Censoring the UK – no porn please, we’re British #DEBill

Won’t somebody think of the children!

So they’ve finally done it. The UK Government has announced that they’re planning on censoring access to tens of thousands of websites featuring “unconventional” pornography and erotica, all in the name of saving the children. The inference here is that anything unconventional is considered illegal and must be blocked. Being gay was unconventional in the 40s and 50s, so people who were gay were persecuted and prosecuted. The man who helped end World War 2 – Alan Turing – was gay and he eventually took his own life after being convicted of the “crime” of gross indecency based on his relationship with a young man.

Even as consenting adults – ADULTS! – the Government believe it is somehow their right to tell us what is conventional and therefore acceptable. It is delivered under the guise of protecting children when in reality, its purpose is to define what they consider to be acceptable/conventional by censoring. If it were really the Government’s stance to protect the children, they should be educating, not censoring. I don’t mean educating children, I mean educating adults. It is no longer acceptable that in the Internet Age there are adults out there with children who have no grasp whatsoever of how to protect THEIR OWN CHILDREN online yet provide them with iPads for Christmas.

Investigatory Powers Act 2016

A few days ago I was astonished as the IPBill made its way through parliament with barely a whimper from UK citizens. Seemingly there’s not enough people in the UK who care about their online privacy and don’t mind that the likes of the Food Standards Agency and their local Fire Service can now browse their Internet history. After all, if they’ve got nothing to hide, they’ve got nothing to fear, right? For now that may be true but do you implicitly trust every person in the Civil Service that will now have access to your Internet history? If you have ever cleared your browser history – and I mean EVER – then you should have stood up to be counted as someone who opposed the #IPBill. That it has passed and is now all but law means you’ve lost your chance.

Consider a future where the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 has been in use for years:

You have a son who you know is gay though it is a closely guarded family secret because he doesn’t want it to be common knowledge. He has used the Internet in your home since he was a teenager when he came out to you. He has expressed an interest in joining the Fire service. He’s physically fit and the local Fire service are in desperate need of new recruits but his application is turned down. On pressing for a reason he’s told that he is incompatible with the Fire service and they won’t be progressing his application. You take up the challenge on your son’s behalf and speak with the Fire service to ask for an explanation. You are told that unless you want your son’s sexuality to be discussed in public, you should withdraw your challenge. How could you ever approach this without exposing your son’s sexuality – something that is very private to him?

The point I’m trying to make here is that while you think your Internet history is boring, the Government don’t think it’s boring – otherwise they wouldn’t want access to it. You have absolutely no idea how that information will be stored, accessed, by who, when and for what reason. This is not the only example I could give – consider an Ashley Madison style hack and data leak of billions of internet connection records. In the days after such a leak, the number of people committing suicide and filing for divorce would skyrocket and the impact would be devastating. You may think that what I’m saying is all very “tin-foil-hat” like but can you honestly say that this could or would not happen? If you think you can, I’m telling you you’re wrong, very very wrong.

I work in IT (having worked in both public and private sectors) and I have zero confidence in any private company or public entity storing personal information regarding my personal browsing habits. I know that one day, that information will be leaked – so I must take steps to protect myself from Government monitoring.

Digital Economy Bill

As for porn blocking, the Government are entirely reliant on the public’s apathy and embarrassment in raising issue with their proposals and they know nobody cares enough to stand up and be counted for fear of being labelled a pervert, or worse.

When I found out about the Government’s proposal to ban unconventional pornography, I mentioned it to my fiance. Her reaction was absolutely priceless and is exactly what the Government are relying on to prevent much scrutiny, in both parliament and public. Scrunching up her face, seemingly disgusted that I should be concerned about something like this, she said: “Why do you care? Are you in to unconventional porn?” – the simple fact that I had raised it as a talking point was enough for her to form an opinion of me, despite knowing me for nine years and accepting my proposal.

We are all private people and we don’t want anybody other than our sexual partners to know what our sexual preferences are. This attempt (and I sincerely hope it is only an attempt!) by the Government is to route out or silence people with “unconventional” sexual preferences. If they succeed in introducing censoring of “unconventional” pornography, they will only succeed in forcing the individuals that have “unconventional” sexual interests underground, making them and the pornographers criminals in the same way that Alan Turing was considered a criminal, causing him to take his own life. Alan Turing is a man now celebrated in film and revered in the intelligence services – the same services that are now gathering as much personal information as possible on every person in the UK. Not only have they put in place the means by which they can identify people accessing “unconventional” pornography, they are making it illegal so as to enable them to prosecute it.

I am so bitterly disappointed in the Government and so bitterly disappointed in the public that I have essentially lost all hope for Britain. The Government’s proposal to introduce age verification was doomed to fail from the moment it was suggested. They knew that implementing age verification would fail for many sites that don’t care about UK law so the Government had a reason to suggest blocking non-compliant sites. In order to block any site that doesn’t introduce age verification they will need to whitelist, which absolutely WILL affect other sites not related to pornography.  To have a whitelist they must classify pornography and decide what is acceptable and what is unconventional. Make no mistake, this is the Government telling you what is normal. Remember, the type of content they want to censor is not illegal but they’re proposing to make it so and any site that doesn’t introduce age verification for UK users will also be blocked – whether their content is “unconventional” or not.

Surveillance controls and absolutely surveillance controls absolutely.

Surveillance controls and absolutely surveillance controls absolutely. We are at the slippery precipice of a very very dangerous fall and if this amendment to the Digital Economy Bill passes through unscathed, blocking of “unconventional” porn is only the start. Do not sit down and tell yourself it doesn’t matter to you or that your porn interests are conventional. It doesn’t affect you but it does affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions of other law-abiding normal people.

Stand up, be counted and oppose censorship in the Digital Economy Bill by writing to your MP and telling them to oppose the amendment. Censoring helps nobody.