In Britain, Be Ready to Say Buh-Bye to Porn or Declare You Want It

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Monday that if you want those naked moving images, you've got to say it. In what is being called "most dramatic step by the government to crack down on the 'corroding' influence of pornography on childhood," Britain plans to make it so that every person must tell their internet provider whether or not they want to have access to pornography on their computers and smartphones.

Yes, much like when flying from country to country you must make it clear that you have brought contraband smelly cheeses in your bag, lest the wrath of customs be faced, the sex lives of British people are about to become fraught with tension and intrigue. Cameron says parental controls will become the norm, and any customer that does want to have the option to see porn will have to "un-tick" a box. His administration is also ramping up the power that the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has to go into those dark corners of the web where child abuse and pornography live and make arrests, they'll be blocking porn access on public wifi and making it so that these filters go live on all new cell phones. Here's an excerpt from Cameron's speech:

I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. My argument is that the internet is not a side-line to 'real life’ or an escape from 'real life’; it is real life. It has an impact: on the children who view things that harm them, on the vile images of abuse that pollute minds and cause crime, on the very values that underpin our society.

One columnist for the Guardian said the plan made "it clear that Cameron's war or porn is propaganda masquerading as policy," writing that it's "buck-passing on our part, asking our internet providers to somehow stem the unending tide, rather than face the need for some frank and very un-British conversations." For Americans, this choice couldn't come at a more security versus privacy-charged time: with the looming threat of PRISM, the fixation on how much information our tech companies – and therefore our government – has about us is a very real concern.

Under the new British regime, it seems like everyone's service provider could technically tell whoever they wanted which households have declared that they want to watch porn; as of right now, there's no indication that any of this information will be protected. Of course, they could do this before as well, but the information was buried deeper, in logs of search histories, not labeled as a box on an account: Doe, John. 123 Main Street. Porn-watcher.

For Cameron and his administration, the crack down isn't just about child porn: he says that "These images normalise sexual violence against women – and they are quite simply poisonous to the young people who see them." For these words, he's getting support from anti-rape activists. But he also had harsh comments for the very tech companies that, in the United States, have been on the receiving end of endless amounts of criticism for both their censoring of data and their sharing of personal information:

You're the people who have worked out how to map almost every inch of the Earth from space; who have developed algorithms that make sense of vast quantities of information. Set your greatest brains to work on this. You are not separate from our society, you are part of our society, and you must play a responsible role in it.

Less newspaper and more "publication that advocates erratically and when it feels like it" The Daily Mail for one is taking these developments as a huge coup; they've been particularly focused on stopping sexual assaults that were, in trial, revealed to have been foreshadowed by internet search histories. But as this is as close to a blanket ban on porn as you'll get these days, it creates the notion that pornography is just a uniform mass of terrible content, one with some stuff that's slightly better than others. Cameron wants to stop children from finding porn, he wants to stop pedophiles from sharing it, and he wants to stop everyone from being able to look at porn that shows women being raped or attacked. It should be noted that he won't be banning Page 3, The Sun's topless women's section, saying it was "better to leave it to the consumer" to decide whether they want to buy the publication, because that is "an issue of personal choice."

Unfortunately for Cameron, this honest attempt to better society is actually just coming across as ineffective censorship. As the internet (and the world) gets bigger and badder, it's likely that governments all over will continue with porn crack downs and data sharing because a bad guy could be at every laptop. And unfortunately for them, telling someone they can't have something never made any one stop wanting it.

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