Opinion: The UK government wants to control porn viewing habits

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The British government has already won the power to record everything we access on the internet. Now it wants to have a say over what we are and aren't allowed to look at online.

The Digital Economy Bill currently moving through Parliament will require commercial pornographic websites (including advertising-supported "free" sites) to check the age of users, effectively creating a pornography register. This issue isn't new: the recently passed Investigatory Powers Bill already means it will soon be impossible to visit a porn site (or any website) without someone having a record of it.

But the latest bill raises another issue because it would also ban online access to imagery of many forms of "unconventional" sexual activity. It threatens not only our right to privacy but also our right to view legal and consensual but less mainstream sexual acts. And the test for what acts we would be allowed to watch would be based on a law dating back to 1959.

The aim of the bill is ostensibly to prevent children from accessing pornography. Age verification may be defendable if it could be done without submitting sensitive information. But it seems likely that it will involve registering a credit card with pornography platforms, increasing the number of sources holding information about our online viewing habits. This would create another point of weakness that could easily be exploited by hackers to capture details or to blackmail those registered to porn platforms.

What's unconventional?

The bill would also give the power to decide what pornographic we can and can't watch to the notoriously straight laced British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). This body, which sets the age certificates for films, would be able to investigate, fine – up to £250,000 or 5% of turnover – and potentially block websites that allow access to images and videos deemed obscene. This would have the effect of preventing adults from viewing sexual acts that are otherwise legal to engage in.

The BBFC's current pornographic R18 category is reserved for explicit works that contain consensual sex or more extreme fetish material involving adults. This sounds broad but the body's list of unacceptable content includes material where adults role-play as non-adults, acts that could cause pain whether real or simulated, and strong verbal abuse, even if consensual.

The most consternation comes from the fact that the BBFC's decisions are based in part on what is judged obscene under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. This act is well-recognised as out-of-date and difficult to interpret. Prosecutions under the act have demonstrated that the public conception of what amounts to obscene behaviour is notoriously difficult to pin down. When the Crown Prosecution Service confidently prosecuted Michael Peacock in 2012 for producing DVDs featuring urination, fisting and sadomasochism, the jury found him not guilty – effectively finding that these acts were not obscene.

Yet the CPS list of acts that may be suitable for prosecution still include sadomasochistic material which results in more than minor injury, bondage, perversion or degradation (including drinking urine and coprophilia) and fisting. For prosecutions under the Obscene Publications Act it would be for a jury to use their own common sense to determine whether the materials were obscene. Yet now it seems this guidance will be used to decide what pornographic materials would be accessible in the first place.

Unless they cause actual bodily harm, sexual acts such as fisting, bondage or other forms of "perversion" are perfectly legal for consensual adults to engage in. So why should we be prevented from viewing them performed by other people in the privacy of our own homes? Why should the moral judgements of the BBFC based on a law from the 1950s echo across the internet?

Article 10 of the Human Rights Act guarantees the right of freedom of expression and any interference with it must be justified and proportionate. The government believes the overarching aim of protecting children from viewing these materials can be used to defend . But it won't prevent web-savvy teenagers from accessing pornographic material. And it cannot justify preventing adults from watching less mainstream forms of porn.

This bill has been poorly thought out and intrudes too far on the rights of adults to consume images of perfectly legal sexual acts. Couching it in the rhetoric of child protection may give it social credence but this is yet another step too far in monitoring our online life.


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Nov 24, 2016
Oh, my, now we will have official government perverts deciding what we can and cannot watch. Just what we need.

Can I have the job? I will make sure to turn it on the government folk and the bluenoses themselves.

It's for their own good.

Nov 24, 2016
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
now we will have official government perverts deciding what we can and cannot watch. Just what we need
1- you do realise there are already laws against certain types of porn, right?
even in the US

you can watch whatever you want whenever you want (and we've seen your computer... you really should pay attention to this)... but if you get caught with certain types of porn on your computer, hard drive or history, even if it's just the link to the site, it is illegal and you can be prosecuted for various crimes

2- you do realise that you're history on the internet is already recorded, right?
never mind - forgot we were talking about super-jeenyous here: no, you didn't know your ISP knows your history

Nov 24, 2016
I can't see how the British government can tell a Russian porn site that they have to ask for age verification! How small a percentage of the porn industry is actually based in Britain? Bugger all would be my guess.
As for the government having access to what you actually view - only if you want them to. Tor browser still exists, as does Opera Developer, which has an inbuilt VPN. Handy if you want to use a site like Pirate Bay when using public wi-fi.

The less the buggers know, the better, in my view.

Nov 24, 2016
"you can watch whatever you want whenever you want (and we've seen your computer... you really should pay attention to this)... but if you get caught with certain types of porn on your computer, hard drive or history, even if it's just the link to the site, it is illegal and you can be prosecuted for various crimes"
--------------------------------------

Oh, you saw my computer? Tell me more.

While Acting Foreperson on the grand jury, I had to sign the federal criminal indictment for one of those unfortunate souls who came into this country after those laws were changed. The stuff is disgusting, and I could not view the examples, but the sanctions of having it are draconian.

Now, let's get back to your bragging how you "saw" my computer.

Nov 24, 2016
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
While Acting Foreperson on the grand jury
irrelevant and OT diversion from your ignorance of the law
Now, let's get back to your bragging how you "saw" my computer
irrelevant OT diversion from your ignorance of the law

part one:
1- check out your local and federal laws on porn and what constitutes illegal activity

2- zoophilia is illegal in CA ( § 286.5)

3- other types of porn are illegal as well, from pedophilia to rape to snuff

4- the age of consent per the state/fed law applies, not the site/country you use

Part two:
you still didn't know your ISP logs your history?
really?

that speaks volumes ...

Oh, and per your request...

Nov 24, 2016
I can't see how the British government can tell a Russian porn site that they have to ask for age verification
@jonesdave
not sure they can - but they can lock out servers who don't comply with local laws of the nation until it's replaced (does russia have laws regarding age of consent?)

i think they are pushing for a stronger way to prosecute and lock out the offending sites
and potentially block websites that allow access to images and videos deemed obscene. This would have the effect of preventing adults from viewing sexual acts that are otherwise legal to engage in.
of course, as you point out, that won't stop certain VPN's or things like TOR from being used

not sure how they will enforce it either... maybe this is like the blue laws still on the books in the US WRT sex and cohabitation: used to make some other crimes like rape, spouse abuse etc sentences longer ?

Nov 24, 2016
@jonesdave
i should have checked first...sorry
i remember the age of consent being very low in russia, but here are the facts
The Age of Consent in Russia is 16 years old.
https://www.ageof...d/russia

it used to be 14
Friday, Jun. 28, 2002. Page 4
Duma Votes to Raise Age of Consent to 16 ...
The age of consent for sex would be raised from 14 to 16
http://www.ageofc...ssia.htm

locking out a server is only a temp solution anyway - and considering TOR and anonymizers, etc... pretty much useless
The less the buggers know, the better, in my view.
TRUTH!

personally, i'm not a fan of big gov't... i know we need certain things (cops/fire, infrastructure, etc) but i also know it's dangerous to freedoms (like the recent SCOTUS finding on the 5th Amend.)

Nov 24, 2016
Let's get back to the bragging that you "saw" my computer. Prove it, or admit you are a liar.

What kind of character haunts your Id? I think you are really trying to hide from yourself.

Nov 24, 2016
@Captain,
The age of consent may be 16 in Russia, as it is in the UK. However, at least as far as the UK is concerned (and the US, and other countries), everything has to be 18+ in porn. I found a long winded thread on this some time ago, when I was looking up the history of page 3 girls in the UK. It must have been when The Sun stopped doing them. Samantha Fox was 16 at the time she appeared, and other girls were under 18 as well. However, 16 was legal at the time (early 80s). Technically, if you downloaded those same images today, or scanned and uploaded them, you would be liable to prosecution! Strange old world - you can have sex at 16, but god forbid you should get your boobs out online at that age!
My only worries are around file sharing sites, and scientific papers obtained through less than legal channels! Opera with VPN, and DNSCrypt running should keep me safe from a knock at the door!

Nov 24, 2016
With a new president who lets others call his developing daughter a "piece of ass", we may expect to see things loosen up. And we will have a First Lady who has already shown the entire world her naked ass.

Real class ahead, folks.

Nov 24, 2016
everything has to be 18+ in porn
@Jonesdave
yeah, i know...
Strange old world - you can have sex at 16, but god forbid you should get your boobs out online at that age!
always thought that a mite strange myself...
My only worries are around file sharing sites, and scientific papers obtained through less than legal channels!
this is my biggest threat (my family calls science my "porn"... 'cause that is about all i ever do - research and read . LOL)
Opera with VPN, and DNSCrypt running should keep me safe from a knock at the door!
using TOR mostly

.

@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
Prove it
already did
more to the point: you threatened litigation - you will have all that evidence when you file for Discovery
you said you talked to a lawyer
I contacted a lawyer
http://phys.org/news/2016-04-light-powered-d-printer-terahertz-lens.html

they should have already told you that one

so per your request...

Nov 24, 2016
Samantha Fox was 16 at the time she appeared, and other girls were under 18 as well
@jonesdave
i think i remember that... i was in GE at the time
can you remember the thread? was it on PO?
or are we talking newsgroups?
LOL
you can have sex at 16, but god forbid you should get your boobs out online at that age!
funny thing: it's illegal to take pics too... as well as considered child porn in my area

made the news here recently

Nov 24, 2016
@Captain,
No it definitely wasn't on PO! It was some time ago, could have been a newspaper comments section, or a porn forum that I 'stumbled' upon!

Yep, taking and possessing pictures is also 'dodgy' for under 18s. There was a case some time back where a guy had been arrested for having a book by an 'artistic' photographer. The girls were well under 18, but the judge threw it out. I believe the book was available in the UK through a reputable bookseller!
Found the link: http://www.telegr...ops.html

Nov 25, 2016
And we will have a First Lady who has already shown the entire world her naked ass.

Oh, can you send me the link for this gskamp?

Nov 25, 2016
Have you not seen the pics? Just google them. She shows her fine cheeks to us while posing on an airplane wing as a secret agent in a thong - just like the real ones.

Then there are the recently-released ones she did illegally while on a tourist visa - boobs galore.

here:

http://www.gq-mag...rections

Nov 25, 2016
How nice to see that Gkam fulfills his natural duties as the porn resource for Phys.org.

Nov 25, 2016
Something for everyone, even you.

And if you think that was porn, tell it to the First Lady-elect.

Nov 25, 2016
Thats what all the pornographers say.

Nov 25, 2016
Really? How many do you know?

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