The campaign against porn-blocking is failing because it doesn’t appeal to mums


by Sunny Hundal    
8:30 am - July 30th 2013

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There is a vociferous campaign against proposals to force ISPs to have opt-in rather than opt-out filters for pornography. It is also a campaign that doesn’t seem to be making much headway.

In fact, when I tweeted against it about a week ago, I was surprised to hear back from so many liberal-lefties who supported Cameron’s plans. Most of them were concerned mothers.

This is reflected in the press too. Late last week Deborah Orr wrote in the Guardian:

Frankly, it’s irksome to me that I’ve had to write this piece, which is essentially an appeal for calm in a climate that says, with a baffling disregard for the view of the vast majority, that the right to porn must be universal and that access to it must be protected from all possible inhibitions. Maybe Cameron’s idea is a lame duck. Let’s face it, they usually are. But the level of indignation over the fact that the prime minister is even thinking along these lines is weird.

In the Sunday Times Elearnor Mills said something similar.

This illustrates why the anti-porn-block campaign is failing: their primary argument is about free speech. ORG’s petition for example is titled ‘David Cameron: Stop Sleepwalking the UK into Censorship‘.

I’ll be brutally honest – this isn’t going to work. The supporters of the block don’t care for free speech in this case. They are worried about how easy access to porn is skewing the way young boys see women and sexual activity. In other words they don’t want their sons, or those of others, to grow up as sex pests.

This is a reasonable concern. And Cameron is directly addressing those concerns even if people aren’t sure that his plans will work.

There’s literally no point crying free speech or censorship if you’re arguing against these proposals. You’re preaching to the converted then. You’re preaching mostly to men.

The campaign should re-focus entirely and respond differently.

1) Accept there are legitimate concerns about how porn affects young boys and men young people generally. Argue for a broader effort to counter this impact and follow it up with ideas and proposals (in conjunctions with women’s groups).

2) Explain how the proposals won’t work, technically.

3) Argue that it will only breed complacency with parents, many of whom will think they don’t need to worry after this when nothing will change in most cases. So the problem may actually get worse.

4) Say the focus should be instead on teaching Sex and Relationship Education. Point out that by focusing on porn-blocking the government is actually avoiding talk and action on SRE. Of course, it is not a matter of either/or – but in this case it looks like it. Cameron argues that he is pushing these proposals to stop the increased sexualisation of our society but this is a panacea; it won’t do much to help boys develop a healthy attitude towards women. Pushing this allows him to say that he is trying his best, without pushing something that actually works. Once again, it may make things worse by putting SRE on the back burner.

Some of these points are already made by some groups – and I don’t mean to single out ORG – but for most the key argument against this is on censorship. I don’t think that argument works because it does not appeal to mothers.


(Of course, I’m making generalisations about mothers here, but I don’t think exceptions invalidate the rule)

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I think there may be some question begging going on. You, and everyone else, have accepted that harm is being done when you accept there are legitimate concerns. I can see how one might imagine how exposure to pornography could affect a person’s sexuality but do the facts back the hypothesis?

This has been a useful diversion from the malign policies of this deeply reactionary government. Of course, promoting good PSHE education is great, but it should happen anyway.

The first rule of battle is to dictate the terms under which the enemy has to fight. So far the Tories and their Trans-Atlantic allies have repeatedly succeeded to do so. The Left should be looking at where they are weakest and attacking there: the NHS is one of the best places to start. Why has so little been done by the Left to support the NHS and expose the lies and creeping privatisation?

You could make the argument that point 3 is one of the main driving points behind mothers not being bothered by censorship, in that they’re already complacent and are thus getting behind an option that they think will lead to less work on parenting on their end.
Hardly surprising given I was once torn out by another mother for suggesting that the McCanns were being negligent by buggering off to a party and leaving their kids unattended while on holiday. Apparently I ‘couldn’t understand because I don’t have kids’.

Sunny,

2) Explain how the proposals won’t work, technically.

3) Argue that it will only breed complacency with parents, many of whom will think they don’t need to worry after this when nothing will change in most cases. So the problem may actually get worse.

ORG has actually done (2) and (3).

And IIRC they have done (1) and (2), too, but I spent as much time as you did to research it (i.e. none).

I think Sunny’s right – and as far as most people are concerned, requiring people to opt in to see something is not censorship anyway.

I’d go a bit further and say campaigning against it is a total waste of time and counterproductive. If it doesn’t work, and ham-fistedly blocks random news stories or the entirety of YouTube, it will quickly be repealed.

Meanwhile, the anti-blocking campaign will have convinced millions of people (among them the mothers Sunny talks about) on a gut level that leftists are depraved, immoral and reckless with their children’s safety, wrecking progress on a wide variety of fronts.

5. George King

A friend told me that they have this system on all government computers (probably where Cameron got it) and that it is in fact a quite blunt instrument. So for instance she wanted to research the Institute for Rural Affairs but was prevented from doing so by the word `affairs’. Apparently you can apply to look at blocked websites but it takes about three weeks for the approval to come through and the site to be unblocked. If this was at home no doubt she would simply have opted out of the filter. You can’t look at you tube or anything like that. It’s a useful thing for parents I think depending I suppose on how easy it is to opt in and opt out but then there are already such things as parental controls even on TVs. Would the opting in or opting out be any more difficult for a tech savy kid than these already existing controls? We’ll see. I’m much more concerned about the collection of all e-mails, phone calls, tweets, texts, comments, searches made for use in building a case to discredite potential future opponents of the system.

All this does is re-emphasise my assertion in Sian Norris’s thread that the problem we have is the social and moral dominance of our society by a particular demographic cohort (and thus, their value system)- “middle class” women. Politicians in particular feel they need to appeal to the alpha female coalition that spans from the Fawcetts on the far “left” via Mumsnet to the Daily Fail. The reason that this censorship campaign has succeeded and voices against it cannot is that utter social and moral sphere dominance. Which is one reason that angry, marginalised males yell abuse on Twitter. It’s the only voice they have.

As to this-

” Accept there are legitimate concerns about how porn affects young boys and men. Argue for a broader effort to counter this impact and follow it up with ideas and proposals (in conjunctions with women’s groups).”

No. This assertion is not true and accepting that it is is an admission of defeat. It is moral panic whipped up by the said alpha female coalition. Any acceptance of this “Big Lie” is an acceptance that Something, if not porn blocking, but “something”, must be done.

When the whole point is that nothing at all needs to be done.

So, the first thing we have to do is identify that the source of this is remnant Victorian Values among ruling class females- whether among Daily Mail bluestockings or Radical Feminits, and learn to say no them. And that “no” really means “no”.

I think we should have filters to stop kids accessing the BNP website to prevent them being exposed to racism. Maybe the UKIP site too.

In fact why stop at kids.

The left are more naturally totalitarian than Cameron. And this article is disgraceful.

8. Simon Whitten

“There’s literally no point crying free speech or censorship if you’re arguing against these proposals. You’re preaching to the converted then. You’re preaching mostly to men.”

Women don’t care about free speech, that’s for men?

Seriously Sunny?

Should the campaign *for* porn-blocking be appealing to fathers I wonder.

To be honest I don’t think the proposed porn-blocking measures will have a great deal of impact as the young adults with an interest in pornography will also know very quickly how to get around the filters.

However for Cameron this has been an ideal issue because he can easily look like he is doing something for all the concerned parents. That the filtering is not very effective will not be fully apparent until after the general election.

11. Churm Rincewind

“The supporters of the block don’t care for free speech in this case. They are worried about how easy access to porn is skewing the way young boys see women and sexual activity. In other words they don’t want their sons, or those of others, to grow up as sex pests.”

I do worry about this sort of statement, which seems to imply that viewing porn turns people into “sex pests”. I would guess every teenage boy in the UK has at some point sought out sexually explicit material in some form or another (currently via the internet; previously by way of printed material) but I would jib at the conclusion that this has resulted in the population of the UK being mainly comprised of “sex pests”.

Probably the key point about the filters is that they are always on. Even if you untick all the boxes, your every net request is routed via the filter company. This is a civil liberties nightmare.

We know the government are extremely keen to find a way to datamine our net usage. The “filters” provide a means of doing that. Extra filters that are not end-user exposed could be easily implemented, so that for instance people visiting anti-fracking organising sites, etc would be tracked. What you basically end up with is a national government-run proxy server.

Additionally, Mr Cameron in his speech said that he intends to legislate such that anything not suitable for a licensed sex shop would be unavailable to us on the net. The only feasible way to do this would be a licensing system, in which sites which do not stump up to be approved by (e.g. the) BBFC would be preemptively blocked regardless of your filter choices. Since most would not bother to pay for access to the rather small UK market, that’s effectively a total porn ban by default.

Which is what presumably La Perry and the Fawcetts are really engineering anyway.

Add to that the likelihood that Plod will then start assuming anything not to BBFC standards is “extreme” and actionable, including anything that might be a bit rapey, and would include such activities as fisting, watersports, etc, and you’ve got millions of videos already on hard disks that can be used to secure a conviction.

I think people need to get past the soundbite about “filtering”, because according to Cameron’s speech there is much more to the intended Neo-Whitehousian regime than that.

This is one of those examples where people really have to decide whether they’re actually liberal, or just fond of that word to describe moral totalitarianism.

I think you’re right to ask the question Sunny. Although it’s a bit early to say the campaign is failing it’s clear that the current tack of those arguing against is having little impact among some.

I’m less convinced by your specific points though.

1 is an argument for people to change their beliefs for the purpose of making an argument. If we accept there are legitimate concerns we need to be open minded enough to consider how these measures can be implemented properly.

Where you’re right, I think, is that we need to take on the strongest, central arguments of those in favour as well as voicing our own legitimate concerns. In other words we need to win on their terrain as well as ours if we want to persuade.

There are people doing 2 and 3, and very well.

4. is interesting, but frankly a side issue and I can’t imagine anyone being persuaded by it.

Personally I’m uninspired by the libertarian “free speech” arguments but am completely convinced by the argument that these measures won’t prevent child abuse but will prevent a whole load of people accessing important non-porn content (like anorexia websites)

1 – ‘legitimate concerns’. Because (a) only boys/men are porn consumers; (b) doing so affects their brains in some way that doesn’t apply to girls/women; (c) they’re all straight; (d) because the anti-porn feminist claim that ‘porn is violence against women’ is a scientific fact rather than a slogan.

2 – Loads of people have repeatedly explained why a ‘porn shield’ won’t work. Those in favour of the idea aren’t listening, don’t care or think that it *will* work in the manner of kids wishing for Tinkerbell to come back to life.

3 – See 2

4 – Better sex education is far too sensible an idea for any politician – of any party – to actually pursue on a statutory and mandatory basis via an age-appropriate curriculum. I also have a nasty feeling that some groups – whether they’re religious or anti-porn feminist – will simply try and ‘game’ the system/curriculum for a much narrower agenda on sexuality, best summarised as ‘Boys! Just Say No to Porn!’

Oh, and you missed out (5): which of those mothers are also porn consumers in the first place? Obviously they must be thinking that someone else’s access to porn can be thrown overboard, but not theirs.

15. the a&e charge nurse

‘They (the mums) are worried about how easy access to porn is skewing the way young boys see women and sexual activity. In other words they don’t want their sons, or those of others, to grow up as sex pests’ – the new puritanism seems to be working up a nice head of steam.

Rather like the class system the poor old Brits have never quite escaped a climate of sexual repression, one that continues to plague interactions between parents, especially the ability to talk openly, and responsively rather than trying to pretend sex is something that doesn’t exist.

To me this ridiculous state meddling is linked to feeble minded parents blaming the internet for their children’s natural inquisitiveness- perhaps the parents should just grow up and do the job they are meant to do, which includes explaining to the randy nippers why sex is such an important subject.

Prohibition is never going to work when it comes to libido.
All the anxious mumsnet brigade can do is delay the inevitable, presumably while their children enjoy a manufactured childhood designed not to impinge to heavily on the sort of family stereotypes so beloved by advertising agencies.

I expected the usual knee-jerk reactions

ukliberty:
And IIRC they have done (1) and (2), too, but I spent as much time as you did to research it (i.e. none).

I’ve been researching and following both campaigns for a while, actually. I was talking about the key focus and the wording and outreach, not that they’ve ‘addressed’ those points further down in a briefing sheet.

Women don’t care about free speech, that’s for men?

Seriously Sunny?

I said mostly, not only. Please read carefully. And I said at the end I was making broad generalisations, but for a point. I’m happy to see evidence overturning my main points.

Sunny, this isn’t an “evidence” argument, because you’re simply starting with an unsupportable assumption in point (1) which is simply moral hysteria.

Every generation seems terrified that *something* is corrupting the children; in my day it was Space Invaders and Dungeons and Dragons. And Punk Rock. And so on.

So this isn’t about evidence. It’s about calling out bullshit for what it is. The basic point is, you cannot get anywhere with this until the basic understanding that there is nothing wrong with porn- which is just the natural manifestation of sexuality in the media- is grasped. If you accept the false argument that “something must be done about it”, you just automatically lose.

Which is why the people arguing against the block can’t actually get anywhere. It’s because “the mums” believe in bullshit, and because they are socially dominant their opponents are just too scared (or themselves too brainwashed by the false assumption) to say so.

Cut down to basics, this is just, yet again, the tiresome Victorian terror of wanking. We need to get over that. Really we do.

Postscript:

Argue for a broader effort to counter this impact and follow it up with ideas and proposals (in conjunctions with women’s groups).

But Sunny, which ‘women’s groups’ would those be? The ones that have ‘legitimate concerns’ or the ones who buy into the anti-pornography position and therefore don’t want porn to be available at all (no, not even the gay stuff)? It’s the latter that seem to be driving the ‘mums’ position right now.

19. Churm Rincewind

@ (16) Sunny: “I’m happy to see evidence overturning my main points.”

Given that you yourself provide no evidence for your own main points, this would seem to be an unreasonable request.

For example, you “accept there are legitimate concerns about how porn affects young boys and men”.

Are you saying that porn does affect young boys and men? If so, what is your evidence? Or are you saying that whether or not this is true, the concerns that some people have are “legitimate”. How so?

People who are technologically ignorant enough to think that this might work should have their laptops replaced with Etch-a-Sketches

1) They won’t be able to tell the difference
2) They won’t be able to receive porn.

Problem solved

21. Man on Clapham Omibus

The demand for restrictions on porn should be augmented by the demand for a full and comprehensive freedom of information act ,free at the point of demand and catagories and the collection of data related to those catagories protected by statute. That way, government stats on inequality and a whole host of other items cant get dropped.
I would suggest a good addition might be those sites being blocked on the internet.

8. Simon Whitten

He is serious and He’s pretty much right IMO

Sunny:

“I’m happy to see evidence overturning my main points.”

Well then keep an eye on the Ministry over the next couple of days because by Thursday I should have finished my blog post on the research evidence on pornography and sexual behaviours which will demonstrate that concerns over the effects of porn on young men are both grossly exaggerated and lacking is solid evidential foundations.

I don;t want to say too much for now but to throw you all a taster, a very recent large scale study from Holland on 15-25 yr olds, which I’m working through at the moment, shows that although men are twice as likely to view porn than women amongst those that do watch porn it is the women who are twice as likely to watch porn films that feature simulated violent or forced sex and more than twice as likely to watch BDSM porn.

“1) Accept there are legitimate concerns about how porn affects young boys and men. Argue for a broader effort to counter this impact and follow it up with ideas and proposals (in conjunctions with women’s groups).”

Other people have called for you to provide evidence of these “legitimate concerns” so I won’t bother. But why must this be done in conjunction with women’s groups? Now, I am not an anti-feminist or MRA or anything similar (not by a long shot!), but if porn does affect young boys and men then surely it is a men’s health issue. Groups with a focus on men’s health should be listened to. That is not to say women’s groups should be excluded, just perhaps they aren’t the experts in this case.

Your reasoning here (including the “sex pest” jibe, above) suggests you think this should be, or is, a feminist issue. Which I find strange, 10% of us are gay. Is gay porn ok (I mean socially)?

But to be honest, this is hard to make head-or-tail of. What you have written could be easily interpreted five different ways.

“2) Explain how the proposals won’t work, technically.”

As a techie who frequently speaks to non-techies. People’s eyes glaze over when you try to explain why proposals wont work, technically. And this is for anything, not just web-filtering (though I have tried, for all my other sins I always do try).

Admittedly I am not a great communicator. However (and you should know this, having apparently followed the debate for sometime), even when cleverer people than I try to explain the problems the same thing seems to happen:
http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/382507/child-abuse-showdown-hijacked-by-ignorant-mps .
Basically, because they are fanatics and don’t care about these details.

“3) Argue that it will only breed complacency with parents, many of whom will think they don’t need to worry after this when nothing will change in most cases. So the problem may actually get worse.”

TBH, I don’t follow the ORG, but in my orbit this has been the most common argument (after the technical one, which is hardly an argument, because the other “side” doesn’t have a leg to stand on). And as much and I sarcastically like to claim to all (yes all) parents are feckless and lazy and want everyone else to be responsible for the raising of there children, the reality is that parents are by-and-by-large fine:
http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/education/383224/british-kids-take-fewer-risks-online-because-parents-dont-let-them
(that is an interesting article, over-protective parents are a bit of a mixed bag apparently)

“(Of course, I’m making generalisations about mothers here, but I don’t think exceptions invalidate the rule)”

Dear Sunny, I think this is a case of having your cake and eating it too.

@Unity, that sounds very interesting. I really like your blog, even if I don’t comment over there often. I never really feel like I have anything intelligent to add :p

Not one class member had the internet when I was in school, can you guess what we had? But then porn was not even worth a mention by the age of 15 it was who could get the cleanest class a by then and that it self soon lost its importance when it became common place and every one had the same level of access to the cleanest drugs..

The only thing that ever made something the “in” thing was that it was restricted and hard to get, stuff that was everywhere and common place held no importance.

I note that Sunny has struck out ‘young boys and men’ and replaced it with ‘young people’ in the OP. Ironically, he was right (for the wrong reasons) the first time round: porn is seen as a problem of what (straight) men do/read/watch, which girls/women must be protected from – just as ‘mums’ apparently form a cohesive political ‘constituency’ on this issue whereas ‘dads’ don’t (unless they’re the men who are apparently wrongly arguing against the proposals on the basis of ‘censorship’). The dodgy assumptions about gender aren’t all on the ‘pro-porn’ side.

Unity: Well then keep an eye on the Ministry over the next couple of days because by Thursday I should have finished my blog post on the research evidence on pornography and sexual behaviours which will demonstrate that concerns over the effects of porn on young men are both grossly exaggerated and lacking is solid evidential foundations.

You’re missing my point. We’re still in new territory here with the recent explosion of porn, so the impact won’t be properly understood until years later.

So even if you show all the evidence it will be redundant soon.

But my point was that the perception by mums is that boys accessing porn will affect them is a problem and needs to be addressed. This perception exists whether you like it or not (and I’m happy to see evidence that this perception doesn’t exist).

Where you go from there is deal with those perceptions, not try to convince them that this is all a figment of their imagination.

But my point was that the perception by mums is that boys accessing porn will affect them is a problem and needs to be addressed. This perception exists whether you like it or not (and I’m happy to see evidence that this perception doesn’t exist).

Where you go from there is deal with those perceptions, not try to convince them that this is all a figment of their imagination.

Finding is the perception holds Truth is more important, is it not?

“Not one class member had the internet when I was in school, can you guess what we had?”

Hedge porn?

This is a veritable institution that seems to be genuinely cross-class and cross-cultural.

Redpesto, I have also wondered if this filter will only be aimed at visual stuff or if it will also block ebooks of “50 shades…” and the like.

Sunny, so it is “I’m happy to see evidence overturning my main points. {except to the point where I claim that all existing evidence is pointless and that, sans-evidence, I am still right anyway}”?

But is has been about a decade since I first heard hysterical claims that easy access to smut will drive a surge in predatory behaviour. But like many things, it is always just over the horizon.

Sunny:

Where you go from there is deal with those perceptions, not try to convince them that this is all a figment of their imagination.

It’s clearly going to be a problem if one can’t use things like ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ to change or challenge that ‘perception’. Presumably the ‘perception’ that the ‘Scunthorpe Problem’ with keyword filters doesn’t exist is because they don’t need to spell it properly.

PS: ‘Recent explosion of porn’ – another example of ‘perception’?

33. Dan Factor

Oh yes cos only men regard free speech when it comes to sexual images

Hedge porn?

At first, then rental companys being ran by kids then the mass interest is over before you know it. If there was a way to remove all porn from the internet that would only increase interest in it.

But it is a free speech issue and we have to say that. We have to reiterate the importance of free speech in our society.

Bottom line is, the people supporting the censorship plans might seem like nice, reasonable people, but their moral compasses are seriously out of kilter. They are supporting a crypto-fascist policy and they need to be put straight.

Also:

“I think Sunny’s right – and as far as most people are concerned, requiring people to opt in to see something is not censorship anyway.”

Of course it’s censorship. Imagine if all newspapers appeared in the shops with no content critical of the government and to get the critical stuff you had to write off requesting a special edition.

I think we on the left need to draw a line in the sand over this. Anyone who claims to be on the left but supports this censorship should be ostracised.

36. the a&e charge nurse

[28] ‘Where you go from there is deal with those perceptions, not try to convince them that this is all a figment of their imagination’ – we can all agree that certain mum’s have a problem with the emerging sexual behaviour/identity of their children.
It may be because they buy into god’s notorious distain for certain forms of sexual expression.
It may be because their own parents were terribly inhibited about sexual matters.
Or it may because they cannot bring themselves to actually explore the current state of evidence.

What they shouldn’t be allowed do is make their own problem another person’s problem by introducing filters – that would simply amount to a latter day version of Mary Whitehouse-ism.
http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01648/whitehouse_1648388c.jpg

You’re missing my point. We’re still in new territory here with the recent explosion of porn, so the impact won’t be properly understood until years later.

So even if you show all the evidence it will be redundant soon.

We are NOT in any kind of new territory here, Sunny.

The earliest studies I’ve been looking at date to the early 1980′s, and I could easily go back further than that to at least the late 60′s but the research gets a bit rudimentary if you go back too far.

Likewise, the porn ‘explosion’ – as you put it – actually happened 30 years ago with the advent of cheap home video recorders. I presume unaware of the fact that of of the key reasons that the lower quality VHS format won out over Betamax was because the US and European porn industries adopted VHS because production costs were lower.

Researchers have been evaluating the impact of porn in everything from controlled laboratory settings to epidemiological studies for more than 30 years and many of those studies are far from redundant. In fact, based on the overall trajectory of the research over that period, the studies that are rapidly becoming redundant are the very studies that anti-porn campaigners are putting up as ‘evidence’ to support their contention that porn is harmful.

The one research study that EVAW put forward in support of their campaign to ban simulated rape porn was 30 years old and I can supply you with at least 3 more recent studies that contradict its findings and expose serious flaws in its research methods.

38. Matt Wardman

@jungle

>Meanwhile, the anti-blocking campaign will have convinced millions of people (among them the mothers Sunny talks about) on a gut level that leftists are depraved, immoral and reckless with their children’s safety, wrecking progress on a wide variety of fronts.

Not sure about that – this seems to be a genuine cross-political alliance of puritanical/authoritarian feminists and new age Tory hangers and floggers.

Mumsnet are in on it (they did the original survey which they claimed demonstrated a concern about child sexualisation which kicked off the original moral panic and in due course the Pappy-Dippy report – it did no such thing). So are the likes of Claire Perry and Theresa May, and now Cameron (not sure whether that is purely tactical and this is in fact another ‘barnacle’).

My experience with kids in my family is that Hollyoaks, some cable TV, girl (as opposed to girlie) magazines, and peer group competition are far more poisonous than either page 3 or online porn.

And that’s leaving aside the basic fact that the proposed ideas do not work. We are dealing with a project similar to convincing Scientologists that their auditing machine is dodgy.

Google has been blocking works such as “naked” (eg search for naked mole rat) for months unless you log in to your account, but that hasn’t stop the idiots demanding that they do it forthwith.

From my point of view this is all as bonkers as Margaret Hodge on taxes, but in this case I more or less agree with Sunny (hurrah !).

The fundamental point here is that it’s difficult for people to persuade from an evidence base with people who don’t give a crap about evidence.

But my point was that the perception by mums is that boys accessing porn will affect them is a problem and needs to be addressed. This perception exists whether you like it or not (and I’m happy to see evidence that this perception doesn’t exist).

You haven’t provided any evidence about the extent of that perception.

The Government itself said in December 2012 There was no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the internet by their ISP: only 35 percent of the parents who responded favoured that approach.

Claire Perry, some Christian groups (iow not all mums or even most mums) and the Daily Mail decided ‘active choice’ wasn’t good enough and David Cameron decided it was politically expedient to go with them rather than the recommendations of his own inquiry published in December 2012, the Bailey review and the two Byron reviews.

Sunny,

I’ve been researching and following both campaigns for a while, actually. I was talking about the key focus and the wording and outreach, not that they’ve ‘addressed’ those points further down in a briefing sheet.

What a bizarre response.

Here is the text for the ORG petition:
Dear David Cameron,

Everyone agrees that we should try to protect children from harmful content. [your point 1] But asking everyone to sleepwalk into censorship does more harm than good.

Filters won’t stop children seeing adult content and risks giving parents a false sense of security. [your point 3] It will stop people finding advice on sexual health, sexuality and relationships. [your point 4-ish] This isn’t just about pornography. Filters will block any site deemed unsuitable for under 18s. [your point 2-ish]

Please drop these plans immediately.

They have focused exactly as you say they should “refocus”.

Just to add to my comment @39, over 60% of people identifying themselves as parents responding to the Government’s consultation said no, there shouldn’t be automatic blocking that you opt out of. Of all the responding groups – others, businesses, ‘voluntary and community sector’, academics – it was only the ‘voluntary and community sector’ respondents who said there should be automatic blocks, and it was only ~70% of them. So I really do question claims about the proportion of ‘mums’ who demand default blocking.

I know it cuts against various myths but women don’t automatically lose their individual sexuality when they have children. A mother, goodness gracious, may want to watch porn when they have some privacy. And of course, it is parents who will become most suspect by an institutional auto-filter. Child protection charities could easily put a red mark down on a family household which has refused a porn filter. So whatever the prevailing media discourse suggests, the interests of women and mothers is not in favour of censorship. They will be the most exposed under the new regime.

43. Shatterface

But my point was that the perception by mums is that boys accessing porn will affect them is a problem and needs to be addressed. This perception exists whether you like it or not (and I’m happy to see evidence that this perception doesn’t exist).

The fact that some people hold groundless beliefs isn’t a reason to pander to them. Even if 100% of mothers ‘perceive’ porn to be harmful that doesn’t mean we should accept their claim and asking Unity to supply evidence that women don’t ‘perceive’ a problem is idiotic.

44. Churm Rincewind

In another world a long time ago I was approached by headhunters seeking staff for a – let’s call it – sexually explicit publishing group looking to launch in the UK.

I didn’t get the job, but I was provided with their research data from the US. What was particularly striking, at least to me, was the fact that although independent data gathering showed that women did indeed enjoy the sexually explicit material on offer, they would deny this if asked directly.

Make of this what you will.

45. Derek Hattons Tailor

“they don’t want their sons, or those of others, to grow up as sex pests. This is a reasonable concern”.

It might be a reasonable concern but what does it have to do with online porn ? There is no evidence of a causal link between exposure to porn and sexual deviancy. In fact the many studies that have been run show, if anything, the opposite – societies which had liberal obscenity laws in the 1970s/80s had
lower rates of sex crime than those like the UK, that were more censorious. And it barely needs mentioning that sex pests, and worse, demonstrably existed in numbers long before the internet.
I don’t think this is really about that though, it’s about a certain kind of middle class woman who doesn’t like the perceived objectification of women in porn. They trot out examples of the most extreme porn – a type viewed by only a minority – to support a view that all porn is harmful but there is bo evidence of harm, just the strongly held opinion that porn must alter teenage boys views of women (as though all teenage boys of the past had a healthy and balanced view of women. They mostly didn’t, but most grew out of it).

I watched a report the other day on the BBC where various instant experts managed to conflate protecting children from exposure to online porn (a reasonable aim, and the modern equivalent of licensing sex shops, top shelves etc) with protecting them from actual abuse which is assumed to be directly caused by online porn and can therefore be reduced by restricting access to it. This association was skirted over with no debate, as though there is a rock solid link. There isn’t. It’s a huge leap of logic, unsupported by fact, and is the sort of manipulation that creates the impression that pressure is coming from people who just don’t like the existence of porn, which is fair enough, but isn’t a strong enough reason to legislate or impose intrusive controls on the internet.
It’s also probably worth pointing out that, particularly in its early web 1.0 days, the growth of the internet itself was significantly driven by porn – IIRC back in the 1990s there wasn’t that much else on it.

Matt Wardman:

Not sure about that – this seems to be a genuine cross-political alliance of puritanical/authoritarian feminists and new age Tory hangers and floggers.

It’s simpler to think in terms of sexual conservatives, who either believe in marriage/monogamy/babies and/or a very narrow view of ‘acceptable’ sexual acts (no kinky stuff, no porn, no anal sex, and so on). It’s therefore perfectly possible to be a feminist and regard other women’s sexual choices as ‘beyond the pale’, let alone those made by men (hence the feminist hostility to Fifty Shades of Grey).

A good rule of thumb is that when feminists (not all) and conservatives (not all) are on the same side you should be scared because some sort of witch hunt is in the offing. Remember Satanic Ritual Abuse?

UK ‘Porn’ Filter Will Also Block Violence, Alcohol, Terrorism, Smoking And ‘Esoteric Material’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/uk-internet-filter-block-more-than-porn_n_3670771.html?utm_hp_ref=world

So if a site has the word “smoke on” it will be blocked. How much longer are the functional going to allow out of control emotionaly unstable lefties to destroy society?

I would like to know whether the “porn” label is intended to apply to novels such as James Joyce: Ulysses, and DH Lawrence: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, both of which were banned at one time. Both books are now available online as well as in good bookshops, as are: The Story of O, by Pauline Reage and Fanny Hill, by John Cleland.

Presumably, the intention is that filters to internet search engines will cease to retrieve links to the archived texts of these books.

How about web references to that best-seller: Fifty Shades of Grey?

The right are always for a big state when it comes to matters of the moral and social, they believe that government and the state should interfer with people’s private lives, yet when it comes to protecting people against the “market” economy, they are very weak. The state should not be dictating to people how to be moral, it should not to interfering in peoples’ private lives. The state should be there to help run the economy and to protect the poorest and most vunerable in society economically.

51. Simon Whitten

Your entire post is permeated by the theme that women (apparently for some reason we must single out the female moral busybodies) don’t respond to arguments based on reason, the demand for evidence and appeals to liberty but, being women, need to be appealed to on an emotive level.

“I said mostly, not only. Please read carefully. And I said at the end I was making broad generalisations, but for a point. I’m happy to see evidence overturning my main points.”

It’s so funny how you think that makes it all fine. You didn’t claim that ALL women care less about freedom than men, just most of them.

I really find it disturbing that this kind of shallow sexist rhetoric is being thrown around by one of the more prominent bloggers on the liberal left.

@51 Simon Whitten

I think Sunny is stuck with the problem of having to assume that self-appointed representatives of “women” are actually representative of women as a group. That seems to be a far from certain assumptinn.

The founders of Feminist theory, and thus who cluster around, say, the Fawcett Society, are as far from average women as could possibly be; second wave feminism (for instance) was mostly driven by women who were single, heterophobic and childless, whereas most women have relationships with men, and have children.

Likewise, who does Mumsnet represent? The forum is known to attract a particular class of women (the Boden demographic), rather than “all mothers, everywhere”; but worse, do Mumsnet campaigns even represent the Mumsnet members? (Who are, remember, just members of a forum). I looked in there the other day, and there were mumsnetters keenly debating whether this was sensible or not, and were being highly critical. It seems that what Mumsnet run as a campaign is whatever Justine Roberts wants to run as a campaign.

And is Claire Perry, a Tory MP, a particularly representative “woman”, or just a particular woman with her own opinions?

And so on.

I think you are pretty much spot on here, Sunny.

Compare this illuminating insight of Anne Declos, the author of The Story of O, who used Pauline Reage as her nomme de plume:

“When a woman writes an erotic book, it’s an outright scandal. I feel that, underlying that, this kind of judgment is an absurd esteem for female morality. Women are as immoral as men, period. No one seems to have noticed that.”
http://cannonballread5.wordpress.com/tag/anne-desclos/

The author of the best-selling book: Fifty Shades of Grey, is also female, as is the heroine of the narrative. From reports on the web, it is proposed to make a film of the book and there has been some public debate as to whether Keira Knightley or Emma Watson might take on the starring role. Both have issued emphatic denials.

55. Simon Whitten

@52 Ian B

I don’t think this is a problem of feminism. I count myself a feminist and I think taking issue with the idea that women need to be patronised by Sunny is an act of feminism.

I really don’t see why it’s necessary to speculate as to the sexuality of second-wave feminists, it’s completly irrelevant to the arguments.

56. Simon Whitten

@52 Ian B

I don’t think feminism is the issue here. I count myself a feminist and I think that taking issue with the idea that women need to be patronised by Sunny is an act of feminism.

I really don’t see why it’s necessary to speculate as to the sexuality of second wave feminists as a group (making crass generalisations in the same way that Sunny does). Their arguments will stand or fall on merits, their sexuality is irrelevant.

On Anne Declos’s insight that “women are as immoral as men”, try this video clip on YouTube of the interview in French of Catherine Millet about her book: The Sexual Life of Catherine M:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TicidqAe18Q

Subtitles are helpfully provided. Btw until her retirement, Catherine Millet was editor of Art Press. For more information about her illustrious professional career and her social preferences, try the Guardian interview: The double life of Catherine M (May 2002)

58. Man on Clapham Omnibus

52. Ian B

I am interested in the evidence to back up your claims.
I am wondering if anyone who takes the trouble to publicly articulate a view is a) in a minority and b) by definition not average. So the people who claim to speak on behalf of others in the main generally dont.
That’s propably the best reason not to change anything!

59. Matt Wardman

The original mumsnet “Lads Mags” survey summarised perfectly why the “porn blocking” campaign is a complete bust.

“Some retailers display newspapers and magazines with sexually provocative images where they can easily be seen by children while others take steps to hide them from children or make it hard for them to see. How strongly do you feel about this issue?”

I feel strongly that these publications should be hidden from children. Yes: 69%

“Has your child ever asked you a question or made a comment about these publications?”

No: 73%

ie. Some people have in their heads the idea that this is a problem, but the alleged problem does not really exist.

http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/lads-mags-survey

I don’t think feminism is the issue here.

Yes… and no.

The particular strand(s) of Feminism behind these campaigns approach evidence in terms of cherry-picking the bits that appear to support their ideological worldview while disregarding research that provides contradictory evidence.

So in that sense Feminism is an issue here albeit that it only certain strand of Feminism that have a problematic approach to the evidence.

It seems that what Mumsnet run as a campaign is whatever Justine Roberts wants to run as a campaign.

A common trick that. The Sun Newspaper (or any other you care to mention) will always represent it’s political campaigns as being driven by it’s reader’s concerns when it’s actually the boss calling the shots. Companies quoting their workforce figures, implying that they’re all in favour of whatever is being justified, when in fact their input is neither needed nor desired, is another common trick. Good shout in pointing that one out.

Here’s a couple of H. L. Mencken quotes that seem relevant to this current debate:

“Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

and finally

“It was morality that burned the books of the ancient sages, and morality that halted the free inquiry of the Golden Age and substituted for it the credulous imbecility of the Age of Faith. It was a fixed moral code and a fixed theology which robbed the human race of a thousand years by wasting them upon alchemy, heretic-burning, witchcraft and sacerdotalism.”

62. Charlieman

@OP, Sunny: “The supporters of the block don’t care for free speech in this case. They are worried about how easy access to porn is skewing the way young boys see women and sexual activity.”

What does “easy access to porn” mean?

1. That a casual internet browser might find it by chance?

2. That a determined porn seeker has to try harder to find the goods?

Point 1 is no longer the norm. It may have been true ten years ago when spammers sent porn links to random email addresses. I just conducted a web search for ‘anal sex abuse’; the results (text and image) were clearly about sexual violence, not porn; I had ‘safe search’ at the most adult setting.

Where we are today may not be the most safe place, but the internet today is more comfortable than ten years ago. Campaigners for a safer internet should accept that web users are unlikely to encounter porn unless they seek it.

On point 2, end user and ISP filters make it harder for determined porn seekers to find their objectives. Filters are imperfect.

” Filters are imperfect”

Quite so. Will the filters filter out references to and the writings in web archives of James Joyce, DH Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Radclyffe Hall, Christopher Isherwood, Vita Sackville-West etc etc as well as Catherine Millet and EL James?

Who will decide? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? What is the appropriate response to the censoring spouse who comes home complaining of a hard day in the office?

64. Charlieman

@63. Bob B: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

Thickwits who failed to qualify for Latin lessons?

(1) Yes we should talk about how porn affects young people. We should also talk about how it affects those “working” in the industry, many of whom have no choice, many of whom, choice or otherwise, are pressured into increasingly dangerous sex acts and end up with long term medical trauma.

And seriously you are saying “we need to come up with ideas and proposals” and then not actually offering any.

(2) I agree, they most likely won’t work properly. But they will work better than nothing-being-done-at-all which is clearly the alternative here. Cameron is not going to turn around and bring in a whole new set of plans to deal with the same problem. Right now the choices are this or nothing. This is better than nothing.

(3) We’re worried about breeding complacency among parents? Really, that’s all you got? You’re worried parents are lazy and don’t really care about their kids. Little could be further from the truth. Furthermore arguing (as the porn lobby likes to) that it’s all up to parents misses the point that not all kids have engaged, knowledgeable, caring parents. To even talk about parental responsibility is like saying “lets throw kids with busy and disinterested parents on the scrap heap”. Complacent parents are the reason we need this.

(4) Again, Cameron is not going to drop this plan and then bring in a new plan about sex ed in schools. Even if we did improve sex ed in schools, so what, a few hours of teacher-led discussion on sex isn’t going to negate the messages of ubiquitous porn. Just like a few lessons on healthy eating doesn’t make kids immune to MacDonalds adverts.

And any argument that says “if we say we like this Cameron will use it as an excuse not to solve other problems” is dumb. Look at the welfare cuts and the corporate tax dodging. Cameron doesn’t give a hoot what the population thinks.

Furthermore, if the groups that agree with something are feminists and busy parents, maybe those are the kinds of groups of people that positive-minded liberal lefties ought to be supporting.

The idea that liberal must necessarily mean supporting free access to porn is crazy. Being liberal doesn’t mean being in favour of the free right of shop owners to sell unsafe food, or the free right of gangsters to act as and hire hitmen. Liberal does not mean anarchist. The reality is that most people in the UK want young people protected from porn. Liberal should mean that we support the right of the people as a whole to make that sort of decision and be pleased (with of course the usual cautions about how it’s implemented, etc) when the government does something about it.

Kate,

(2) I agree, they most likely won’t work properly. But they will work better than nothing-being-done-at-all which is clearly the alternative here. Cameron is not going to turn around and bring in a whole new set of plans to deal with the same problem. Right now the choices are this or nothing.

That’s completely false. Something was in fact being done, per the results of the government’s consultation in Decemeber 2012, the recommendations of the Bailey review and the two Byron reviews: ‘active choice’, meaning the adult setting up the internet connection at home chooses to enable the filters.

This is better than nothing.

Well, you say that but others disagree. In any case, the point is moot, as there was and is an alternative. Don’t fall for Cameron’s lies just because you don’t like porn (which, by the way, won’t be the only thing blocked).

The reality is that most people in the UK want young people protected from porn. Liberal should mean that we support the right of the people as a whole to make that sort of decision and be pleased (with of course the usual cautions about how it’s implemented, etc) when the government does something about it.

No, that’s actually something a classical liberal would be wary of, e.g. John Stuart Mill about the tyranny of the majority. Please don’t use “liberal” like that – get yer own word.

And, as I said, @41 and @39, it’s doubtful – per the Government’s own reports – that most parents or most people in the UK want this system.

We should also talk about how it affects those “working” in the industry, many of whom have no choice, many of whom, choice or otherwise, are pressured into increasingly dangerous sex acts

On her website, Kate glories in the idea of “b!tchslapping” those who believe in things without evidence, because to do so is to be “an idiot”.

OUCH! Kate.

and end up with long term medical trauma.

Just to de-euphemise, what Kate is deprecating here is anal sex. I guess we’d better bring back the old Feminist favourite, the sodomy law, righty?

Liberal does not mean anarchist. The reality is that most people in the UK want young people protected from porn. Liberal should mean that we support the right of the people as a whole to make that sort of decision and be pleased (with of course the usual cautions about how it’s implemented, etc) when the government does something about it.

Most people in the UK don’t like homosexuals, we support the right of the people as a whole to make that sort of decision and be pleased when the government does something about it, etc etc etc

@61 Cylux

Mencken can be so good! Thanks for those quotes.

About ten years ago a friend of mine found evidence, on the family PC, of visits to porn sites by his two sons, then aged 12 and 14.

What to do?

He decided that a fatherly chat was in order in which he made them aware that he knew what they had been looking at and asked them to stay off the hardcore sites. If they didn’t comply, he threatened to withdraw their internet access.

“Does hardcore include the anal stuff?” asked the 12 year old. I am pleased to report that both kids seem to have grown into happy, well rounded individuals.

I realise that anecdotal evidence proves nothing but, on the other hand, there is NO EVIDENCE WHATEVER that viewing pornography is harmful to anyone.

Indeed all the empirical evidence available supports the view that it is responsible for a reduction in the level of sexual offences that would otherwise be committed.

One fundamental issue is that there is no consensus about the boundaries of what constitutes “porn”.

At one time, novels by James Joyce and DH Lawrence were regarded as pornographic.

Japan has a long historic tradition of erotic art – “shunga” – and a current porn industry which rivals the size of America’s but the incidence of violent sex crime in Japan is very low.

For more about Shunga, try the entry in Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunga

I’ve noticed a lot of women speaking out against these moves. I don’t know whether or not they have children. I have children and I am opposed to these proposals.

@Kate

Porn is not ‘ubiquitous’ – porn sites account for around 2-3% of global internet traffic measured in visitors and page views.

What is ubiquitous are social media, search engines and video sharing (Youtube) which account for around 55% of website visitors and just over 70% of pageviews.

Globally, porn sites rank 10th in terms of visitors behind search engines, social media, web portals, video sharing,e-commerce, blogs, technology websites, email services and information sites, such as Wikipedia. They do rank higher (7th) in terms of page views but that’s only to be expected – people like to browse both deciding on their evening’s adult entertainment.

http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2013/06/24/how-big-is-online-porn/

Oh, and if you want to retain any credibility for making evidence based arguments then I’d strongly suggest that you don’t rely on Gail Dines as a source. Just about everything she spouted at that Policy Exchange event by way of statistics is either hopelessly out of date or a complete fabrication:-

http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2013/06/18/sex-lies-and-porn-statistics/

The movie: Pretty Woman (1990), starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, has attracted world-wide bookoffice revenues worth about 10 times the original relatively modest production cost for a Hollywood movie of about $70million.

This is all rather curious for a tale about a developing relationship between a street prostitute and a successful vulture capitalist who specialises in asset-stripping. Consider what moral lessons might be drawn from this narrative by impressionable teens.

Sarah AB@77

Hence why we need to question whether people who declare themselves to be speaking on behalf of some group- in this case “women” or “mothers”- really are speaking for that group, or just for themselves.

Why are “women” reputably so against “porn”? Can the insight of these eminent writers both be wrong?

“To a woman without property or marketable talent a husband is more necessary than a master to a dog.” George Bernard Shaw

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen

“Porn” distorts the marriage market.

&Bob B

I’m not so sure of that. I think it’s likely that many women, or some women anyway, perceive porn to be a threat to their marriage, status, or whatever. But perception is not the same as reality.

The world is full of people who believe in threats to themselves, or their group/class. But that doesn’t mean that those threats are actually real.

78. Churm Rincewind

There are three big problems in this whole debate.

First, at least for those of us who favour evidence-based policy making, is the relative lack of independent data. Though it does exist (and I’m looking forward to Unity’s post on this matter), it does tend to get overwhelmed by “research” undertaken by special interest groups which always and unsurprisingly supports their predetermined agendas.

Second, there is the methodological difficulty that people in general and women in particular (why?) tend to dissemble if asked directly about their own experience of pornography. There does seem to be a shame factor involved.

Thirdly, there is considerable difficulty in determining what constitutes porn in the first place, as other posters have noted. Let’s not forget that the whole idea that there is any such thing as pornography is a Victorian contruct (and in my view is closely connected with the suppression of women’s rights in the nineteenth century, but I’m straying into controversy here).

All this has also to be framed within the wider argument about free speech, though I should perhaps stress that “free speech” doesn’t necessarily mean “ready availability to the unwary”. By way of analogy, war photography inevitably includes images of horror, yet we don’t say that this important factual record should be suppressed. What we do say is that these images should be freely available but flagged prior to viewing. And this seems to me to be a good way of dealing with porn.

Churn-

The basic problem with the “flagging” argument comes back to an assumption that there is something wrong- and indeed terribly wrong- with sex.

When we compare war photography, we are thinking of bodies, mangled corpses, terrible horrors. And then when it comes to this (as you point out, artificial construct of) “porn”, we’re talking about, er, a natural, human experience which is not only highly enjoyable but also ubiquitous and essential for the continuance of the species. No two things could be more different than sex and violence. Why the hell are they in the same category?

The point is, regarding free speech, that controlling some form of speech is demanding that everyone recognise that it is a despised thing. Which is what we were all marching against Clause 28 about, back in the day. Once you accept that “yes, decent folks shouldn’t be exposed to X”, you’re on the road to suppression.

Look, let’s be fucking honest here. Not one person fighting in favour of these controls wants them to stop with this. This is just a (major) step on the road to further suppression and total prohibition. If this whole suite is implemented, a year down the line, Perry and The Fawcetts will be back with “we didn’t go far enough, precious little children are still seeing porn, some irresponsible parents aren’t blocking it…”. Campaigners don’t stop. Every “win” is a further spur to action.

You’ve only got to read B!tchslap Kate’s post above. She believes a conspiracy theory that the women in porn are all being raped. Do you think a filter package is going to satisfy people who believe stuff like that? Of course it won’t.

Either we draw the line before this point, or we lose.

If your aim is to stop porn entirely, then you should be aware that in a time of severe cuts to social security and benefits, with homelessness on the rise (to the point that some are resorting to living in caves so that they have shelter) that you are actively working to close down an industry that can and does provide employment opportunities (via the formal porn industry) or a secondary informal cash source (via some webcam sites) to those struggling to make ends meet.
Will you be bearing the cost of your crusade, or will you all expect us all to pick up the tab too?

Well, ORG has spoken to ISPs who say it isn’t just porn, it includes the following:

pornography
violent material
extremist and terrorist related content
anorexia and eating disorder websites
suicide related websites
alcohol
smoking
web forums
esoteric material
web blocking circumvention tools

You might think, yeah great, we should filter porn and violent material. Maybe extremist too – according to the police, “the activity of individuals or groups carrying out [what they claim are] criminal acts of direct action to further their protest campaign”. Hmm, wonder if LibCon’s articles about direct action will be blocked…

But alcohol and smoking? What? And ‘web forums’? Don’t worry mums, mumsnet will be fine (just as Page 3 will be fine, Cameron has assured us) – other web forums. And anorexia and eating disorder websites?

Some mobile providers are already doing it to some extent, e.g. Vodafone, O2, and T-Mobile. And if you’ve used those, as I have, you’ll know how annoying it is when say a economics blog is ‘content locked’.

Don’t kid yourselves, this is about political expediency and control of speech, not evidence-based reduction of harms. Wake the fuck up.

Indeed, UKL. I realised I hadn’t mentioned all that here.

But the filtering is also, in a sense, a red herring. Barely noticed at the end of Cameron’s speech was a declaration to legislate such that nothing that wouldn’t be passed by the BBFC for a licensed sex shop to sell will be available on the web.

Now that will cover a lot of material; much BDSM, fisting, watersports, various devices, anything the BBFC think in their minds is demeaning or degrading or may be harmful.

But also, in practical terms, the only possible way to do that would be to make every website have their material certificated. And for any uncertificated website to be preemptively blocked, whether your filter is on or off. Which would be a major cost to them, and not worth it for the small UK market. So we’re probably looking at a defacto total ban anyway, bar maybe a couple of big corporate, moderate content sites like Playboy. Which is presumably what the harpies will want, and which is far more severe than “filtering”.

And finally, back with the filtering, the other issue is that even when you untick all the boxes, all your web requests will still be routed via the filtering company’s servers. The risks associated with this are enormous. It would be trivial for other, pass-through filters, not exposed to the end user, to be implemented. If the government want to know who is visiting a lot of anti-fracking organising websites…

Just noticed the comment about Gail Dines. Anyone interested in a balancing perspective on her might like to read this blog by one of her former students, who is now a pro-porn campaigner-

http://ontheblank.com/

Look for the “on the ex-mentor, Gail Dines” posts. Your mileage may vary, but I kept thinking of Miss Jean Brodie.

Esoteric material? So if you have minority interests you’re blocked by default?

259 articles on LibCon about “direct action”. Maybe the whole site will be filtered?

Cylux:

Esoteric material is the give away as where this agenda is actually be driven from because what that will undoubtedly mean is anything that religious lobbyists deem to amount to ‘occultism’.

Now for one thing I suspect that throwing in that option could easily see ISPs running into legal difficulties because you can bet your ass that if it leads to Scientology website being blocked that they’re likely to throw quite a bit of cash and legal muscle into the fray.

Of course the real problem here is that what some view as occultism, and therefore threatening or potentially harmful, is what others (myself including) consider to be social anthropology. We’re back to the question of who decide what counts as ‘esoteric material’ – is the scope of that definition going to limited to paganism and other related belief systems or does the writ of the censors extend to Gnosticism and Sufism, both of which are equally esoteric.

@86 Isn’t the definition of esoteric wider than just religious or spiritual practices though? Or does it have a specific legal meaning as well?
I can just envisage that phrase being the ultimate weasel word to allow the government to censor any little-known information that might be damaging to it (or that they just don’t like the look of) with impunity.

I’m speculating here, but I’m guessing “esoteric” is a sop to the Satanic Panickers. Possibly because that sort of conspiracy theory, despite being mostly discredited here, is still quite popular in the USA.

But anyway, the list basically covers everything that makes the internet the least bit interesting. I really can’t help but think we ought to have some kind of national slogan like “This is Britain. You’re not here to enjoy yourself”.

Reuters news from Guantanamo Bay:

(Reuters) – The “Fifty Shades of Grey” series of erotic novels are the favorite reading material among “high-value” prisoners at the Guantanamo detention camp in Cuba, a US congressman said.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/30/us-usa-guantanamo-grey-idUSBRE96T0Q520130730

90. Churm Rincewind

@ (79) Ian B: You raise many interesting and provocative points, but unfortunately too many for me to deal with in what is already a lengthy thread. But you make one point I’d like to address.

You say, “The basic problem with the “flagging” argument comes back to an assumption that there is something wrong – and indeed terribly wrong – with sex.”

I say, not at all. The assumption behind “flagging”, and I use term loosely, is that the harm of pornography as such (that is, putting aside any considerations of harm, coercion or exploitation involved in its production, which are all best addressed through existing criminal law) lies in its offensiveness.

Or, as the Williams Committee put it, “Laws against public sex would generally be thought to be consistent with the harm condition in the sense that, if members of the public are upset, distressed, disgusted, outraged or put out by witnessing some class of acts, then that constitutes a respect in which the public performance of those acts harms their interests and gives them a reason to object.”

This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with sex, only sex in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with sex, only sex in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In the news:

“Walkwood C of E Middle School bans girls from wearing skirts”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-23522499

In the early 1980s, a woman colleague of mine was threatened with dismissal if she came to work the following day wearing the same trousers suit again.

The fact is that social norms change. The City of San Francisco is now trying to enforce with difficulty a ban on public nudity.

Pervasive porn isn’t the most serious social threat. Try this in the news about smartphones:

There has been a rise in the number of smartphone apps enabling youngsters to find sexual partners. Just as images of porn are “corroding” childhood, these apps are endangering adolescents by making it normal to have sex with strangers.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/katyballs/100070264/forget-porn-the-internet-is-making-it-easier-for-teenagers-to-have-real-life-casual-sex/

Btw I don’t have a smartphone, only an old-fashioned GSM mobile phone but with a full QWERTY keyboard for ease of text messaging.

@92 Jesus Christ. There’s a bloody ‘first they came’ parody just waiting in the wings now:

First they came for the pornos,
And I said nothing against it because mothers aren’t bothered about individual liberty. Apparently.

Then they came for the esoteric material
And I said nowt because who wants to live next door to satanic abusers that don’t exist?

Then they came for the dating and hook up sites
And I said nothing because I’m a dateless wonder anyway.

When they finally came for the social networking sites I had already been branded a troll for being in the possession of a penis.

Ian B’s bloody right- This is Britain, you’re not here to enjoy yourself.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/katyballs/100070264/forget-porn-the-internet-is-making-it-easier-for-teenagers-to-have-real-life-casual-sex/

Is “My friend’s teenage sister” more thorough research than “bloke down the pub told me”?

95. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 65 Government restrictions on legal activities is pretty much the opposite of “liberal”, however you define it. The smoking ban was the most recent example of this, with the consequent loss of one groups freedome balanced (allegedly) by the benefits to the majority. We are still of course waiting for the benefits to become tangible in terms of fewer demands on the NHS.

The problem with the porn debate is that there is no consensus on the harm caused by porn, nor agreement on who is best placed to reduce that harm. Instinctively I am against any government intervention and arguing as you are that the state should step in because disengaged parents will not, is classic nu labour circularity which can only result in ever decreasing freedoms. If parents are disengaged (and this is problematic) then the solution is to force them to engage and take responsibility. If the state steps in then parents learn that in yet another area, they do not need to.
A disengaged parent will probably not be bothered about filters anyway so the state’s intervention won’t work anyway. As others have said upthread I don’t understand why women’s (particularly the risibile aging bankers WAGS of mumsnet) groups are being given a prominent voice in this debate when the harm allegedly caused is to men/boys, unless this is really about fear of developing male (hetero)sexuality and using censorship in an attempt to neuter it.


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