The government yesterday announced its intention to run a consultation into reducing the ability for under 18s to access pornography. Whilst sounding noble in aim, any implementation is most likely to be based around credit card verification and blocking of sites which are found to be non-compliant. This is a problematic strategy. Most adult orientated sites are overseas based and have little interest in a UK specific law. Larger, commercially focussed sites will adapt to accommodate the changed market, but small producers, and free sites – many supporting minority sexual interests and providing support and knowledge networks alongside adult material – will face prohibitive costs.
ISP blocking remains trivially circumventable – many browser plugins have sprung into existence following rulings instructing ISPs to block filesharing sites which offer one-click avoidance of the problem. Such blocks are therefore effective only against the technologically unsavvy. We think that’s more likely to be parents than children, and so the end result is covert browsing patterns hidden from parents eyes, and a reduction in parents ability to act responsibly..
A more worrying thought, is that anyone found deliberately circumventing a government mandated block, who then inadvertently downloads material found in contravention of the “Extreme Pornography” law, might have that circumvention used as evidence in determining culpability.