Today’s report from Claire Perry MP says pretty much what we expected – it is for bureaucrats to decide what we can and cannot see online.We must then ask permission from our internet service providers to see content that is absolutely legal.
Despite being a report dedicated to online pornography and how anyone wishing to see it should be forced to opt-in with their ISP, the report offers no definition of what is pornography or adult content.
Inevitably, the Internet Watch Foundation was cited as an example of how network-level filtering works. Sadly the report fails to mention the extremely high threshold for sites to be blacklisted by the IWF or the way that the IWF list has driven child abusers into non-web based communication (and therefore out of the reach of the filters, and harder to find for law enforcement.)
The report reccomends that, within 12 months, the Government should mandate network-level filtering by ISPs, although exactly what they are supposed to be filtering is unclear. The proposals are made without any qualification or apparent consideration of either the technical impact or the likelhood of avoidance measures. It bears all the hallmarks of a policy proposal that is trying to fix a problem without understanding the solution, or even acknowledging there may be unintended consequences.
Without offering – or even attempting to offer – a definition of adult content or pornography, the report demonstrates its fundamental failiure – this is a moral argument, not a serious attempt to understand the challenges of new technology.
Are internet providers are also expected to spy on their customers to check they are not looking at something they should not be? It’s far from clear how filtering works without this kind of monitoring, particularly given the inevitability of evasion measures.
For anyone who doubts the risk that Government plans to monitor web use will not lead to calls for controls on what we can browse, this is a stark warning.
Technology is not a substitute for parenting or a quick fix for social problems and as long as what you’re looking at is not illegal, it is not for the state to stop you.