The United Kingdom to require users to ‘opt-in’ for online porn, will increase web monitoring

UK Prime Minister David Cameron announces sweeping new anti-porn measures that would require users to ‘opt-in’ to visit porn sites and would ban various types of ‘extreme’ pornography.

New Scotland Yard sign 3 The United Kingdom to require users to opt in for online porn, will increase web monitoring

Internet users in the United Kingdom will soon have to tell their ISP to opt them in to being allowed to view pornography online and pornography depicting simulated rape will be illegal, David Cameron announced today.

The changes will be in place by the end of next year. Customers signing up for a new account with an ISP will be asked whether they want pornography to be allowed on the account, and existing customers will be given an “unavoidable choice” in the near future.

During his speech announcing the proposed changes, Cameron said that “extreme” pornography will be made illegal. While the UK does have laws preventing the possession of “obscene” materials, Cameron will expand that law to prohibit the importation or possession of pornography that depicts simulated violence.

Cameron also said that his government is planning to compel search engines to block searches for child pornography related terms from a list provided by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency (CEOP).

From the BBC, a full list of the new changes proposed by Cameron:

  • New laws so videos streamed online in the UK will be subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shops
  • Search engines will be given until October to introduce further measures to block illegal content. They have a “moral duty” to block illegal content, Mr Cameron said.
  • He called  for warning pages to pop up with helpline numbers when people try to search for illegal content.
  • Experts from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre will be given more powers to examine secretive file-sharing networks.
  • A secure database of banned child porn images gathered by police across the country will be used to trace illegal content and the paedophiles viewing it.

Good intentions, corrupted

While Cameron may have good intentions they are being corrupted by conflating legal pornography with illegal material and proposing to invoke some fairly draconian methods to monitor for offending pornography.

“And, in a really big step forward, all the ISPs have rewired their technology so that once your filters are installed, they will cover any device connected to your home internet account. No more hassle of downloading filters for every device, just one-click protection. One click to protect your whole home and keep your children safe,” Cameron is quoted as saying.

Though it might have sounded paranoid and conspiratorial a year ago, in the era of PRISM and Tempest the expanding creep of government filtering technology is a concern. Child pornography doesn’t live in the same places as legal, commercial pornography. It lives on the deep untraceable web, in the same place as the Bitcoin bazaar Silk Road. With VPNs and Tors, web filters are useless. What Cameron proposes it simply an increase in the ability to monitor the activity of people online.

Given Britain’s existing surveillance state, an increase in monitoring online isn’t necessarily unexpected.

Source: BBC, The Guardian

Sam Reynolds is a Canadian technology journalist based in Taipei. His interest is the intersection between politics, business and technology.