British government isn’t going to ban all Internet obscenity

It may just keep soft core porn because who else is going to watch Cinemax. We’re off to the pub now to avoid all the accusations that we are porn obsessed even though we don’t make the news; just report it.

As it stands, we are not sure if all this means that British porn stars will have to practice having sex with one on the ground, or just put on a few pounds, be a bit more squishy, and act like they are doing panto.

The original speech that started this whole ruckus is here. Here’s the obligatory quote from the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, on how this is all about the kids yadda, yadda, yadda:

I want to talk about the internet, the impact it’s having on the innocence of our children, how online pornography is corroding childhood and how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children and that must be stamped out. Now, I’m not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger but because I feel profoundly, as a politician and as a dad, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence.

Bloody kids are ruining the Internet for everyone. Club Penguin! I am talking about you, too.

According to an excellent article by Dan Nosowitz, the UK government’s stance is damn scary and pointless:

In his second prong, looking outside the U.K. government, Cameron chastises search engines like Google and Bing for making it easier to find, he says, child pornography.

“We need the search engines to step up to the plate on this,” said Cameron. “And there’s a further message I have for the search engines. If there are technical obstacles to acting on this, don’t just stand by and say nothing can be done; use your great brains to help overcome them.”

This is absurdly, insultingly presumptuous. A prime minister is demanding a foreign corporation kowtow to his demands and implement a childishly naive proposal based on his own showy morality. It’s insane that Cameron would so condescendingly offer a foreign entity that’s violating precisely zero laws itself an ultimatum. Google is under no obligation to do anything Cameron wants, and yet Google just last month pledged to spend $7 million to figure out new ways to stamp out child pornography. What makes Cameron think that his proposal–a blacklist of keywords–would be more effective than whatever Google’s brilliant engineers are doing? We were indignant when China demanded Google censor itself there; how dare Cameron expect anything different, no matter how many times he hollers “it’s for the children”?

Many of the illegal corners of the internet aren’t indexed by Google, anyway. Try searching for child porn right now; you won’t find any. Try searching for an online store that’ll mail you heroin. You won’t find that, either. But both exist, and you will find news stories or forums about both that can lead you there. Discussion of illegal activities isn’t illegal, but makes any indexing restriction on Google pretty much worthless.

The Independent is a little more sober in its assessment:

Can the filters work effectively?

Filtering pornography is fiendishly difficult to do accurately. Although the technology is improving, filters set up in hospitals several years ago had to be switched off after doctors were unable to access clinical studies on breast cancer.

Even if they do work, can they be circumvented?

Some schools have used web filters to stop children accessing Facebook when they were meant to be working. But some children reportedly got around them by using “proxy websites” that re-diverted them to Facebook around the filters. Such problems could also exist for pornography – while parents think there are safeguards in place.

What is pornography?

Some women’s groups believe  that Page 3 in The Sun is  pornography – not a view David Cameron shares. Computer algorithms may not be the best means of deciding what is and what is not pornographic.

Do we want to live in a nanny state?

The basis of Mr Cameron’s argument is that people should have to make a conscious decision to watch pornography. But civil liberties groups take the opposite approach and accuse him of hypocrisy. It was Mr Cameron who used to decry Labour’s nanny state.

And what about marital harmony?

Some men (and women) in happy relationships may secretly watch pornography without their partner’s knowledge. This, as Mr Cameron admits, will force them to fess up or abstain. A husband whose wife finds he has secretly turned off the porn filter could find himself in trouble – possibly straining the institution Mr Cameron cares most about: marriage.

The gist of David Cameron’s plan was to put porn filters on all household broadband services with an opt out option. In addition, online content would have the same restrictions as offline sex content such as DVRs and magazines. Britain, it should be said, does have relatively stringent obscenity laws. Stringent compared to the US, but relatively a hedonistic utopia compared to Saudi Arabia, for example.

The gist of the reaction to his plan is, what are you doing, dude? Are you crazy? It seems like the dude is having second thoughts.