The Government’s porn block idea is being laughed at by the tech generation.

 

Alex Deane, the Head of Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick, looked red in the face on yesterday’s #SkyPapers when he criticised David Cameron and Claire Perry’s plans to block pornography in households unless there is an opt-in submission to have access.

He was of course right: if we are genuinely concerned about the problems that pornography is causing young people then it is a family issue to control – not a role for the state to police.

But that’s irrelevant, because using the moral argument can only get you so far in our sorry state of contemporary British Politics. What is not irrelevant is that this policy announcement does not have a hope in hell of being successful.

If you’re slightly savvy with a computer you would have heard about web proxies. A proxy server is an invisible filter that acts as an intermediary between a user’s computer and the Internet so that the individual or business can ensure security, administrative control, and caching service – or anonymity.

With a few clicks on a search engine, you can use a proxy which is based in the Cayman Islands, India, or Japan to search for anything with a hidden IP address. And, to put it bluntly, there is nothing the government can do to stop you from accessing any site you wish  – including pornography.

To see how hard it is to block off the internet, we need to look across to the UAE, where restrictions are put in place on pornography and gambling. I worked as a Journalist in Bahrain last year, and from my time spent in the UAE, I know from first hand experience that many people living there use proxies to play online poker, for example. States are trying, but are failing, to block off the web.

Christina Patterson, Alex Deane’s ‘opponent’ on Sky Papers, argued that only a minority of people will know about proxies, and therefore the government’s plan would work. She was in a sense correct: Britain has taken quite a liberal approach to internet freedom, and as such, users have no reason to use a proxy as the vast majority of the internet is free to see. So of course, to begin with, only a minority will be aware of blocked website bypassing techniques – but that will soon change when the state realises that all men watch porn. Even so, when it comes to the children – the very people who this policy is supposed to protect – how long do we think it will be before one computer savvy kid in each school finds out how to use a proxy, and then the entire school knows? It really is not very difficult to do.

A recent example in music pirating shows how easy it is: Earlier this year, the High Court declared that internet blocks were to be put in place on KickassTorrents, Fenopy and H33T – due to illegal music sharing. What is interesting is that traffic on those websites did not drop massively even with the blocks in place.

Companies such as BT, Sky, Virgin Media, O2, EE, and TalkTalk were told by the court to block subscriber access to KickassTorrents, Fenopy and H33T, and when they did so, users immediately searched for alternative methods to enter these websites. One notable example was the sudden surge in people searching for “KickassTorrents proxy” through Google, which will supply you with a wealth of proxies through which you can access the website. And an even more extreme example is that of PirateBay, which saw its traffic increase after blocks were put in place.

Methods have been introduced by governments to remove proxy servers across the internet – for obvious reasons. So if you are having trouble accessing KickassTorrents, or whatever it may be, you can use come.in, which is a website dedicated to providing the latest and most up to date proxy servers to these sorts of websites.

It is naïve that the government believes it can regulate the internet; it is far too open to ever be curtailed. A fantastic example which proves this is the black market economy, of which the notorious Silk Road website is a major player. Silk Road is essentially an underground Ebay website – but you cannot access it via Google, and the government seemingly cannot do anything about it either.

Silk Road lets users purchase drugs of almost any source – even heroin – anonymously. The company produced $22 million in sales in 2012. These transactions are performed using Bitcoin and sellers are given a recommendation rating like they might receive on Ebay. You can have MDMA sent to your house – and it is practically impossible to stop.

Examples like these highlight the flawed agenda of the government. Cameron and Perry’s plans to regulate households is not a role for the government, it is immoral that the state should assume the role of the parent in a family environment, but what’s more is that this policy will fall flat on its face. It cannot work. It is completely redundant and will damage the government’s credibility as a lawmaker when it inevitably fails – and the tech generation knows it too.

24 COMMENTS

  1. […] The IWF report follows in the wake of David Cameron’s recent proposal for a nationwide Internet pornography block, which will be applied to UK homes by default and will require users to specifically opt-out should they wish to access filtered content. The government’s plans have come under fire from the tech community however, who have argued such a block would be easy to bypass, even by those it is intended to protect. […]

  2. Well OBVIOUSLY, right? Obviously, they’ll just have to prevent Google from allowing people to include the word ‘proxy’ in their searches!

    Google is the only search engine, right?

  3. I’m not a kid anymore, far past it, and I have no problem accessing anything I want…and my children can do it even faster. Can you imagine how quickly their children can? Even the torch browser, a regular chromium based browser comes with a site unblocker as part of the setup these days. Not like Tor, but not too far from it when you think about it. The future only points in one direction here, and clearly the English government is facing the wrong way.

  4. This is lunacy. If David Cameron had done even a shred of research, he’d know full well that a porn block would be near impossible in this day and age.

  5. Once the teenagers are pushed into proxy land there’s no telling what kinds of nasty filth they’ll come across that they wouldn’t on the open web.

  6. Similarly, it is primary school stuff to listen in to many people’s voicemails, but only News International’s journalists bothered. Really? No-one at the Mirror? No-one at the Grauniad? Reeeally?

  7. When I heard Cameron talking about ISP’s ‘rewiring’ it was obvious he’s a man out of his depth, trying to bluff his way around a subject he clearly has no understanding of.

  8. How would ‘blocking’ work with users of BT Fon? Would the access to adult content be dictated by the person logging-in or by the person owning the router?

    By all means stop kiddy porn, but by catching the sods rather than trying to censor the web. All too nanny state for me; why oh why did come back to this country.

  9. In addition to blocking the more obvious sites porn is available on Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr, just use the search term MILF for starters. So will these sites also be blocked?

  10. I’m 62 and self taught on the PC but don’t know a lot of the too techy stuff, but immediately I heard this today I pointed out the exact same point with the proxy servers. My point is, if I know this, then kids who are sharp and savvy will know it in no time.

      • Another example of how non-techy people can find out about proxies/Tor when they need to would be the way almost every expat’s computer is rigged to get round the BBC’s location check for iPlayer.

  11. Too right, they can’t control something which is ever changing and ever moving. They move too slow. Tech revolution will hurt governments more than they care to think.

  12. I agree; it’s completely naive to say that only a minority of people will know about proxy servers. Especially as that ‘minority’ will largely include young adults. Who, indecent child images aside, it is argued porn is the most damaging for.

  13. I’ve been waiting for someone to mention this, the whole policy is rammed with ill conceived farce.

    • Yeah, but it’s a ‘sound bite’ to show the plebs that he is ‘doing something’. Or more like show the stupid MSM that he is ‘doing something’.

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