There is a private members bill that has not, apparently, been thrown out (On line Safety). As it stands it is just very very broken as a bill or a law. But the whole idea is flawed really badly.
Basically the idea is that some politicians mistakenly think the Internet is like TV and magazines - a content service. It is not, it is a communications service, like the post office or telephones.
We do not have any regulations that says BT have to censor certain words said on a phone call. We have no regulations saying Royal Mail have to check all post and censor certain words or images being posted. That would be mad.
Somehow, some people, think it right that we need an Internet where ISPs have to somehow censor "images" being accessed.
|Tell your ISP what level of filtering you want?|
Firstly, as this is what I do best, the technical issues.
The bill calls for ISPs to offer a service which excludes porn images. ISPs move packets. We do not provide content. Asking us to exclude porn images is crazy. As an analogy, it is like expecting manufacturers of glasses to make a system to stop people looking at porn magazines. Technically, with an LCD shutter, GPS, accelerometer, giro (all the things found in an iPad) and a database of the location of all porn magazines on newsagents shelves, etc, it could be done, but it is the wrong way to do it!
No ISP could offer a service with "general access to Internet" and "no porn images". It is simply impossible. There are so many ways around it. Even if an ISP offered no more than DNS lookups, there are systems in place to allow IP over DNS tunneling and so general Internet access via that (used to break "walled gardens" and "pay gates" for no fee). Much more simply are remote proxies, and https porn sites, and encrypted emails and so on.
Allow anyone to send a 1 and a 0 and you have a means to send porn images.
Don't get me wrong, there are ways for ISPs to offer some level of parental control. By no means fool proof, but something. That said, this bill seems to try and circumvent the resourcefulness of teenage boys trying to access porn with all the access to google and facebook they need. Not going to happen. But no problem with ISPs trying to offer some such services if there is a market for it. Some do, and good luck to them. We (AAISP) don't but you can install apps on your PC.
You can do slightly better with applications on the PC to manage parental controls, and many free and paid for apps exist for that. So why force anything on ISPs? The "solution" already exists...
Another aspect is the side effects. It would not be quite so bad if ISPs were expected to simply "explain the filtering services they offer". But the wording of the bill requires ISPs to ask people if they want to "opt in" to "porn". They then have to intercept and monitor their customers traffic (legal?) to check if they are accessing porn or not.
There are technical issues, as have been seen with IWF based filtering. Basically, systems designed to stop people accidentally accessing kiddie porn have been deployed by many ISPs. Well done to them, but these systems were never aimed at stopping access to the material, just ensuring people don't hit it by accident. Even so, such systems have caused serious issues with sites like wikipedia because of the way they work technically. Similar systems to block general porn will be equally ineffective against someone trying to access it, and equally disruptive to "normal usage" of such sites as wikipedia.
There is also the fact that you create nice lists of sensitive information such as "who wants to access porn".
On top of that the logic is binary. If someone in a household wants to access porn, as is their right, then the ISP is not filtering the whole house!
Is there actually a problem to solve?
Porn is a fact of life. I agree, some people find it offensive. Some find it degrading. Kids, especially teenage boys, will find a way to access it. This is no different with the Internet than it was 20 years ago, just you don't have to try and find porn mags under your parents bed any more. In my opinion it is better that kids are educated that it is fiction, and not how one should treat people in real life. They need to understand, as we all do for all fiction on TV, that there is a massive difference between fiction and reality, else we would be banning a lot more films from TV and cinema! Why is porn any different to Lethal Weapon or Saw III. It is far from reality but is entertainment for people that like that genre of film.
Find me a man that has never seen any porn? Did it cause them serious psychological harm? Make it "not allowed" and you bypass the education that needs to go with it as it is no longer discussed.
Thin edge of the wedge
Many ISPs filter kiddie porn, fair enough. Next filter "normal porn". Next filter "terrorist web sites". Next filter "politically incorrect web sites". Next filter "wrong thinking". Then they came for me...
Sorry, but freedom of speech is too important, and allowing any inroads in to that is the thin edge of the wedge as seen so many times in the past. Learn from history. Put up with some unpleasant stuff in the name of anti oppression.
Parents - be parents - educate kids on difference between fiction and reality - educate them on using the Internet wisely. Supervise them. Do not expect the government to pad them with cotton wool!
I have 5 kids, by the way.