Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No Porn Please, We're British

Prime Minister David Cameron seems to have got the UK's four biggest internet providers to agree to "porn" being an opt in option online.  That is, unless you specify that you want it when you sign up you won't have access to it via your browser.

In a wonderful demonstration of separation of church and state the plans will be unveiled at a meeting with the Christian charity the Mothers' Union--perhaps as part of a plan to woo female voters.

As it happens I understand wanting to make porn reasonably inaccessible to children. But in this context it feels like a 'think of the children' gambit, hiding a 'think of your eternal soul' motivation.  And government should not be part of that kind of nonsense.  The porn blackout is paired with a crack down on billboard advertising that often seems to conflate nudity with sex. It also gets tied to other knee-jerk issues like overly sexy kids clothing lines.

IMHO it would make far more sense to take an opt in approach like with the parental controls of a television.  And I shudder to think what websites will ultimately be considered porn.  (Although if the criteria Adsense uses are any guide, this blog will probably be one of them.) Meanwhile the muttering moral minority is having a field day, with a Telegraph columnist running with the title: "The world of internet porn is as damaging as it is unpleasant" and calling the blackout a "blow for freedom".

I wonder if  we will ultimately end up in a culture where it will be considered shocking to show a bare breast to a baby, or take a pre-teen to a beach where bikinis might be worn.  Because that kind of neo-puritanism strikes me as more dangerous than a city full of Victoria's Secret billboards. I think that "Net Nanny" services should of course be affordable, effective, standard features of the devices we bring into our homes. But ultimately, what displays on my computer screen should be the internet in its entirety, not a tamed down version under the control of a murky, undemocratic morality committee. (Likely to be about as transparent and even-handed as those progressive chaps at the British Board of Film Classification).

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