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Monday, July 22, 2013

UK’s Cameron announces internet censorship plan

'CENSORED' stamp
Could it inspire the American right?

BBC: Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced.

In addition, the prime minister said possessing online pornography depicting rape would become illegal in England and Wales - in line with Scotland.

Mr Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography was “corroding childhood".

The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers.
Cameron says he expects service providers to push back against the plan, but that he could “force action" by changing the law — yes, this is some sort of non-democratic decree or demand., not legislation. He also makes it clear he has no idea how to go about doing this, telling ISP to figure it out. As the BBC put it, “if there were ‘technical obstacles,’ firms should use their ‘greatest brains’ to overcome them." In addition to websites being blocked, he said that “horrific" search terms would be “blacklisted," so they return no results.

Of course, this sort of censorship is basically pointlless. Ask China. There are plenty of ways around government roadblocks.

It’s interesting though; here in America, the last big push to censor adult content on the internet was way back when the public net was still young, during the Clinton administration. Since then, the idea’s come up from time to time, but no serious effort has ever been made. You wonder if the religious right in America, already freaking out about the rapidly expanding acceptance of gay rights, will renew their calls for censorship, inspired by Cameron’s move here — after all, they argue that homosexuality is the result of being “turned," not an aspect of yourself you were born with. It would make sense that some would believe that gay porn will turn you gay and therefore want to limit exposure. In any case, the thought of fifth graders giggling while they google up “butts" has got to scare the bejeezus out of the rightwing bejeezus-fearing crowd.

Back in the Clinton years, one of the things that defeated censorship was the fact that filtering software was largely imaginary and wholly unworkable. That’s probably not the case now. Any challenge to an American push for censorship would likely be based on the First Amendment. One would hope the Tea Partiers would be as diligent in defending the First Amendment as they are over-the-top in defending the Second, resulting in a break among the Tea Party and the religious right. But, frankly, I have my doubts. They’re all for liberty until they’re for oppression — and they’re for oppression one helluva lot more often.

[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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