Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the four largest internet providers will block pornography by default unless households choose to receive it. Mr Cameron said that online pornography was “corroding childhood”. These restrictions would also apply to the public Wi-Fi network “wherever children are likely to be present”. Other measures include applying the same restrictions to streamed videos as to films sold in shops; banning pornographic depictions of rape in England and Wales; search engines introducing ‘further measures’ to block illegal content; greater access for authorities to examine file-sharing networks and a database of banned child pornography images to trace illegal content and those viewing it. Similar proposals were made and dropped in December 2012.
Claire Perry MP, an advisor to Mr Cameron, said:
We met the parents of Tia Sharp and April Jones. The men who murdered their daughters were not habitual paedophiles; they were men who stumbled into viewing child porn and used it to make the unthinkable thinkable.
The murderer of Tia Sharp deliberately sought child pornography, rather than “stumbled” upon it.
Claims about the devastating impact of ubiquitous pornography fall into the wider category of ‘media effects’, with identical claims about films, games and music depicting violence begetting real violence. With the advent of the internet, the availability of pornography has dramatically expanded and saturated our societies. 81% of British children between the ages of 14 and 16 have viewed adult material online. A University of Montreal study sought young men who had not viewed pornography for a comparative study on their attitudes towards women, and could not find any. However, Professor Lajeunesse’s examination of the interviewees found:
Pornography hasn’t changed their perception of women or their relationship, which they all want to be as harmonious and fulfilling as possible.
If pornography truly causes social corrosion, then its sheer ubiquity means its effect should be demonstrably negative, particularly in our views and actions towards women. According to the 2008 British Attitudes Survey, 69% of 25-34 year olds disagreed with the statement ‘A man job’s is to work while a woman’s job to look after the home and family’, whilst 47% of over-65s disagreed. The Office for National Statistics found sexual offences have declined 10% from 2003 to 2012.
Filters are never perfect, and may fail to capture violent pornography whilst prohibiting views of news articles discussing porn and other innocent material. Filters are also porous to the technologically proficient, with BitTorrent traffic increasing after blockades were placed on the popular Pirate Bay website. Proxy servers are used to evade the “Great Firewall of China” and view prohibited material.
It is for the Internet Service Providers to decide their filter policies, and for customers to decide whether they wish to place internet filters on their households, and to move to an ISP that has a default-on filter if they wish. Rather than establishing default-on filters, parents and carers, and teachers in loco parentis, should re-assert their primacy over what their children do and do not consume.