I’ve touched on this before, and it seems worth a revisit: in a week where The Pirate Bay has been blocked by Virgin Media, and discussion of an opt-in for Internet porn has resurfaced, and people who don’t understand have made themselves look uncharacteristically foolish (via The Register), it seems worthwhile to explore a few things.
This is going to be a mix of my opinions, and technical facts. The tech I know about: I’m sysadmin for a medium-sized business: I know how web filters, DNS, and routing works. I know about tunnelling, VPNs, and proxies, but I rpomise not too go too deep into the tech.
To set out my opinions: the Internet should not be censored by ISPs or the goverment for two reasons: first of all, it’s wrong. It might be porn or copyrighted material today, but it could be your political beliefs or anything else deemed unnacceptable tomorrow.
Secondly, it doesn’t work. Technically, it doesn’t work, because techies will find a way round it by use of a VPN, SSH tunnel, or anonymous proxy. Once the techies do it, they’ll distribute knowledge or tools on how to.
It also doesn’t work on another level. How do you define porn, for example? As The Register points out, is this site porn, or is it OK because it’s educational and produced by Channel 4? If we’re talking about electronic distribution, is this little lot OK, because there’s no pictures?
What level of nudity and/or sexual activity is OK?
Children have always had access to porn: stashes of magazines, their dad’s videos, etc. People need to get a grip and do some parenting, instead of devolving things to their ISP or the government.
Moving away from porn, The Pirate Bay, it should be noted, didn’t actually host any copyrighted material, just links to filesharing of that material, which also makes it a dodgy target.
I guess what really annoys me is this: this is blaming a transport medium. I have one expectation of my ISP: I don’t want “value added content” or crappy customised search pages. I want them to route packets of data, correctly, and unfiltered, without having to opt-in. Let us not forget that in the 1950s ‘saucy postcards’ were banned (and their creator found guilty under the Obscene Publications Act…, so can we really trust a government to be our moral guardian, or perhaps we should start burning books now.
Will someone please think of the children?