Groan. Here we go again. A bunch of self-appointed moral arbiters from the reactionary right are demanding that the government makes ISP's block all pornography automatically so that the little kiddies are protected: adults wanting a little visual stimulation will have to tell their ISP that they want to opt in.
Here's the argument against censorship, for dummies.
1. Very basically: it won't work. Any teenager hunting for filth will be way, way ahead of their parents. How long will it take, do you think, between the National No-Naughtiness Curtain being instituted and a bright teen uploading a YouTube video showing his friends how to 'opt-in'. On an even simpler level, filters never work. My university tries to block spam email based on textual analysis algorithms, but just this morning I've deleted invitations to access dictators' billions, save £££s on items of tat and increase certain sections of my anatomy beyond all proportion. So I can't quite imagine an ISP's filter managing to decide that Francis Bacon's nude portraits count as Art whereas Katie Price's la-la's are Filth.
2. Why should a porn-loving adult (and shock horror: some parents like to watch strangers doing the nasty) have to tell their ISP that that's what they plan on doing after bedtime?
3. What's next? First they came for the grumble fans (and the definition of pornography really isn't as simple as pro-censorship forces suggest). Then they came for the guns-and-ammo kids. Then for the Islamist dissidents. Who's to say that a government won't decide that anyone wanting access to robust communist discussion boards shouldn't have to notify their ISP, in case Portia and India catch sight of cynical subversion?
3. Pay attention. This is the big one. The last time some Tory MP moaned about having to worry about his little darlings watching some plasticised Californians get on down because THE GOVERNMENT WOULDN'T STOP THEM, I wrote him a letter. A letter which received no response. I pointed out the the Tories are the party of the family (they claim) and parental responsibility. I then suggested that rather than asking the state (which they habitually excoriate as a bureaucratic, remote monster) to protect the kiddies, they could try doing some bloody PARENTING.
I don't just mean that a savvy parent should occasionally check the History cache, or sit behind their pride and joy making sure they don't see anything stronger than Peppa Pig. I mean that Mummy and Daddy might consider acculturating their offspring: make sure they understand the bewildering experiences of puberty and discussing the impulses they might encounter. Then they could explain that the internet is the repository of everything they might imagine and quite a lot of things beyond their imaginations (I'm told) and that there are psychological, moral and social consequences bound up with viewing this stuff. Let each parent decide what's OK, not some - presumably very busy, red-eyed - civil servant.
Mater and Pater don't need to be a police force, nor should they demand that the government police their children's web activity. They simply need to play an active role in educating their children about the pleasures and pitfalls of pornography and the internet as a cultural space.
It's like the give-a-man-a-fish/teach-a-man-to-fish argument. Keep your daughter in a bubble of ignorance and she'll be utterly screwed up when some nasty little brat shows them a Brazilian Fart Porn (© South Park) clip in the school toilets on his mobile phone, whereas a carefully-educated kid will understand the emotional, moral and social context and make wise choices. Duh!
But that's obviously too hard. So we'll get the Daily Mail to start a moral panic instead.