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die hard is a xmas movie | by maryann johanson

do you want your ISP to block porn and other “objectionable” content automatically?

xkcdporn

If you’re outside the U.K., you may not have heard about this. But it’s been happening for a while now. From Digital Spy:

BT has announced that new customers of its broadband services will have porn blocked automatically.

The ISP is the latest company to introduce an active adult content filter turned on by default, unless the customer chooses to change the controls when setting up their internet connection.

BT is offering three levels of filtering – strict, moderate and light – as well as the option to add and remove a website from the block list.

It is also possible to alter the filter at certain times of the day, for example it may go down to the light setting at the time the children go to bed.

The settings can be changed at any time, although the customers’ credentials will be required. For extra peace of mind, BT will send the adult account holder an email informing them of the change.

Brendan O’Neill at The Daily Beast explains some of the problems with the British policy (I’m ignoring his idiotic contention that it’s mostly men who watch porn):

[A]s the free speech campaign group Open Rights points out, internet filters can be notoriously clumsy, often blocking stuff that isn’t actually pornographic or violent but which is merely “adult”: articles about smoking, advertisements for booze, etc.

Open Rights spoke with some of the ISPs who have agreed to impose a porn block in British households, and they admitted that other material might also get blocked—including “violent material, suicide-related websites, anorexia, and eating disorder websites.” So whole swathes of the internet are going to have a forcefield erected around them, and actual, sentient, fully grown adults will have to ask permission to penetrate this forcefield.

This is definitely not just bad, but ridiculous. Will sites about, say, breast feeding get caught in the net? (We’ve already seen how Facebook polices “porn” — by removing pages devoting to feeding babies and dealing with cancer — while still permitting sexual violence, thereby confirming the perhaps apocryphal quote about the MPAA and movies, about how cutting off a breast is fine but kissing it is a no-no.)

Here’s the larger concern:

We need to challenge this top-down decree that all web connections should, by default, be child-friendly. What if Cameron decides next that erotic literature or fiery political tracts are also harmful to children and thus web access to them should be automatically switched off? No good can come of allowing politicians, in cahoots with ISPs, to tell the public what a “normal” internet should look like.

Agreed.

What do you think?

Do you want your ISP to block porn and other “objectionable” content automatically? Would you be embarrassed to call up your ISP and ask to opt-out, for the filter to be turned off? What other material would you worry would get caught up in such a filter?

ETA: See this, too: “The hidden cost of introducing porn filters” at The Telegraph.

cartoon from XKCD, of course

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)


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