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Reflections on Pornography blocking in the UK

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12/19/2013 10:46:56 AM
Posted: 4 years ago

It has recently come to the attention of UK regulators, the press and the world that the implements major UK ISP's presently utilize to block smut from internet search results have the salutary impact of blocking access to sexual health websites to an even greater extent than their algorithms "morality" are able to block out pornographic material. Demands for this came from the government, and principally from David Cameron, with the explicit purpose of "protecting the innocence of our children." ( However, the evidence suggests that "ignorance" would have been a better word choice -though I'm sure for Cameron and his lot ignorance and innocence are practically synonymous.

In my not so humble opinion, this is certainly an interesting news story -both because of what it means here and now, and because of what it could mean tomorrow. The first notions that occurred to me upon reading this story are as follows:

(1) Assuming that David Cameron is telling the truth and this actually was something that was popularly demanded, what a poor reflection on British society it is that parents would turn to parliament and politicians to protect their kids than actually do something about it themselves.

(2) Whether Cameron is telling the truth or not -which I am personally suspicious about- the very fact that the United Kingdom has imposed what amounts to a wholesale blackout of certain content lays a dangerous precedent for future content access obstruction and censorship -whether it is demanded by the British People or not.

(3) There is something perniciously disconcerting about a society that makes a point to go after pornography, because of what it means that society is making a point to target pornography. While I know this idea is invariably abstract, I'm equally convinced that this is probably the most devastating of all the implications even though it is not wholly distinct from the first. The reason is this: to the extent that a society seeks to limit citizen's access to information of any variety, what variety of information a society seeks to "keep out" speaks volumes of the health and integrity of that society in and of itself.

Let's explore this at greater depth...

For the sake of argument, if it is to be assumed that there is a public health crisis in the United Kingdom which is causally connected to access to online pornography, then it makes sense that only to the extent that individuals are affected -as individuals- by that problem, should society address the issue. That means that rehabilitation measures (classes, clinics, etc.) would be a necessary and prudent response. But David Cameron, in his esteemed wisdom, would rather adopt the same mentality and appropriate the same means to pornography that 1920's progressives adopted to alcohol in the United States. I can only wonder if similar results will follow.

And yet, the rhetorical line employed for this egregious overreach is one that is hardly controversial... "to protect the innocence of our children." I suppose that the adolescent drug abuse problem has been solved, all pedophiles have been summarily arrested and incarcerated for life, school-aged kids are all attending their lessons and exactly none of them experience a home life of anything less than an abundance of parental love and support at all times... not to mention they must all be well fed, receive first rate medical care and even have dental procedures fully covered by the tax-payers pound-sterling. Right? Of course not. Why? Because those problems require more than hiring a tech nerd fresh out of Cambridge to code an algorithm to block smut. Those problems are hard. But blocking porn? Easy as ordering a fish and chips.

The fact that this was an expedient political ploy on the Cameron government's part notwithstanding, if the UK actually has a problem with porn addiction en masse, the fact that the UK even has a problem to begin with is a shabby reflection on British culture and society. The means by which the problem is countered reflects an even greater degree of weakness because rather than actually taking positive measures to affect individual behavior, what rather is the case is that measures of censorship were employed vis a vis the political peanut gallery currently running things across the pond.

In the United States (unless you're Michael Bloomberg), we are strong enough as a society to accept that there are things that people do which aren't always good. We accept that sometimes people even hurt themselves in the pursuit of pleasure, and develop unhealthy habits. We accept these things because we understand that regulating speech based on content which is anything less than obscenity is hazardous to the very foundation of liberal-democratic ideals, because we are strong enough as a society to endure these things even if they make us uncomfortable, and to from that position of strength tolerate certain minor aspects of sociocultural unpleasantness and focus on more important things.

That said, I'm ashamed at what the UK government is doing. I'm embarrassed for them, embarrassed because as our ally they are obscuring the free speech rights of their citizens, and ashamed that they're doing it to "protect the innocence" of British children. The "innocence" line is such bullsh!t. It's not about innocence. It's about laying the foundation for future content-based regulation/censorship by doing so with something that's relatively hard to argue against.
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12/19/2013 2:52:54 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
You want to know what is even worse when it comes to U.K.'s iron grip on "free" speech?

Racist jokes are illegal apparently.
"Morals are simply a limit to man's potential."~Myself

Political correctness is like saying you can't have a steak, because a baby can't eat one ~Unknown