The Online Safety Bill says that ISPs have to filter pornographic content unless you say you want porn, and are over 18. It is not law yet.
I have been trying to come up with an analogy for how stupid this is.
The proponents think it is easy, and no different to controlling the content on television, or so it seems.
The best analogy I can come up with is that you are demanding people that sell glasses have to filter pornography being seen through them.
I think people realise that it would be stupid to say that, but this seems to be what the bill is, in effect, saying. ISPs provide access to the Internet. They are not providing the "content", just access to it. Asking the content providers to have age verification and filters would be possible, except they are not all in the UK. Asking the people that provide access to the Internet to block it is crazy.
ISPs have no way to tell what is and is not pornographic at the packet level.
Systems to block access to all pornographic images would be technicially impossible. Even the existing IWF filtering systems don't actually aim to block access, just stop people accidentally coming across certain web pages. But this bill calls for actually blocking all access.
I could email you and encrypted file that is a pornographic image, and there is no way the ISP or mail servers can tell. I only have to find one way around it to prove it is impossible, but there are many ways it will not work.
As an example, the ban on newzbin by a court order is not actually stopping access as it just blocks http not https, or indeed any number of other ways to access the site. The ban has, instead, created huge publicity for the site.
Porn sites will be no different. Yes, a few larger sites can be black-holed at an IP level, but that is not a total block or even close. Anyone with access to google will be able to search for ways around any blocks put in place. It is a waste of time. I suspect teenage boys will have access to google and some motivation to find porn.
It is however a huge costs for ISPs to do this.
It is also making people specifically tell their ISP that they want to access pornography. The ISP then has that sensitive personal information to handle and not leak. The ISP also gets to track all the attempts to access pornography now they have a system in place to block it or allow it based on subscriber preference.
Of course, the block is network level so affects a whole household. Even if the block was 100% effective, if the parents want access to pornography then the block will not stop the kids accessing it via the same Internet connection. So again, pointless.
A&A have asked people to confirm they want unfiltered Internet access as part of the sign up for some time. We have not (until now) asked people if they are over 18. Our service is unfiltered, and buying it is opting out of any filters. Sadly this means only those 18 and over will be able to buy our service if this law comes in to force.
Also, a subtle point in the bill, is that it requires all computing devices to have filters. This is filters generally, not just for pornographic. This is any device that connects to the Internet and can download content. So my TV, and my SIP phone, and so on. They all have means to download content. Indeed, most things these days have means to download content even if that is just to update their own software and they are not in any way a computer. This is a far reaching bill!
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