Posted by Brad @ 2:39 pm on July 22nd 2013

It’s Not Just China Regulating the Entirity of Its Population’s Internet Usage

Now, Britain.

The prime minister’s speech is designed to answer critics who accuse him of talking tough but failing to take action. In the most significant step he will outline detailed plans to limit access to pornography.

The Daily Mail, which has been running a campaign to crack down on pornography online, reported that the prime minister will say: “By the end of this year, when someone sets up a new broadband account the settings to install family-friendly filters will be automatically selected. If you just click ‘next’ or ‘enter’, then the filters are automatically on.

“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.

“Once those filters are installed, it should not be the case that technically literate children can just flick the filters off at the click of a mouse without anyone knowing. So we have agreed with industry that those filters can only be changed by the account holder, who has to be an adult. So an adult has to be engaged in the decisions.”

I really, really dislike governments making any kinds of decisions about literally what information should or should not be attainable to its population, regardless of whatever trappings you put around that. On first blush this may seem reasonable, but when you distil it down it is the British government putting into place an architecture where it gets to decide what information is too “harmful” to its citizens to be allowed. If it restricts pornography, why not hate speech? If hate speech, why not treasonous dissent? And so on and so forth. And, the basic idea of “opting in” strikes me as something akin to having to get a license to view pornography.

And, on a practical level, an entire nation trying to filter out “adult” content will, in every likelihood, result in an f’ing mess.

Also, there is another added measure that one doesn’t have to stretch too far into a slippery slope to see a problem with. Namely, the government will draw up a blacklist of “abhorrent” internet search terms to identify and prevent paedophiles searching for illegal material. How that would work in practice I have no real idea (indeed, people who work with children such as social workers, psychologies, policy makers etc. would often have to google things like “child rape” or whatever for entirely different reasons than a “blacklist of abhorrent internet search terms” might imagine). But, with recent revelations about the incredible reach of online government surveillance already, throwing down statutes that define search terms the government regards as actionable strikes me as very, very alarming.

Oh, incidentally, perhaps worth mentioning that there is absolutely no empirical basis for the notion that more or more access to pornography of any sort = more sex crimes. In fact, the empirical evidence such as it is suggests the opposite.

But in reality, whatever “think of the children” language you want to throw around this, the basic gist of it is that David Cameron would like to be the first line of defense in determining what kind of information is good and what kind of information the government should throw up barriers to you accessing. Which is, well, pretty damn extreme and incredibly worrisome.

The irony is, when people tell me that libertarianism is a utopian pipe dream and couldn’t possibly work in practice, I always point to the internet as a system that is run basically under a libertarian paradigm (well, the internet and the Amish). Sounds like pretty shortly here we’ll get to compare how that worked from the 90s through today with how it works when government regulation takes over.

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