My Rex Harrison moment (with added porn filters)

Yes! Oh, yes! Oh, Yes!!! (Honest, we ARE talking “My Fair Lady” here, and not “When Harry met Sally”). But I do believe I’ve got it! By George, I’ve got it!

Finally, after putting the boot into the government again today on the abject muddy mess that is David Cameron’s input into the online porn debate, I can sort of see what they are on about: the outline of his great project. And once I’ve explained that, it will be time to unveil a project of my own.

The government view

The issue is this. There are different sorts of material out there. There is absolutely awful unlawful stuff, such as child abuse material.

There is lawful adult stuff. There is some unlawful adult stuff – though it is difficult to know, at the edges, what is and is not lawful, since adult stuff is covered by a range of different laws, including those on obscenity, “extreme porn” and video nasties – and these don’t all return the same result when asked whether or not the material in question is permitted.

There is adult stuff that is lawful at present, but which the government would like to make unlawful – depictions of rape, for one. And lastly, there is adult stuff that children manage to view, either completely accidentally or, as is the way with teenagers, after sneaking on to the family pc late at night and cruising for sexxx sites .

The government response so far is mostly about shouting and posturing. That’s not argument: that’s fact. They intend to pass a few laws to make some more things unlawful: and if their bogey of the day – the ISP’s and search engine companies – don’t impose their magic lantern solution of filters, they’ll huff and puff and blow their house down.

A practical perspective

What is missed in all of this is both the size of the problem and, when it comes to filtering, the fact that the government appears to have no idea either what it is demanding the public be signed up to, or how difficult it is to do the solution properly.

So here’s a few thoughts. Removal of child abuse images in the UK works fairly well through the unstinting efforts of the Internet Watch Foundation. They identify some 10,000 url’s a year, add them to their block list, and send police out to catch UK-based perpetrators. Their’s is a labour and money-intensive effort, but it delivers.

Even so, the underlying problem is not even scratched. Reliable sources suggest that in any given year, fewer than 2 in 100 users of such material are tracked, caught and prosecuted. The police haven’t the resources to catch them: we couldn’t lock up the 50,000-plus individuals involved if we did.

Figures for unlawful adult material are even more depressing (if you are on the government side of things). First, with around one-third of the UK population (17 million plus people) admitting to regularly accessing porn, the total prosecutions in any year for Obscenity, extremity (?) and video nastiness is pathetic – somewhere in the region of 3-4,000 (and that’s not counting acquittals) with a large proportion of those for bestiality. So either there’s not much nasty porn out there or…we’re already failing totally to do much about it with the resources on hand.

Interestingly, to those seeking to add yet more complicated offences to the statute books, prosecutions involving human on human sex do not have a brilliant success rate, because so much has to be shown and proven that juries often throw their hands up in despair and just acquit.

Filtering for fun (and other people’s profit)

Now let’s get back to the practical. Alongside tinkering with the law in respect of WHAT is to be banned, what unlawful to look at, the government are demanding filters to block this stuff and even, perhaps, flash up (ooer!) warning messages when someone tries to. As a spokesperson for Cameron’s No. 10 office explained a little huffily when I suggested the PM wanted filters to filter online porn, they are not saying that at all. Oh, no: they want filters to filter unlawful material. Wow!

Sadly, as I keep writing, the current state of filtering in the UK, is nowhere near the sophistication required to do this. Google safesearch, f’rinstance, will block searches containing “pussy”, “cock” or “Lolita”, while happily taking requests for “spit roasts” and “teabagging”. Basically, the government’s much vaunted drive towards filtering, which involves outsourcing filters to countries that so clearly share UK cultural values – like the US and China! – is based on truly amateur hour stuff.

Maybe not quite as bad as the techies who designed me a direct mail filter to eradicate “sex” – and promptly blocked the marketing computer from talking to Sussex, Middlesex, Essex, etc.. But getting there.

So, there are two out-takes from this. What the government wants is just not feasible when compared to the rsources they plan to throw at it. Compare and contrast the IWF – a massively well-resourced organisation relative to the job they do – with the pathetic mass filtering software that we are now having foist upon us at the behest of a technologically illiterate PM.

Second, its time we started to do what government will not: to look at the nuts and bolts of filters and what they contain:to evaluate; to take a look under the bonnet. Which is where we came in. I recommend to you my filtering project. It’s a fun game – or deadly serious attempt to evaluate just what government is proposing. Anyone can play. To start, just click here and let battle commence!

janexx

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About janefae

On my way from here to there
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One Response to My Rex Harrison moment (with added porn filters)

  1. they do seem to have heard of felching at safesearch central

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