Civil Liberties

First They Came for the Child Porn…


Over the last few years, U.K. regulators have put pressure on ISPs to cut off access to child porn at the source, preventing it from entering customer's homes in the first place rather than relying on individuals to do the filtering on their own computers. The government-encouraged filtering is based on a list of sites maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation. The ban has generally been considered a success, although it has led to some embarrassing mistakes such as blocking the entirety of Wikipedia in the U.K. due to an image on a album cover in a single entry.

But once the government knew that ISPs could restrict content at the root, it was inevitable that regulators would start pondering other ways to use that power. Next up, good old fashioned grown-up porn:

Miranda Suit, co-founder of the charity Safermedia, which held a conference on internet porn at the Commons last month, said: "Technically we know it can be done because the ISPs are already removing child porn after the government put pressure on them.

Of course, the measure will be "voluntary" for the ISPs. And subscribers will still be able to opt in to porn, it's just not a terribly appealing option for those who prefer not to make explicit what they're using their super-fast broadband connection for in the wee hours. Communications minister Ed Valzey plans to meet with the heads of the major ISPs next month. You know, just to chat:

Vaizey said: "This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children. I'm hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years."

Since we're already slip-sliding down the famous slope, it's worth pointing out that various kinds of religious and political speech are the next stops on the way down. Take Suit's quote from above and apply it to anything the government might prefer people don't read or watch online. The result is as unappealing as, well, child porn.

* Massive massive apologies for the headline to Pastor Martin Niemöller.