Why David Cameron’s war on internet porn doesn’t make sense

The prime minister is looking at porn. For research purposes, of course. He’s not sitting in cabinet meetings peeking under the table at a looped three-second clip of a woman’s bra falling off that Michael Gove e-mailed to him by mistake. He is looking for a way he can pretend to be fighting it. He wants to declare himself the first prime minister to win the war on online porn. And, according to a letter leaked to the BBC last week, he reckons he has found one: default-on.

Default-on is a system whereby internet service providers block access to pornographic images as standard, unless the customer opts out of the filters. In the eyes of certain newspapers, it is the silver bullet solution to the problem of kids watching pornography. But, for various reasons, most of the major ISPs are not up for asking their customers: Do you want porn with that? They have negotiated with the government and agreed on a system called Active Choice + in which customers opt in for filters, rather than out for falling bras. The system gives new users a choice at installing filters, and existing customers the option of switching to safer browser modes. The default setting remains filter-free.

The leaked letter, sent to leading ISPs from the Department for Education, makes it clear that Cameron’s war or porn is propaganda masquerading as policy. It suggests: Without changing what you will be offering (ie active-choice +), the prime minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions [as] ‘default-on’. It is a sleight-of-hand worthy of the Ministry of Truth, a move from the “Let’s not and say we did!” school of regulation.

It raises the question: where else does Cameron use this line? Do his aides write to Starbucks, Google and Amazon to ask that, without changing what they are doing (avoiding paying billions in tax), they find a way for him to refer to this as “paying billions in tax”? Do they ask tobacco firms if, without ditching branded packaging, they could find a way for Dave to pretend they have? Has he ever asked George Osborne if he can refer to him as not George Osborne? — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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