Tuesday, 8 February 2011

More meddling - this time porn

Once again we are seeing more meddling with internet access by the government.

We thought they had realised that this is pointless.

Previously it was the IWF block list. Now, bear in mind that even the IWF did not claim this was there to stop anyone wanting to access kiddie-porn getting to it - they were just trying to stop people finding the stuff by accident. It would be almost impossible to stop access, even with a full China style firewall.

Now they are targeting normal porn sites, again with a think of the children angle. They are trying to stop children getting access to porn.

It is pointless, in that there will be any number of ways around this, and some teenage boy that wants to find porn will be able to regardless. Sorry, but that is just fact. I won't even try and discuss the merits of whether this actually is a bad thing, or whether parents need to take responsibility for talking to their kids and/or setting up filtering on their computers.

But getting filtering at the ISP level is a massive task. The IWF list was pretty tiny, and badly managed. It kind of got  foot in the door in that it meant "filtering web pages" was supposedly possible. Some of us said that it is just a cunning plan to get a foot in the door, the thin end of the wedge. But as a system it causes no end of of problems, techically.

Of course the porn filtering is clever. It is targeted as protecting children, but they want an opt-out. So you have to ask your ISP not to filter porn. That is nice. Everyone is going to be really happy telling their ISP that they want to view porn. It is not that adults viewing porn is wrong or illegal, but nobody actually wants to admit to it... So the filter will be a huge success as far as the government is concerned, and they'll have this nice list of people that view porn in to the bargain...

Censorship is bad. Living in a world that allows free speech is good. It is good for keeping checks on governments. Censorship is a creeping disease that starts with something reasonable like kiddie-porn and then just takes small steps, each reasonable, until you have a firewall like they have in China. Eventually you can censor free speech totally. It is better to live in a world of free speech where we will have some unpleasantries from time to time than live in a censored world with government controlled media and nobody to speak out.

  • First they came for the kiddie-porn, and I did not speak out as I am appalled by child abuse.
  • Then they came for the ordinary porn, and I did not speak out as there was an opt out, so that was OK isn't it?
  • Then they came for the terrorist web sites, and I did not speak out as nobody wants to encourage terrorists.
  • Then they came for the anti-government sites, and I did not speak out as everyone wants a well run government.
  • Then they came for the anyone that wants free speech, and [WEB SITE BLOCKED]

9 comments:

  1. The suggested letter to Ed Vaizey on that site (which I first thought was a joke, to be honest) says:

    > Dear Mr Vaizey,



    > Research clearly indicates that viewing pornography
    > leads to an acceptance of violent and unhealthy
    > notions of sex and relationships, where the
    > objectification of women and aggressive sexual
    > behaviour are the norm.

    References?

    What research?

    Whose definition of 'unhealthy'?

    > That is why I strongly support your initiative,
    > ... to switch the default setting for internet
    > pornography into our homes to ‘off’, and implement
    > an ‘opt-in’ system.

    I may be missing something here, but if it's that bad (which it may or may not be), why does giving person X the ability to enable/disable it suddenly make it OK. I mean, if it is that bad, shouldn't it be permanently disabled with no option to enable it?

    The whole thing is bloody ridiculous. The letter should have been:

    Dear Mr Vaizey,

    I am a [bad parent | do-gooder], I do not have the power to think for myself and assume that other people don't either. Please control us. Please tell us how to run our lives......



    AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

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  2. How would a filter like this work? Presumably you would have to add another router, which would split off port-80 traffic from people who have opted in to filtering. When they establish a session, this router would have to be signalled somehow, to tell it that it should (or should not) be intercepting traffic that originated at that user's IP address.

    Obviously in principle this could be done, but I'm not sure how well it would work in practice. Routing according to a list of special cases is not going to be efficient, so that router might end up being unacceptably slow. Also, is there actually a mechanism for the router to find out that a new user has established a broadband session? If not then implementing this would mean modifying core infrastructure, creating the risk of bugs and downtime.

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  3. It couldn't work, for the same reasons IWF doesn't work.. non-port 80/ non-web traffic, HTTPS...

    It'd just make a certain vociferous segment of society feel 'safer'.

    In hardware terms, an entire server tracking sessions so it can selectively opt people in and out from a predefined list of URLs is probably doable, but both expensive and pointless.

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  4. @PeteX - and that doesn't even begin to take account of the fact that the user has got to identify themselves to the ISP - otherwise how would they know whether they're a) under 18, b) over 18 and not opted out, or c) over 18 and opted out? Nor does it take into account that the pr0n may be being accessed via an encrypted link (SSL/VPN) or even on a port that's not 80.

    Of course, the banning on non-port-80 or encrypted traffic will never happen. What will happen though (assuming that the proposal ever becomes law) is that anybody found circumventing the measures will be hung out to dry and tarred with the paedophile brush. Basically the law would be completely ineffective, a fop to the do-gooders and a stick the government could use to beat somebody with if they ever wanted a reason.

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  5. I'm afraid that I never understood the child porn blocking, either. Surely it would have been better to require ISPs to log accesses to known child porn sites that you can't shut down due to jurisdiction issues?

    Then, you can catch the paedophiles when they're still technically unsophisticated and hopefully haven't yet moved on to abusing children themselves.

    Of course, proponents of the IWF seem keen on the idea that we should educate paedophiles such that when they're caught, they've already abused tens or hundreds of children, because then they're easier to prosecute than if they've not yet attacked a child.

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  6. @Farnz - But that's how the current system works. Just look at CRB checks, they don't care if somebody is a paedophile, as long as they haven't abused a child *yet* (or at least been caught).

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  7. @Nicholas - Surely, though, if it's about protecting children, the goal should be to catch child abusers before they abuse children, not afterwards?

    As it is, the setup encourages people with an interest in child abuse to actually abuse a previously unabused child. Further, we're encouraging those same people to learn about keeping their identity secret on the Internet, making it harder to catch them if they do go overboard and attack someone.

    I don't see this as a good tradeoff for child pornography, and I don't see why it's made better when it comes to adult pornography.

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  8. @Farnz - I agree entirely. I was just pointing out that all the government appear to be doing is to duplicate the off-line measures on-line.

    I don't agree with the off-line measures!

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  9. Or, let's get all on the porn on IPv6 hosts :-)

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