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>> Editorial > Why it impossible to block **** on the Internet
Why it impossible to block **** on the Internet - December 20th 2010
And why Miranda Suit is an idiot.
Vitruvian Dickson

The BBC has been reporting the suggestion by the government, prompted by pressure groups, that Internet Service Providers should be blocking people from being able to access porn on their Internet connection unless they specifically opt in to receive it.

Without even getting in to the wider issue of whether this is socially acceptable, that people should have to have to stand up and publically declare 'I want to be able to access porn' or getting in to the issue of the precedent it establishes: if porn should be opt in, what about violent content? What about content depicting drug abuse? Where do we draw the line? - the basic fact is that it is not technically possible to achieve.

However, despite this, the BBC saw fit to conduct the following interview with Miranda Suit of an organisation called Safermedia. The interview implies to anyone who does not understand how the Internet works that what Miranda Suit is suggesting is technically possible and is thus suggesting to listeners that she is putting forwards something that could be implemented.

Blocking Internet porn is totally and comprehensively impossible. For the interviewer to suggest that 'we block child porn' means that blocking all porn is thus possible is a total non sequitur; child pornography is illegal, and is illegal in just about every nation on the world. As such, any webhost distributing such content will quickly be shut down by local authorities. It also implies that all child porn is successfully blocked, which is not the case it is just quickly shut down once it is discovered.

Because it is illegal, anyone uploading child porn to social networking website will also be tracked down and investigiated, and their content pulled.

'Regular' pornography is not illegal in this country, nor is it in the vast majority of Western nations and as such there are no similar legal ramifications in its production. People producing pornography are not conducting an illegal, underground profession and web hosts - across the globe - are legally allowed to host the material.

Even if we totally outlawed pornography in this nation, making it as illegal as child porn, it would still be legally distributed on foreign hosted websites where this was not the case making it totally impossible to police. Social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter receive millions of uploads daily which are impossible to pre-moderate.

The position being put forwards by Miranda Suit is based on total ignorance and is being given credibility by the way in which this article has tackled the issue.

Because it is discussing a sensitive issue relating to children it inevitably means people are going to agree with her. In fact, if you asked a sample of adults 'do you think children should be watching Internet pornography?' I would be shocked if anything less than a near universal majority answered 'no'.

She may as well have said that the government should vaccinate every child for cancer. Just because we would like something to be possible doesn't mean that it is. As a responsible broadcaster the BBC should be explaining the reality of the situation and not the fantasy.

One final mention should be made of the laughable comparison to the 'Great Firewall of China' - well even assuming that blocking politically sensitive websites is technically similar to ISPs preventing pornographic material from being accessed, there are two other fundamental issues with that comparison too.

One is it puts forward the idea that the Chinese Firewall is comprehensive. It is not comprehensive because that is not technically possible; if it was possible then they would have had no reason to censor Google. They can only block sources they are aware of.

Secondly, there are many software packages available in China that allow people to bypass the firewall and access blocked material. I have had friends who have studied in China and they used this software - which was given to them by the Chinese citizens who also used it.

Assuming the block being suggested was even technically possible, assuming through some miracle someone invented a 100% accurate porn detecting software package that the ISPs can all use to stop the material going to those houses who don't want it, it would not be long before a computer program came along allowing them to bypass the firewall and all the teenagers wanting to access the porn - most probably through peer pressure - would soon be aware of it.

I am totally outraged at the minimal technical consultation being made on this issue. It is pure emotional, base instinct driven, sensationalised journalism several rungs below the lowest depths of tabloid reasoning. It is incredulous that the BBC has discussed it as being a legitimate possibility. I was not aware until today that the BBC saw misinforming and de-educating the population as part of its mandate.



Please also read: my original satirical response to this issue.

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