The Best Internet Filter: Education – or – UK’s Cameron Major Mistake

zeefUK’s Prime Minister Cameron has been showing up in the IT news sections worldwide last week by approving the law that has people opt-out of a automatic online porn filter that their provider has to activate. Only by requesting that this filter is turned off will you be able to visit the raunchy side of the internet.

The cause is in theory noble – but even then only when viewed from the most shallow depths. The theory is that by providing this filter children will not be able to visit erotica online. Which is a horrible idea. I don’t mean the access that children might have to pornography, but the thought that this filter will actually have that effect.

Don’t get me wrong, I too think that the access to pornography on the web has become a little bit too easy.  And not only pornography, all kinds of inappropriate content. But here is the problem; it is my opinion. The reason why I think this, is because being a parent myself, I start to see it that way. But the filter is not providing any kind of solution; teaching is. And although I know this is a very tough thing to get through to a lot of other parents; but it is up to the parents to teach their children.

Using the internet without training is like driving a car without lessons. No matter how safe you will try to build a car, the chance of causing an accident is not the slightest bit lower. Safe driving comes from understanding what driving is, and that is built upon experience. If you do not have that experience yet, you have to learn that from someone who has the experience.

That is with everything where you deal with a wide open area where other people participate also. Where you deal with an area where people can do what they want, you cannot put in mandatory filtering. This is not ideology, it is plain logic.  I personally also don’t think pornography is the dangerous thing by itself. It is not understanding what it is and youngsters being uneducated that is the big problem. Ah, education.

I know there is all kinds of things on the internet that I have access to, that I absolutely have no desire to find, or simply am not interested in. I mentioned many times before my disapproval of piracy of movies and music online. Weird; I love movies and music and I can get them practically without any problems for free. Still, I don’t and pay a little bit each month to have almost unlimited access to music and movies. And I know there will be people complaining that I have the money to allow me that access; but come on… subscribing to three services cost me as much as 2 Venti cups at Starbucks each month. We are not talking about an arm and a leg here.

So I can find free content that I desire, still, I don’t get it. That is not a ‘look how good I am’, it is simply making an educated decision for myself. Anyone can do it. Someone else can make a very educated decision to actually perform piracy, which, to be honest, is that person’s good right.

I am not being a saint here, I surf for porn just as much as the next guy (and yes, you, next guy, don’t talk like you don’t search for it too 😉 ) and it is a personal thing. I like what I like, you like what you like… and the last thing you want is a provider openly owning a filter that by law has to store what you are searching for so that it can filter the contents of the web. The problem here is the word ‘openly’. We all know that surfing behavior is stored, Google, Microsoft and any other search engine is storing search requests. But with this mandatory filter it is different. In the UK the government now requires providers to hold a list of people who search for pornography.

That is what this means. Because, in the opinion of the UK government, everyone by default should not have access to pornography online. If you want to, you can call to your provider and have you being put on the list of people who don’t want that filter. Or, in other words, you are telling openly to your provider that you, Mr. XYZ, want to see pornography. Well, enjoy your internet, sir!

That is the biggest problem; this open registration form that lists everyone that says they want to enjoy pornography.

Now, I am raised in a liberal country, where we simply know that practically everyone has an interest in erotica in some way or another. Some love it more than others. But if it is so bad, and so many people, may it be from religion or any other ideology, don’t want to visit pornography on the internet, why don’t they not surf for it? Why don’t churches educate their flock how to surf safely on the internet, just like we parents have to teach our children.

The worst part for me is still that everyone keeps mentioning pornography, while nobody talks about filtering way more dangerous content or the possibility to filter stores that sell weapons, or deliver dangrous content for way worse things online.

I honestly don’t care if my search provider stores my search queries for erotic searches online. Worse, with knowing how technology works, storing search queries and placing them in the right context, the search results become much more correct. That is how search engines work and why search engines work so much better these days than they did 10 years ago. But there is no reason why my internet provider needs to have this information of what I want to look for or not. And worse of all, that the government has openly access to.

Again the word ‘openly’. Sure, here in the US the government might know by use of PRISM or RAPTOR that I might surf for erotica online… and again, I don’t care. It happens in more secrecy than that I surf for the stuff. It is that suddenly it is known to the public that there is this national register of people, with their name, address, that like to surf for erotica. Which is stupid.

If the filtering is the big thing, the UK could have ordered that with every internet connection comes a locally install-able filter that you can decide to use or not. Not central filtering, it is none of the governments concern what people might have access to. If they want to ban it… make it illegal. If it is not illegal, don’t filter it.

Simple.

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