Monday, 7 March 2016

Child Safety Online

The government has launched a consultation, and anyone can reply, so read it and express your view even if you do not agree with my view.

So where do I stand?

I see porn like any other fiction entertainment, and like any other fiction entertainment there are themes that are clearly unsuitable for young children. We already avoid exposing very young children to extreme violence or themes they are ill equipped to understand.

I fully support helping parents be parents and managing what their children do and access. As an ISP we have many ways to help with that.

As people get older they can handle such fiction and recognise it as the fiction it is and an escape from reality that we all enjoy. Watching porn is not really any different from watching any other fantasy fiction entertainment.

The problem with society is that unlike most other things - like violence or science fiction - we cannot easily see what is the normal case for things like sex and relationships because of the massive social taboo that surrounds the topic. This is the problem.

People can see that it is not socially acceptable to go all Die Hard and shoot everyone, or even to beam up to a space ship. They cannot easily see it is not right to abuse a woman in private because the private relationships are hidden away. We need more education to explain what is good and bad in such relationships that teenagers can understand. Once we do that, they can understand porn as fiction as much as Die Hard for Star trek. [I am waiting for someone to tell me "Die Hard" is actually a very dodgy porn movie].

To be honest, we already expose children to some seriously screwed up influences from religion with no age verification at all - judgemental sky fairies, talking snakes, rules on keeping slaves, boats that can carry every species after a genocide, stoning, and revering a roman torture and execution device as a jewellery! Some of the shit kids are exposed to is just not right and really should be reserved for when they are 18 and able make their own choice. If your religion only works if you get hold of them young you are pretty insecure, in my opinion.

Thankfully the report seems to cut short of forcing ISPs to filter things - that would be bad for lots of reasons. ISPs are specifically not liable for what they carry for the very reason that the Internet would not exists if they were. We enjoy the benefits of the Internet (and the downsides) because of that mere conduit protection. Take it away and it all falls apart. ISPs could not actually filter any content 100%, and even if 1% then 100% of people can search for the way to use that 1% loophole. It is futile. If ISPs were liable the insurance costs for that passed on to customers would make the Internet unviable.

So let's not try and bottle porn up and censor it - let's make education work and ensure children can cope with what is out there, like the rest of life. The porn industry should be, and is, regulated in most countries to ensure people are paid and not exploited. People may enjoy the fiction entertainment and still be normal in real life, whether watching porn or the X-files.

So, that is my view... comments?

This is basically my reply, which I will be submitting.

Question 1: In your opinion, should age verification controls be placed on all forms of legal pornography (‘sex works’) online that would receive a British Board of Film Classification rating of 18 or R18?

My issue here is that a lot of porn sites are well outside UK jurisdiction and so placing such controls is not going to be effective in any way. I suspect most sites charging for porn will be happy with this as the fact they charge means they have an effective age verification by the fact they want a credit card. So the sites you can make comply already do, and the sites that do not will ignore UK law, so why the hell are we discussing this?

Question 2: Do you think age verification controls should be placed on sites containing still as well as moving images of pornography?

I don't see much difference - porn comes in all sorts - stills and videos.

Question 3: To what extent do you agree with the introduction of a new law to require age verification for online pornographic content available in the UK?

Again, this is not about the UK - most sites are not UK - I have no problem with UK hosted sites having age verification, apart from the commercial disadvantage they will face, but that cannot have realistic impact on non UK sites.

Question 4: If age verification controls are to be required on pornographic websites, how do you think they should work (select all that apply, and please suggest other ideas that you may have).

I do not think there is actually any way to do this - whatever you do a teenager can mimic what an adult did or does, even borrowing their credit card. Nothing will work against an adolescent boy that wants to access porn, sorry. And if they VPN or Tor to an non UK IP, the verification will vanish as UK specific.

Question 5: Do you agree that a regulator should have the power to direct payment and other ancillary services to remove their services from non- compliant websites? Please give reasons.

You could, but that simple means kids will access the thousands of free (paid by adverts) sites instead and not actually help matters at all.

Question 6: Do you have any suggestions for other actions that could be taken to ensure that commercial providers of online pornography comply with the new law? Please give details.

No - everyone outside the UK is not subject to UK law, sorry.

Question 7: Do you think that the regulator should have the power to direct parent and umbrella companies of pornographic websites to comply

No - as such company structures can be re-engineered at a whim and any law that worked would immediately be worked around. That is assuming any of the parties are subject to UK law.

Question 8: Do you agree with the introduction of a civil regime to regulate pornography websites? Please explain your answer.

No - would only work on UK providers - so actually putting UK at a commercial disadvantage and not actually addressing the perceived problem at all.

Question 9: Would the introduction of a new criminal offence be a better form of regulation?

No - would only work on UK providers - so actually putting UK at a commercial disadvantage and not actually addressing the perceived problem at all.

Question 10: To what extent do you agree with the introduction of a new regulatory framework?

Disagree - see top of this blog post. Not the way to solve the problem, if there is one.

Question 11: Should a new framework give powers to a regulator/ regulators to (select all that apply):

Powers only work in UK, so no.

Question 12: Do you think that a co-regulatory approach involving more than one regulator would be appropriate in this context?

Can't see how that helps.

Question 13: Do you agree that the regulator’s approach should focus on having the greatest proportional impact, for instance by looking at the most popular sites, or those most visited by children in the UK?

Again, such sites will be outside UK - so outside jurisdiction.

Question 14: Wherever new regulation is proposed, the Government must consider impacts on smaller and micro-sized businesses (those with fewer than 50 employees) based in the UK, and whether these impacts are proportionate. Should smaller and micro-sized businesses (such as some payments and ancillary services) be exempt from the scope of the policy?

Puzzled by this - why would size of operation change anything? If harm is done, the need exists, if not, then it does not. How is size of company even a consideration?

Question 15: Overall, are you broadly in favour of the proposals set out in the consultation?

No - see top of blog post.

Question 16: How effective do you think the Government’s preferred approach would be in preventing children from accessing online pornography?

Zero - actually negative - there is possible impact on payment providers and advertisers and UK porn industry that would have to comply when competing overseas providers would not have to. The end result being no help to kids in the UK but harm to some UK industries.


  1. I'm not sure that the proposal does stop short of forcing ISPs to filter content - they say, "It is our intention to capture foreign sites providing pornography to UK users in the scope of this policy.". Surely the only way that they can include foreign sites in the scope of this policy is to force ISPs to filter them.

    1. Footnote 14 states: "There remain a small number of ISPs who do not provide filters to their customers. However, parents are, on the whole, able to choose from a number of ISPs for their home internet access, and are able to make what they consider to be the best choices for their families. Even where the smaller ISPs do not provide family friendly filters, there are several free filtering solutions available which can be installed by those homes that want them."
      That seems to suggest no intention to filter content. Elsewhere, however, while gloating about the ‘success’ of network level family friendly filters used by the big ISPs, you find this:
      “The Government sees such high levels of take up resulting from this default on approach as a positive sign, and will continue to discuss with ISPs (including smaller providers) the potential for driving up the provision, effectiveness and usability, and up take of parental filters.”
      In reality the politicians (of all parties) don’t give a toss about children viewing pornography. It is just a useful tool, along with creating a climate of fear from terrorism, in their long-term aim to control and censor the internet and maximise surveillance. I’m certain they will eventually force network filtering on every ISP, including AAISP, whether through these proposals or others yet to be dreamed up.

  2. Well argued - and I agree.

    Please stand for parliament. We need badly need this kind of common sense.

    But I suspect you'd go bonkers dealing with the stupidity of the system. Perhaps we should start a petition for your elevation to the House of Lords? :-)

  3. The name of the consultation is very deceptive. Child safety online? Stopping children from being groomed? No, just stopping them accessing 'dirty' material.

    Pornography will always be there. Educate around it - as RevK says, there are always ways around blocks and filters.

  4. What an irrelevant proposal, which shows not only a complete lack of understanding of the business model for many porn sites (ad funded), but fails to comprehend that UK laws do not apply worldwide, and that evasion is (as always) trivial.

  5. Your answers appear to be based on UK sites only. It seems clear to me that they're intending to cover ALL sites which provide content to the UK, regardless of their origin.

    The implication is that they're lining up to treat all such foreign sites that do not conform to their standards as illegal sites by definition. Such sites are commonly blocked by major ISPs (consider internet watch and things like pirate bay).

    I also think there's a massive gap. Online porn is not just about sex workers, there is a massive and thriving set of amateur communities that share for both private pay and for fun. These include stills, videos, stories, chat and live cams.

    I strongly imagine that from this consultation all such sites will be criminalized - accessing will be an illegal act, there will be pressure to block and the keeping of browser history will be used to prosecute people at will.

    1. Sorry, I appreciate that they are trying to tackle non UK sites, but UK law does not effectively apply outside the UK. Why would a non UK site care what UK law says any more than I care that UAE bans alcohol when I have a glass of whisky later?

    2. > Why would a non UK site care what UK law says

      In part, because the boundaries of jurisdiction on the Internet are not clear, and there are a number of situations in which the laws of one country may well permit a court of that application to seize jurisdiction over something to do with a website hosted elsewhere.

      For example, the application of consumer protection law to sales from an overseas website, the issue of a website being "targeted" to users in a different country or, indeed, where the content on a website is simply deemed unlawful in a country where the site can be accessed (the seminal Yahoo! case).

      That's not to say that it is always easy or even possible to enforce laws against foreign providers, but it not always impossible.

    3. Indeed, difficult, and a concern - it is hard enough ensuring one complies with laws in this country without the prospect that some other country may be able to impose laws on us. Some countries have some strange ideas and laws, and some nasty punishments!

    4. Quite. It is perhaps a little easier for companies which are not part of a group, and so which do not have related companies scattered throughout the world — as Google found in the Google Spain case, and Facebook in some cases in Germany, both Member State and European courts seem quite willing to find a way to use the presence of local companies to impose liability by the back door on overseas companies.