UK government takes steps towards online censorship
There can be no doubt that, if it goes ahead, this policy will set an extremely worrying precedent for the future of the country. Telling people what they can or cannot view on the internet is a very slippery slope indeed and, if handled incorrectly, this situation easily has the potential to blow up in the government’s face.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand the logic behind a family-friendly filter. However, what I simply cannot get my head around is why legal content should be blocked by default for every internet user, even those without young children. It’s as if the government wants people to feel guilty about answering ‘No’ when the question ‘Do you want to turn the family filter on?’ pops up on their screen.
Clearly stricter rules on illegal activities such as rape and child pornography can only be a good thing, but surely blocking legal content is taking circumstances way too far. We live in a supposedly free, democratic society, so what right does anyone have to decide what can or cannot be viewed on the internet, when it isn’t even breaking the law?
Then there is also the problem of privacy. Obviously most people who choose ‘No’ are unlikely to want to shout about it from the rooftops, so can the government guarantee that this information will stay strictly confidential? If you were ever arrested, could the fact that you don’t have an online filter be used against you? This is where we start to venture into some very murky territory.
The government seems to think that censorship will solve all the country’s problems regarding its children, but a family filter will never be an effective replacement for good parenting. After the rollout of this policy, many parents will be under the illusion that they no longer need to monitor what their child looks at on the internet, which of course is complete nonsense.
If I was a parent, there’s no way I would allow the government to take sole responsibility in deciding what my child can view online. Then again, in my opinion modern-day parenting is becoming increasingly complacent and even lazy. In the last few years, parents in the UK seem to have subscribed to the idea that nothing is ever their own fault.
The very same thing happens all the time with violent videogames. We must have all heard dozens of stories in which a parent buys an 18-rated game for their 11-year-old child, and is subsequently horrified by the amount of adult content on display. Of course, the parent prefers to blame the game rather than their own ineptitude, which isn’t too dissimilar to shooting yourself in the foot and then blaming the gun.
In fact, violent videogames actually offer an interesting parallel to online pornography; neither is in any way designed for children, and yet we are constantly being told how they are somehow corrupting our kids. This begs the question of how children are being exposed to this kind of content, and the simple answer is because their parents let them view it. The real issue here is bad parenting, not adult-rated content that has existed in various forms for decades.
And who’s to say blocking adult content will even work? My experience with computers in my day job has been enough to convince me that online filters are often much more trouble than they’re worth, with many nondescript websites being blocked while more controversial sites are available to access. To succeed, this scheme would have to be so efficiently regulated that it would be almost impossible to maintain.
Further difficulty arises due to the fact that everyone has a different opinion on what inappropriate content actually is. What about legitimate social networking and dating sites that happen to allow nude photos? What about fan art and fan fiction? What about walkthroughs to adult-rated videogames on YouTube? There is such a wide range of potential variables and inconsistencies that such a filter could never fulfil everyone’s needs simultaneously.
To be frank, this is exactly the kind of ill-conceived, holier-than-thou policy I’ve come to expect from the coalition government. I wonder if it’s even occurred to them that in reality such a policy could actually cause more harm than good. For example, an unfiltered internet gives a potential offender the chance to indulge his fantasies without bringing them into the real world.
Similarly, far from protecting children, a family filter could have a seriously detrimental effect on the way they view sex and sexuality. It’s already a difficult subject for children to broach with their parents as it is, and this new policy will do absolutely nothing to counter that, and may even make children think of sex as something unnatural or even evil.
And there are other questions too. What happens if someone taps into your connection to view adult content after you’ve disabled the filter? Would the full blame lie with the hacker, or could you be liable if you failed to secure your connection effectively?
In my opinion, this proposal has very little, if anything, to do with protecting children from pornography. At best, it is nothing more than a half-baked attempt to win parents’ votes in the 2015 general election, but at worst, it’s a blatant push by the government to gain greater control over what their citizens can view on the internet.
And yet, as I stated at the beginning of this article, perhaps the biggest cause for concern with this policy is the implications it leaves for the future. If we allow the government to censor the internet, then surely no forms of entertainment will be beyond its reach. What could be next on the chopping block? Films? Television? Videogames?
The only option is to get our voices heard right now. We have to tell the government that we won’t fall for its schemes; especially when it means sacrificing our freedom of speech.