As reported by both the mainstream press, and more tech focused websites, David Cameron and his coalition government has told Internet Service Providers — the people you buy your internet connection from, such as BT and Virgin Media — that they will have to “make filtering a standard option across industry.” I welcome this move, kids shouldn’t be seeing a lot of what is available on the ‘information superhighway’
However, it is also mandated that, unless you expressly tell your ISP otherwise, this filtering effect will be enabled for all accounts — new and existing. That’s going to result in some awkward phone calls.
However, it isn’t the removal of pornography by default, or even the awkward telephone calls that might ensue such a change that grinds my gears, it is — in fact — the entire principle of the idea. The government is now telling you how to bring up your children, telling you what to watch and taking away ever-more of your freedoms, all in one foul swoop.
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not exactly a tree-hugging ultra-liberal hippy — however when it comes to the freedom of access to resources on the internet — educational, opinionated, or in this case I suppose “entertaining” — I get more than a little passionate.
The internet, including but not limited to the world wide web, is by far the most exciting, engaging and educational invention the human race has ever had. The internet is as much the ideal of free speech, free thought and free access to education and resources as it is a “series of tubes” or list of W3C Standards. We, as people lucky enough to live in a democratic nation should not take any change, or attempt to control, this resource lightly.
Without scaremongering it should be pretty clear for everyone to see, if the government can restrict access to resources “for the good of the children!!!!” how easy it would be to use the same laws and technology to restrict access to resources that oppose the governments point of view. You only have to look at the great firewall of china to see what sort of systems could be created with the will of the government and the blind acceptance of the ISPs and members of the public — we could even steal the chinese naming convention and call our theoretical system Hadrians Firewall.
Lets, however, be realistic and assume that nothing along the lines of the great firewall of china will be developed — there are still many more everyday issues that could cause problems for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Lets take the example of tumblr, a popular micro-blogging platform, think twitter but more about images and asking each other questions. Its a perfectly legitimate, non-pornographic, website however it also has a contingency of people who post indecent images, or bikini models or what-have-you. Does the government plan on nuking the whole website, or just blocking certain pages?
If they’re blocking certain pages based on content, what happens if a hacker takes over http://www.gov.uk and fills it with pornographic images, will the filters knock that offline for the large percentage of the population, taking out a large amount of public services?
Fortunately it looks like many of the ISPs are opposed to the ideas being forced upon them and will react.
If you think the populus of the United Kingdom is capable of making its own decisions about adult content, and you want a free and open internet I urge you to contact your local MP, which you can do through this website: http://www.writetothem.com/