N.B. This article has been revised, in the form of additional content, since it was originally posted. See foot of page, for information.
Dear, oh dear, what is happening!
David Cameron and The Daily Mail are at it again: crafting legislation that takes a sledgehammer to a walnut, and they end-up sending us backwards in time, to the supposed “good ole days of yore”, whilst simultaneously failing to do the very job they’re trying to do!
You see, this weekend just gone, our beloved PM has decided that everything the Daily Mail has been banging-on about for the past umpteen weeks, namely that Child Porn is one-hundred-per-cent online, and can be easily accessed by a simple five-second Google search, has now prompted him to demand that ALL UK Internet users now have to “opt-in” for any adult/restricted content, by contacting their Internet Service Provider (ISP). See here for the details.
Come the end of this year, anyone signing-up to an ISP, will only get a censored, restricted version of the Internet piped into their homes. If the user wants unrestricted access, they will have to ask to have the ban lifted. Current users of the Internet, may find next year, that their provider suddenly restricts what they can currently access, and you will have to telephone them up, and ask for the ban to be lifted.
In other words, because of this continued assumption that we need to continually “think about the kids“, liberal-minded adults who just want to not have their Internet access pre-vetted, pre-filtered, and pre-approved by our Government, are now going to have to demand unrestricted access, which will probably mean that someone, somewhere will create a long, detailed list of those of us who choose to “opt-in”.
Now, there are plenty of times I can think of, where an adult needs unrestricted access to the Internet, and I’m not talking about needing access to pornography. Journalists for example. University researchers and graduates. People who work for abuse charities may need unrestricted access also. Law-makers need unrestricted access. Freedom-fighters and whistleblowers may also need it, so that they can leak stories for the public interest, such as certain big-name organisations that don’t pay their fair share of tax, or governments breaching data protection laws to spy on their citizens. And it’s not as if these people need unrestricted access, so they can watch any kind of porn. Sometimes, we need unrestricted access to do our jobs.
Under the proposed laws, even this very blog of mine, could be considered “un-family friendly” and be restricted, because I talk about adult themes and subjects that are not intended for under-18’s to read. This is how draconian and backwards this law will be. It won’t actually stop the material it’s supposed to stop, but it will stop the innocuous material that isn’t actually a problem. Hence, the articles on Child Pornography I’ve written for my blog, may become “blacklisted”, because it contains the key words “child porn” or “rape” and the like. It’s totally farcical!
David Cameron was shown on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show yesterday, saying:
I’m not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence… I mean let’s be fair to the companies. There are some good things that they’re doing… But there is this problem, yes, that some people are putting simply appalling terms into the Internet in order to find illegal images of child abuse. And, remember, every one of these pictures is a crime scene and they’re getting results. I think it’s wrong that they should get results and we need to have very, very strong conversations with those companies about saying no, you shouldn’t provide results for some terms that are so depraved and disgusting, I can’t even say them on your show.
Umm, so no scaremongering there then? No, not at all.
And no panicking or frightening parents into thinking that little Johnny or Jenny might be viewing hardcore pornography everytime they log-on to the Internet?! No, never!
And, no rhetoric when you say…
And if we don’t get what we need we’ll have to look at legislation.
… so that if the ISP’s don’t do as he wants them too, he’ll force legislation through Parliament, to coerce them into doing his bidding.
As Charlie Brown would say: “Good Grief!” I am sick to death of everything been rendered family-friendly-safe, “in case a child sees it”! How many times do we have to say this? Not everything in life is suitable, nor aimed at, minors! And parents, why do we have to keep doing your job for you?! You choose to have a child. You choose to decide to bring a new life into this world. So why are the rest of us having to do your parenting job, just because something I might see that is suitable for me, may also be accidentally seen by your child, but my freedom has to be curtailed to protect your child’s?!
Parents: please, do your bloody job! Don’t expect the rest of us to have to do it for you! I am really fed-up of parents expecting everyone else to protect their kids for them. No! I’m taking a stand against this! Not because I want to be rude, or insensitive, or even a “woolly-minded liberal”! No! I want to demand that parents are accountable for their choices. If you have a child, it is up to you to do the hard work and censor your TV programming, censor your own Internet services, and censor your own entertainment choices, rather than expecting everyone else in society to do it for you.
I don’t have kids. I don’t particularly like kids. They’re noisy, smelly, loud and irritating. I have the right to go into a store, purchase an 18-certificated horror film, and then take that film home, and be able to watch it in the privacy of my own home, as the director intended me to see it. I should not have had to have it pre-vetted, because little Johnny or Jenny might accidentally stumble upon it, because you left your copy of the same film in the DVD player at home, and your kids got curious, hit the Play button, and then got upset at a scene of gory violence… Unless, the film contained material that breaches the law. But that’s a different argument for another day!
The same with pornography. Yes, there is some pornography out there online, that is deeply sickening. However, to be fair, most of the porn online, is something you have to actively search for. It doesn’t just pop-up on your BT Yahoo homepage, out-of-the-blue. You need to actively go out looking for it, either by searching for it online, or by visiting certain websites.
That’s not to say that places like Vimeo, You Tube and the like couldn’t do more. They absolutely could. The number of times I’ve seen material on their sites, that shouldn’t be available without some kind of age-verification system behind it to access it, is way too frequent. But, it is also down to parents to make sure that their kids don’t get given unrestricted access to sites like Vimeo and You Tube, because they may well come across material that isn’t aimed at or suitable for them. If you want your kids to access video clips on You Tube, then do the search for them. Watch the video clip before they do, and if you are worried they may accidentally (or on purpose) click on something that you don’t want them to see, then download the video clip to your hard-drive, so it can be viewed on its own, away from the website’s other content. There are add-on apps to most Web Browsers that will let you do this. There will be step-by-step tutorials you can view if you spend just a couple of minutes Googling how to do so.
I wrote a piece a few weeks back, about this issue – see here – but at that point in time, the idea that our Government was going to censor adult content, and force everyone to “opt-in” was only an idea being thrown around. Now, it seems, it’s actually going to happen.
Someone by the name of Mertyl wrote the following, on The Guardian website, in the Comments section of a story about this very issue – see here. I’ve shortened the comment, but you can click on the link to see the full-length version: Mertyl said:
The news is that Cameron is going to push search sites to ban child porn searches, no one can argue against that, can they?
I am, and can, because you’re talking about something you know absolutely nothing about, and expecting the government to pass legislation based upon your complete ignorance and prejudice on the topic. Because do you really, really think anyone but the most mentally subnormal enters “Child Pornography” as a Google search?
Now I’ve download lots and lots of porn… And in all that time, I’ve run into just one definite child pornography video by mistake… I reported that one to the Police…. but not before I’d done a Google search for a strange term that was in the file title, and looked at first like a username, in case I could gather a bit more information to identify the user to the Police before it vanished off the Internet. And I discovered that it was a known codeword paedophiles used to flag up genuine child videos.
I could give it, but in doing so I’d flag everyone here under child protection laws; Let’s just say it was something like “Kipper77”, a tag without obvious meaning but very close to what we’d expect as a username. Of course, where the law would already have failed is that this was 3-5 years ago, and the code words have been changed multiple times since then anyway. You’d have to be in the criminal community to know what the recent ones were, and the only reason I ran into the video was that it was part of the extremely old and largely abandoned eMule system, which requires you to have the identified file on your machine, rather than using anonymous hashtags like Pirate Bay and torrent programs today.
Here’s an idea; let’s say I’m a genuine paedophile. Let’s call the crime “Cameron” from now on. Add “DCam” to your videos as a flag it’s genuine. And “BonkIfYouHonk” as one too… Childish? You’re dealing with people with a criminal attraction to children. Do you think they won’t act that way? Actually, they won’t because the real stupidity is still with the proponents of these laws; if they did that, the abuse videos actually would appear everywhere pretty quickly… and they don’t want the State to notice. So the codewords will remain obscure. Google certainly won’t know them until 2-3 years after enough genuine police work in infiltrating these communities has been done, and they’ve prosecuted some of the criminals and thus revealed as public evidence the knowledge of those codes, and thus allowing Google to actively filter it…. Because if Google does know, and you enter “BonkIfYouHonk”, and get no search words (or an obvious redirect) then, long before you can ever arrest someone for child abuse, child abusers would be warned the State knows the codes and they’d change them again.
But here’s the real fun part; “BonkIfYouHonk” clearly knows nothing of technology. Let’s say I’m not a child abuser, but I am exceptionally malicious. I start using it as a tag just to ensure at least one video ends up on your computer, because you want to see what all these videos under your name are about. And then you see it, and despite being a reactionary old fart, I assume you at least aren’t a child molester. So you delete it as soon as you see it.
Except the file is, and will remain on your computer for years to come.
Deleting a file doesn’t physically remove it from the hard disc surface. If it did, the lifetime of the drive would be massively smaller as you’d be writing to the disc over and over again. What it actually does is simply mark the sectors of the drive it was written to as usable again. But until more data writes over it, it just sits there exactly as it was before. So you’ve opened a “BonkIfYouHonk” file? It’s still there, in full or in recoverable segments. Now I call in the Police and say I have a suspicion you’ve been looking at Child Pornography. And it’s genuinely still on your machine… You want to claim it’s an accident. Except… now the court can pull out the fact that you’ve done an awful lot of Googling for “BonkIfYouHonk”. And now we have a pattern of interest we can prove…Far fetched? Maybe. But it depends on what the term the child abusers settle on next is where the actual damage falls.
Let’s say it’s “Kipper77” again. Now anyone born in 1977 with an interest in Kippers is at risk. And the only thing keeping them safe is that they don’t even accidentally run into anything that’s illegal. Which, with unthinking reactionaries like the current Government and BIYH, is becoming an increasingly larger set of illegal things.
What Mertyl describes, is perfectly plausible. Child porn is never, ever named as “child porn”. In fact, I would argue, that no child pornographer, nor child abuser, is going to name any file containing such material with a title that gives anyone except the intended recipient any info as to what the file is about. That’s the whole point. You’re not going to have files called “Jimmy being abused, aged 6 months” or “Karla-The-Kiddy-Fiddler”. The files are going to be called things like “Cribbage 621” or “Ghostly-Apparitions: Volume 9”, or some other equally innocuous title. The only people who might then get caught-out by the Child Exploitation And Online Protection (CEOP) Centre’s systems, are people who may be into the card game Cribbage, or who collect video clips that feature ghostly apparitions. The paedophiles, on the other hand, will not be worrying, and will continue to trade in their disgusting and grossly offensive material, without a care in the world.
And that’s a best-case scenario.
The worst case, as I mentioned in my previous article, is that I suspect most paedophiles trade child porn away from the mainstream Internet. So, not via e-mails. Not via websites. And certainly not via five-second Google searches, but via FTTP sites, via images and video clips deeply embedded as secret files within innocuous images and video clips of cartoons or music tracks. Even by the postal system, on CD-Rom’s and memory sticks sent to PO Boxes across the country, or left in dead-letter-drops, taped to the undersides of public tables in parks, where only the intended recipient will know where to get them. Okay, that last part may not be wholly true, but you get my drift.
There are thousands of ways that child pornography can be passed between abusers and peddlers, that won’t attract the attention of Government agencies like the FBI, or Interpol, etc. It’s way too easy to just assume that censoring all of the Internet, and forcing sensible, decent, law-abiding adults who just want to occasionally watch a bit of legal, consensual pornography featuring, legal, consenting adults doing vaguely kinky things to each other, is going to help stop paedophilia and child abuse.
What’s more annoying, is that the United Kingdom is now wanting to become more and more like Iran, China and Korea: a society that its government wants to control via restricting access to certain types of media. As anyone who has lived or worked in those countries know only too well, any form of censorship is easily bypassed, given enough time and tenacity from the public. China can ban Facebook, but in its place, the citizens use RenRen or Sina Weibo to defy the government. Home-grown journalists in Iran frequently create their own videos and blog-entries which they upload, showing the rest of the world what life is really like under the Taliban, which often puts their life and the lives of their family under direct threat from assassination. You can’t stop people from trying to get material out there, to the rest of the world, if they are determined enough to do so. Just ask Julian Assange or Edward Snowden.
So why should we expect censorship of the Internet, will stop child pornography? Shouldn’t our government be focusing on giving more money to agencies like the CEOP, so they can fight their war on child porn and child exploitation properly, rather than doing as we are doing, and rationing cash to charities and other such organisations, under the auspices of “austerity measures”?
The fact remains that what Cameron is doing, will not stop child pornography. All it will do, is piss off sensible, literate, intelligent and law-abiding adults from doing what they have been doing, whilst allowing child porn peddlers to continue to do what they want unfettered! And it certainly won’t stop the likes of the Daily Mail from continuing to run outrageously suggestive and sexist articles like this one or this one or this one or this one or even this one.
Hypocrisy? From the likes of the Daily Mail?! Never!
Considering 99.9 per cent of everything in the Daily Mail can be had from their site for free, I’m surprised their sales haven’t plummeted. Let’s hope that once the “opt-in” ban comes in, sites like http://www.daily-mail.co.uk get added to the “unsuitable for kids” list, and the DM finds they get a fraction of the traffic. Maybe then, they will learn that if you restrict access to the Net on spurious grounds, that it may have a negative effect on your own site! If it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander!
ADDENDUM – 27th July 2013: This rather brilliant parody image was posted on the MelonFarmers website…
It’s DAILY MAIL editor Paul Dacre with his hand up current Prime Minister of Great Britain’s arse! I think it speaks volumes! And Jan Moir, one of the Daily Mail’s waste-of-space writers has written another piece, asking why is everyone sneering at Cameron’s plans to block pornography… The fact she even has to ask this question, demonstrates why she (and the Daily Mail) really don’t have a damn clue about this subject, in any way, shape or form. Have fun reading her complaint here as it’s highly amusing – for all the wrong reasons!