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Internet porn may be blocked at source

(366 Posts)
David51 Mon 20-Dec-10 11:05:27

Communications minister Ed Vaizey is working on plans designed to prevent children gaining access to internet pornography.

He hopes to introduce a system that would enable parents to ask internet service providers (ISPs) to block adult sites at source, rather than relying on parental controls that they need to set themselves.

Adults using the internet connection would then have to specifically 'opt in' if they want to view pornography.

Full story:

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/850896-new-porn-contro ls-for-children-on-internet-planned-by-government

Mumsnet PLEASE think about doing a campaign about this. Or at least keep us posted on if & when the government decides to ask for our views.

In the meantime maybe we should all contact our current ISPs to ask what they plan to do and letting them know what we want as their customers.

Maisiethemorningsidecat Mon 20-Dec-10 11:08:24

Agree - it's not before bloody time too. The ISPs have got away for far too much for far too long.

Mumsnet - please support this.

David51 Mon 20-Dec-10 11:11:37
mamas12 Mon 20-Dec-10 11:17:07

I hope this includes access to porn on phones too.

hellzapoppin Mon 20-Dec-10 11:28:28

About bloody time. the ISPs need to take responsibility - as this is something they have always been able to control. they never have because it's just not financially lucrative to do so.

Yes it has to be phones too.
My DSDs were first exposed to pornographic images via teenage boys' phones in the playground. sad

mamas12 Mon 20-Dec-10 11:30:17

Mine too. so angry about it, the only thing I can do is educate him and monitor and trust him. But you then get his 'friends' who send him things. It goes on, I hate it.

hellzapoppin Mon 20-Dec-10 11:39:11

Oh mamas12 it's so awful isn't it? makes you feel so helpless, but educate and monitor is all we can do for now.

Snorbs Mon 20-Dec-10 12:13:27

OK, I'll throw my hat into the ring here - can we NOT have a mumsnet campaign for such a poorly thought through and blatantly obvious thin-end-of-the-wedge idea such as this?

1) It won't stop easy access to pornography, either via the Internet or by other means. There was porn being distributed by computer before the World Wide Web was even invented. It wouldn't surprise me if there was (very low-res and blocky) porn being distributed between mainframes before even the Internet was invented. And modern distributed file technology such as torrents will make it impossible to "block at source" because there isn't any real "source" in the conventional sense.

2) Who gets to decide what is classed as "porn" in this context and what isn't? Sure, for a lot of porn sites that's a moot question but there are other sites where it isn't so clear cut. Flickr, for instance, hosts some pictures that are pornographic but also millions of pictures that aren't. Photobucket is the same. Would they get blocked? What happens if a site gets through that you think should be blocked? And vice-versa? Do you get to sue the ISP?

3) If the ISPs are forced to implement the technology to achieve this (which would be pretty expensive, so expect increased bills) then I very much doubt that porn will be the only thing the government will end up insisting they use it for. What next - "terrorist" sites? Sites that break libel laws? Sites that expose government corruption or other misdeeds? Wikileaks?

4) A child being shown pornographic images on someone else's phone is a social issue not a technological one. When I was at secondary school 20-odd years ago there was a spate of pages from porn magazines being left in people's desks.

5) It smacks to me of yet another attempt by people who can't be arsed to watch what their children do on a computer to off-load the responsibility onto someone else.

To stave off the inevitable accusations that I'm some sort of porn-hound, I'm not. I find porn usage rather sad and the industry surrounding it very seedy and unpleasant. But ill-conceived ideas such as this won't solve anything.

Maisiethemorningsidecat Mon 20-Dec-10 12:25:26

OK, you're entitled to your opinion. As someone (ie I'm people who can't be arsed to watch what their children do on a computer to off-load the responsibility onto someone else hmm) whose 13 year old son has seen porn at his friend's house I'd rather that the Govt did this than sitting back and doing nothing - and I'm happy for the ISPs to be forced to face up to their responsibilites through legislation.. Of course we saw porn 20 years ago, but it was nothing to what children can access now, and it was much harder to get hold of.

Snorbs Mon 20-Dec-10 12:52:13

"happy for the ISPs to be forced to face up to their responsibilites through legislation"

How, and why, is this the ISPs' responsibility? Is it the Post Office's responsibility if someone gets a porn mag posted to them? Or would it be Scania's responsibility as they made the trucks that the Post Office bought to carry the mail sacks?

Snorbs Mon 20-Dec-10 12:55:19

(Bugger, pressed Post too early)

As for your example of your son being shown porn at a friend's house: If my son went to a friend's house and watched an 18-certificate movie, would that be the responsibility of the manufacturer of the DVD player? Or the manufacturer of the TV? Maybe the distributor of the movie?

Or would it, just possibly, be the responsibility of the parent(s) of that friend for failing to supervise what their child is up to?

David51 Mon 20-Dec-10 13:02:01

hi Snorbs

I dont find the 'thin end of the wedge' type argument very convincing as you end up saying there's no point in trying to do anything. Obviously the law has to be framed to make sure it applies only to porn, so anything else would need additional laws.

'Who decides?' There are effective server-side filters out there already so it won't all have to be done from scratch. An independent non-government body financed by the industry can then handle additions & exceptions

Your point 2 seems to be another case of 'If we cant get a perfect solution there's no point in trying to get an imperfect one' Maybe you'll never be able to block everything but so what? The worst stuff doesnt appear on social sites like YouTube because of the feedback function allowing any user to flag offensive material

However your (techie) point about bit torrents is an interesting one - if its going to be technically impossible we'd better not delude ourselves otherwise

So let's see what proposals if any come out of the ISP/minister meetings (I hope at least you don't object to the idea of a public consultation on the issue?)

And we should still contact our ISPs to see what they think so at least they are taking the issue more seriously than hitherto

PlentyOfParsnips Mon 20-Dec-10 13:16:13

While this sounds a great idea in theory, I have to agree with Snorbs - the devil's in the details.

We have a parental control thingy on our Virgin TV package but have had to turn it off as it can't tell the difference between a BBC comedy with a slightly rude word in it and the 24 hour porn channels.

Opt-in internet parental controls already exist and it's up to us as parents to use them.

Snorbs Mon 20-Dec-10 13:26:55

Can you name any of these "effective server-side filters"? The ones I've had experience of (from a corporate network acceptable usage filtering point of view) tend to be rather broad in their definition of what is unacceptable and need a lot of fine-tuning of the lists.

But it's nice that you seem happy to finance both the purchase of the kit (£££), the ongoing service contract costs from the providers of the filter lists (£££££), and the costs of yet another industry body (££££££££). Can you pay my share too?

I'm not talking about YouTube which is why I didn't say YouTube - YouTube doesn't, for the most part, have any porn on it. At least not for very long. I specifically mentioned Flickr and Photobucket because they (and others) do although they are also getting quicker at deleting it. And do you recall when even Wikipedia was accused of hosting pornographic images? Shall we get that blocked as well?

Do you really think a "public consultation" will make the slightest difference to any decision that is made? Really? Ah, how delightfully naive of you. Bless.

How about this for an alternative option - if an ISP thinks there is sufficient demand for a filtered Internet connection they can offer it as a service to their customers and increase the costs accordingly (eg, like AOL used to do). Anyone on non-filtered Internet connections can then transfer their business to the filtered ones if they so desire. Those who are happy to simply keep an eye on what their children are doing can stay where they are and on a cheaper rate.

No need for legislation, no need for mandatory installation of kit and services, no need for Yet Another Industry Body, it's simply a matter of letting consumers choose with their wallets.

Odd how a supposedly Conservative government is shying away from a market-forces led approach. I wonder if this has any connection to the numerous attempts over the past decade to come up with some kind of reason for mandatory Internet filtering equipment to be installed in all ISPs? Nah, surely not.

KalokiMallow Mon 20-Dec-10 13:37:47

Honestly, I'm with Snorbs it doesn't seem well thought out at all.

For a start no filter is going to be perfect which means porn will be accessible anyway, whereas innocent material may not.

How on earth will the implement it?
- By blocking websites? That'll take down any community led sites straight away.

- By blocking keywords? Say you block the word "nude"? There goes any classical artwork.

Also will using keywords block images or sites? If it's images then most sites don't bother attaching keywords, and file names are usually a combination of numbers. If it's sites, then bye bye MN.

I know people will respond with "adults can opt in" but you know there'll be an additional charge for the admin of that don't you?

Does anyone honestly think this is going to work?

ItsAHollyJollyTee Mon 20-Dec-10 13:49:00

I'm also with snorbs.

Until people can give me an exact definition of 'porn' then who decides what should be blocked?

Is the film The Postman Always Ring Twice any less pornographic than Debby Does Dallas just because Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange star?

Is Robert Mapplethorpe's art any less pornographic than Big Tits and Ass Pics just because it says art at the end rather than pics?

Useful websites regarding breast cancer and the like have been blocked by this sort of software because of the word breast.

Also, not the ISP's problem. I agree, it's a parental problem.

Get the government out of my bedroom and off my computer, thanks!

Mumi Mon 20-Dec-10 13:51:36

This idea isn't even half baked. I agree absolutely with Snorbs.

KalokiMallow Mon 20-Dec-10 14:54:34

Article here also points out that child abuse is currently blocked by ISP's. Except it is still online, they haven't managed to block it.

Snorbs Mon 20-Dec-10 18:30:42

And another thing...!

When we talk about "porn", do we just mean images? Or images and videos? Or images, videos and stories?

What about descriptions of sexual acts? That could be mumsnet blocked then. And, as previously noted, Wikipedia. And the Brook Advisory Service. And ChildLine. Because they all contain descriptions of sexual acts that at least some people - eg, members of certain religious groups - object very strongly to being available to children and young people.

Niceguy2 Tue 21-Dec-10 12:31:02

Snorbs has spoken a lot of common sense and obviously has more knowledge than the minister who has proposed this.

I completely agree with what Snorbs said.

It's not about getting the "perfect" solution, it's about if one is technically possible in the first place and would provide value for money.

Let's assume you can easily block porn websites. What about bittorrents, newsgroups, IRC, GNUTella networks? Most of you have probably only heard of Bittorrent but the rest are also there and you can easily find porn on there too.

And that's before you factor in simply bypassing UK controls by bouncing your traffic from a non-UK IP (eg. using VPN or a proxy).

Think its hard? Think again. Most kids at my DD(14)'s school will probably be able to tell you how they bypass the filters on their school computers. It's about as hard as typing in "how to bypass school filters" into google. Try it.

It's about as feasible as asking BT to implement technology to stop people from saying the word "bomb" during a conversation.

And as Snorbs said, who do we entrust with coming up with the blocklist? The IWF? They flipping blocked Wikipedia after someone posted an album cover for a Scorpions song. The government? Oh, I can see Wikileaks disappearing quickly.

All these proposal's do is provide the politician's with a good soundbite, load up costs onto the ISP's (which will then pass onto us) and the only ones who are "protected" are those too stupid to use a computer.

Sorry but anyone with a modicum of knowledge of how the Internet works will realise that large scale filtering is simply doomed to failure.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Tue 21-Dec-10 12:35:48

Please DO NOT back this campaign. This is censorship. China blocks ISPs and we all know how well that's worked out with regard to human rights and free expression.

Pornography is not illegal - where do you stop?

Agree with everything that Snorbs says.

David51 Tue 21-Dec-10 16:27:08

If it turns out to be technically impossible then obviously thats the end of the argument. That's why Vaizey is consulting with the various ISPs. Personally I don't believe you should draw conclusions before the evidence is in, but maybe that's just me.

But suppose it was possible, what would be left of the case against? Are you really going to rely on academic quibbles about the exact meaning of the word 'pornography'? Or the fact that the body charged with making decisions may not always get it right?

Remember - contrary to the last posting - we're not talking about censorship here. If you want it you'll be able to get it. The only difference is you won't get it by default but will have to go to the trouble of opting in.

A tiny number of ISPs already have porn filters in place as default but for most people currently we aren't even allowed to opt out. Please explain to me how this situation is supposed to be conducive to our liberties?

dittany Tue 21-Dec-10 16:34:06

Hands up who uses porn who's against this measure.

Snorbs Tue 21-Dec-10 17:49:35

"A tiny number of ISPs already have porn filters in place as default but for most people currently we aren't even allowed to opt out. Please explain to me how this situation is supposed to be conducive to our liberties?"

You are allowed to opt out. You even described how you could do so. You simply vote with your feet and move to one of the ISPs that does do filtering by default. Moving ISP is fairly straightforward these days.

How is that such a bad situation that it needs legislation to fix it?

earwicga Tue 21-Dec-10 17:52:35

I'm with Snorbs - this would also block a lot of sex education sites. And anything that is deemed not 'vanilla'.

I would like it there was a surefire way to block porn, and only porn, but I would eat my hat if this proposal achieves this.

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