The UK is set to become the first democratic country to introduce a ‘Chinese-style Internet censor’, potentially blocking 4 million websites.
The Digital Economy Bill will force porn sites to impose age verification check systems and will inflict a blanket ban on the depiction of ‘unusual sexual practices’ and ‘extreme porn’.
Predicted to be in breach of EU law that protects ‘net neutrality’, the bill marks a threat to web user’s privacy as well as independent porn creators who publish content online – of course, the UK won’t be protected by said EU law once Brexit takes hold.
Jerry Barnett – technologist, author and sex campaigner – points out the ‘dangers of introducing a system of Internet censorship’ in a guest column on Harriet Sugarcookie.
The activist wrote:
This is (or at least, should be) a big deal. The government’s ‘solution’ to the porn problem is to create a censorship body with the power to block websites.
While focus has been on the ‘extreme porn’ part, the bit about age checking is actually far more dangerous, as it will result in literally millions of websites being blocked in the UK.
This requires owners of websites to verify that visitors are over 18 before they can view any sexual images at all, even soft-nude ones.
While the Digital Economy Bill plans to ’empower consumers and provide better connectivity’, it also proposes to block access to certain legal adult entertainment sites that don’t comply with the proposed age verification systems.
According to the Open Rights Group, the systems pose ‘serious privacy concerns’, in allowing commercial pornographic websites to ‘collect the exact identity details of their users and ‘opportunities for Ashley Madison style data leaks revealing personal sexual preferences’.
The Digital Economy Bill states any site containing ‘extreme porn’ will be blocked and any adult site that does not check the ages of visitors will be blocked.
While it is clear online pornography should be regulated in order to protect younger viewers, responsibly-filmed adult entertainment is a huge source of healthy sexual education and exploration for young teens.
However, the bill will undoubtedly squeeze the financial resources of independent productions and ‘affect sexual minorities by denying them the means to freely express their sexuality.’
The Open Rights also notes, ‘It is concerning that these age verification solutions have arisen from the government’s collaboration with pornographic producers who would themselves be able to raise additional revenue from the data collection itself.’
In other words, the biggest pornographic businesses support this censorship, as it will almost certainly bankrupt smaller enterprises.
And if you think that this regime, once established, won’t start blocking other ‘threats’ to our well-being, think again.
The British government has a long history of censoring a wide range of ‘unacceptable’ material on film and TV. Porn is just the start.
Furthermore, the blanket ban inadvertently promises to force anyone with a fetish deemed ‘unusual’ by those in government to retreat to the dark web – where the vulnerable can be targeted more easily.
It is a slap in the face of modern, liberal values that embrace all forms of sexuality – and it is a lazy solution in the battle to protect British youngsters from harmful porn.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.