British prime minister David Cameron has begun a campaign against access to pornography on the internet. He wants all new computers to block pornography as the default. People wanting to view it have to explicitly request that they be allowed to do so and show that they are above a certain age before being granted permission.
There are, of course, some immediate problems with such a move. On the one hand, the question of what constitutes pornography has long been a thorny and unresolved issue, getting more so with time as more sexually explicit material becomes part of mainstream popular culture. Who is going to decide what material is to be blocked?
Secondly, giving commercial vendors and their filtering software control over what you can access on the internet means also giving them access to monitor all your internet use, and raises privacy issues similar to what the NSA is currently doing.
Furthermore, the idea of the government and private companies deciding what sites should be put on a blacklist and then you having to ask them permission to access them raises obvious freedom of speech and association concerns. An article in Wired says that the filters cover a lot more than just pornography
Of course, as with all efforts at censorship, this is all done in the name of ‘protecting children’.
What surprises me is that such a move is being advanced in the UK rather than the US. In fact, you might have expected that conservative politicians in the US, normally so vocal on issues of sex, would have seized on Cameron’s proposal and urged that the US do something similar. Yet they have been conspicuously silent about Cameron’s move. It may be that politicians and people in the US, although publicly far more prudish than those in the UK, realize that trying to restrict access to pornography is likely to be the kiss of death.
People may love the Bible in public but they also love their porn in private.