protect your computer and your child.

Thirdly: Take some time to talk to your child about internet use. It can be an amazing tool but it can be dangerous. They need to know that right and wrong, safe and risky, they all still apply online (something easy to forget I assure you). They'll avoid things if they know its wrong. They will be curious about things if its only blocked.

Lastly, don't be fooled by people using the "think of the children" line. It's an alarmist appeal to emotion. There is very little danger so long as you use your common sense and only allow a child a sensible amount of time on the internet. As a politics student, I have to question whether this has been saved up till now to gain support for the government after an miserable turn in recent polls.

Thanks very much for reading, I hope you'll consider your position.

LittlePushka Mon 07-May-12 00:30:16

I have considered my position. It did not take very long. I will be supporting blocks.

Empusa Mon 07-May-12 00:32:16

"Think of it like this. Imagine the internet is a cliff, and we are having a picnic at the top of the cliff. It's a mostly beautiful view, but if you let your guard down, you could fall off. You wouldn't let your child play near the edge. Installing the opt in system is like putting a strong looking but flimsy fence in place. You could be fooled in to thinking it was safe but left to their own devices your child, could easily fall through. We can't put a brick wall there otherwise it spoils the natural beauty of the view (the educational benefits of the internet)."

Really good way of describing it!

There are also a few threads on MN which give even more reasons not to back the legislation.

Internet Porn May Be Blocked At Source
Recent Decision By MNHQ?
Blocking Internet Porn?

Empusa Mon 07-May-12 00:32:49

"I have considered my position. It did not take very long. I will be supporting blocks."

Maybe you should try taking some time to actually think it through.

LowRegNumber Mon 07-May-12 00:33:31

As I see it your argument falls down in many places, firstly the site you mention was blocked. Full stop. But porn is supposed to he an opt in - q titally different proposition. There is unlikely to he the same proliferation of 'get round it's sites as for something that is outright banned as most people who would want to get round it sol simply not need to - being over age.

Secondly what is so wrong/difficult about doing all the things you have listed alongside a porn opt in? Surely this would decrease the chances of a well educated and protected child stumbling across something by accident?.

Thirdly your argument about the 'dark side' is poppycock, this is currently out there and at large. If a child Google's porn they get access to it instantl, there is no way this is better than the few who work their way past the opt in possibly finding it.

SkipTheLightFanjango Mon 07-May-12 00:35:09

Teaching children about the net is all very well but you can get to some awful sites by accident. I, however, would rather use my own blockers and keep my children safe by monitering their internet use.

LittlePushka Mon 07-May-12 00:39:59

Empusa,... no, really no need, it's that simple for me.

Empusa Mon 07-May-12 00:41:08

Fair enough, I just tend to prefer making informed decisions. But each to their own.

pastimes101 Mon 07-May-12 00:42:29

So, Andrew, you working for Web sense and scared you will be out of a job? wink

Personally, I think porn should be blocked at ISP level, and just in case the kids could get around this block, run a good content blocker.

Not all children who view porn online access it through intent, some stumble across it due to not knowing how to spell perfectly. This would not happen if it was blocked at ISP level.

There is absolutely NO reason to not block porn. It has no value to most parts of society. There is a huge difference between trying to download a movie or song for free, as this is something most kids would be keen to do (unless they have ipods and have parents feeding them itunes vouchers like candy), and accessing pornographic material.

Blocking porn at ISP level is sending it the right messages: It is not ok for porn to be found freely accessible at no cost for neither children nor adults.

SkipTheLightFanjango Mon 07-May-12 00:42:36

Empusa does it not feel like censorship? The slippery path if you ask me!

pastimes101 Mon 07-May-12 00:45:46

It is not censorship, it is not made illegal. You can still get it elsewhere.

It is just an informed decision that ISPS in the uk will not supply porn.

Just as it has at some point been made an informed decision that Horse and Hound should not supply porn to their readers.

Empusa Mon 07-May-12 00:46:51

Skip I worry about what else will get blocked alongside porn, I can't see any filter that will work without either.

a) Still allowing a shit ton of porn through
or
b) Blocking innocent sites in the process*

*Eg. block any website containing the word "sex" and you've just cut off all sex education sites (alongside sites like MN)

SkipTheLightFanjango Mon 07-May-12 00:49:23

Sorry but being made to "opt-in" is like saying "I'm a perv". What will they make us sign in for next? NEVER allow your freedoms to be eroded! I hate porn and all that goes with it BUT once they start making up rules..they extend them! Beware what you wish for.

threeleftfeet Mon 07-May-12 00:51:31

This would go way beyond porn sites.

Mumsnet would definitely be a banned site. (The Friday night bumsex chats for a start ...). Are you happy with that?

It is censorship, pure and simple.

Empusa Mon 07-May-12 00:52:25

This is from one of the threads I linked to, it explains the only way you will be able to effectively filter out porn

"If the government insist that ISPs find a way then there is one way that would work. You wouldn't like it though.

You start by blocking ALL of the internet. Then you allow through those sites which have applied for the right and been vetted by some committee.

Not google or Mumsnet because neither has any real control over their content. You could have the BBC, a few shopping sites, weather sites etc. Adding more would be slow and expensive and at the first complaint a site would lose its licence and be gone.

The rest of the internet would be gone completely. No more mumsnet, no more wikileaks, no more filesharing. No more stories about MPs expenses.

Or you could let the parents of the children sort out their own controls over their kids as they mostly do now."

SkipTheLightFanjango Mon 07-May-12 00:54:38

Empusa you are so right..that is why I don't want this!!

Andrewjh Mon 07-May-12 01:08:22

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Andrewjh Mon 07-May-12 01:18:10

pasttimes101 - it isn't the porn that is the issue, it is the blocking.

A) it won't work. It never has worked. Even in China where they have an almighty amount of resources dedicated to censoring the internet, it doesn't work.
B) People who think it will work, will discover it doesn't work when it's too late.

c) Look at alcohol. The state has banned it for under eighteens to buy and drink in public. That is like blocking for under eighteens. Just like there will be some shops which will sell it to kids, some people who will buy it for them and the few kids who can get it themselves, there will be allowed sites which will offer it, people who can tell them how to access it, or they can easily find out how themselves. Thousands of young teenagers get atrociously drunk every week. Do you honestly think this is that different? The common thread with the kids which don't binge under-age are those who have had good parenting about it. They've been talked to about it.

NovackNGood Mon 07-May-12 01:36:37

Parents actually having to take responsibility for parenting when they normally turn it over to the nanny state is too much to ask for.

Poulay Mon 07-May-12 01:37:08

So the argument is that an opt-in for porn would be bad because children are so depraved that they will just circumvent it and find even worse stuff than is freely already available?

Sorry, but that's just bollocks.

And in support of your argument, you effectively say that because kids drink alcohol despite it being illegal, we shouldn't bother trying to restrict its sale.

Total crap.

As an adult if I want to opt-in to porn, I can. There is no censorship there.

So censorship is really not a ground for objection either. Would you say that the porn channels on Sky are 'censored' because you have to subscribe to them? That's just absurd.

And it's also bollocks to say that if ten thousand or so porn sites were to be blocked, they would all benefit from a 'Streisand effect'. Clearly they are not going to block just one porn site, it will be many thousands of them, and they will NOT individually or collectively benefit from that.

It's true that this can be evaded, just like bans on selling cigarettes to kids, but that doesn't mean either is a bad thing. Saying 'if porn gets blocked that will lull people into not monitoring their kids online, whereas they would otherwise' is so obviously ridiculous. These porn-watching kids are not being monitored as it is.

Empusa Mon 07-May-12 01:43:14

Poulay Can you explain to me how you would block porn and only porn without some a large amount of porn getting through?

Because it just isn't possible. Which means you will either end up with
a) lots of porn still being freely and easily available
b) lots of innocent sites being blocked (including this one)

NovackNGood Mon 07-May-12 01:46:10

Unfortunately the censorship agenda is being pushed by the religious zealots who ironically have no problems telling their little the ones about gross sexual practices before the rest of us would eg. Onun was a very naughty boy for spilling his seed upon the ground or that is better to offer two virgins to be raped than a man have sex with another man.

Poulay Mon 07-May-12 01:49:04

Empusa, so it's bad to even try to stop banning porn/cigarette sales/alcohol sales for kids because it can't stop it completely?

Not a very good argument.

Empusa Mon 07-May-12 01:57:05

Why waste time and money on something which is majorly flawed when there are better solutions already available?

Better solutions being computer side filtering (can be tweaked to suit individual users) and parental guidance/education.

The argument usually used at this point is, "what about the children whose parents wont or can't do these things?" But this raises whole other issues, mainly that if the parents cannot or will not take control of what their children access then they are the ones who will assume (wrongly) that an ISP side filter is flawless. Which will mean their children will still have access to porn and we will have achieved nothing.

Another point against ISP side filtering

ISP side filtering cannot distinguish between different computers in a household, let alone different users on a computer. So say you have a household with one adult, one young adult, one teen, and one child. You aren't going to want the child to be able to access all the things that the teen/young adult/adult access. And the adult/young adult/teen are likely to want to access more content than the child. In which case should the household opt in to the filter or opt out?

startail Mon 07-May-12 01:59:03

Imagine "The American Christian Right" telling the ISPs what to let through. Now tell me this is a good idea!

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