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IET Warns UK ISP Internet Porn Filter will be Ineffective and Harmful

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 (1:58 pm) - Score 1,451

The influential Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), which is a professional society for 150,000 members of the global engineering and technology community, has warned that the UK government’s move to force big ISPs into blocking adult websites “will be ineffective and harmful“.

The plan, which was officially unveiled on Monday, requires among other things all of the country’s largest broadband providers to adopt strict network-level filtering blocks for adult websites and some related content (here).

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, hopes that this and other measures will stop online porn “corroding childhood“; although children viewing porn has been common since long before the Internet. However the IET, like many others, believe that this is the wrong way to tackle the issue and suggests that “there are better ways to protect children“.

Dr Martyn Thomas from the IET said:

Every illegal image is a crime scene but law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to identify, locate and protect every victim, nor to identify, and charge every abuser. More resources must be provided. That is the top priority and legislation to block access will do nothing to help, whilst making it harder for troubled adolescents to search for on sexual health and sexual identity issues.

Protecting children from seeing legal adult pornography, online exploitation and sexting are different issues that are best addressed by parents following the excellent advice provided by GetSafeOnline and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency (CEOP), and teaching their children to do the same.

Universal blocking of websites, search terms and content is a blunt and ineffective tool. Such blocks can easily be circumvented, and children will continue to share ways to access sites that their friends tell them about, whether the content is pornography or music files. The serious criminals are already using encryption, onion routers and other technical means to hide their activities, which blocking by ISPs will not affect.

The internet was designed to withstand serious damage and it treats censorship as damage and provides routes around it. There is no quick technical fix that will protect children – it needs education, responsible parenting and more resources for enforcing the laws that already exist.”

It’s worth remembering that the blocks will be optional, albeit the pre-ticked “yes sir, please filter my Internet” style of optional, and thus people do have a choice; provided they don’t mind identifying a very private personal preference to their ISP. Never mind that free solutions to do the same thing have been around for ages but at least you have a choice, which is good.

Similarly not everybody understands that people might also tick “No” to simply stop hundreds of perfectly clean and legitimate websites being caught up by unregulated and error prone commercial censorship. Looking for that medical page about genital cancer? Oops.. sorry it contained a picture of somebodies privates, which to some is considered EVIL, and has thus been banned.

But those whom worry about the censorship implications need not bother. ISP imposed filtering doesn’t work, never has and is easy to circumvent. It’s a placebo, much like sticking a “do not enter” sign on your bedroom door but still leaving the door itself wide open. It might make politicians feel like they’ve done something but the fact is, your child knows more than you and will beat it.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar dragoneast says:

    I thought it was an old medical saying that a placebo is better than something which actually works? (Well, I assume that’s the principle on which my doctor operates.)

  2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

    I thought it was better because you “think” it works, although it actually doesn’t. Anyway you know what I mean within the context :).

  3. Avatar Mark says:

    Take 2 VPN services and call me in the morning 😀

    PS “It’s a placebo, much like sticking a “do not enter” sign on your bedroom door but still leaving the door itself wide UPON.”

    I think you mean ‘OPEN’ mark 😉

  4. Avatar Bob says:

    The proposed system is simply unworkable and will end up blocking nearly everything including this forum as well as most national newspapers. I am afraid Cameron is clueless with technology

    The simplest and best solution is to have blocking software installed on a child’s PC. You can them block everything except sites you approved. Clearly the right privileges and password protections need to be set up to stop them simply changing it or just uninstalling the software

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      No need to be so verbose Bob 😉

      This would suffice:-

      “I am afraid Cameron is clueless”

    2. I would simplify it even further:

      “All politicians are clueless, and care even less”

  5. Avatar timeless says:

    so are most parents who support this.. however l just call the ruddy lot of them lazy and feckless for not keeping an eye on their own childrens usage.

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