Opt-In Censorship: An Equally Dodgy Online Alternative

Communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy last week reminded us that internet filtering is still very much an item on the government's agenda. That's a worrying prospect, but it could be worse: the UK is contemplating a plan where access to all adult content would be 'opt in', with adult material blocked by internet service providers (ISPs) unless customers specifically ask for it to be switched on.

The plan, being pushed by UK prime minister David Cameron, hasn't yet been formally presented to ISPs, and is likely to meet significant resistance when it is. Whatever the good intentions, it doesn't take a genius to spot the many obvious flaws in this plan. Who maintains a list of "adult" content? What happens if content ends up on that list by default? Where does the line get drawn? Will the Sun's infamous page 3 girls be banned? And does any of it matter when setting up a VPN or using other privacy technologies to dodge the whole shebang is relatively straightforward?

Ultimately, opt-in seems just as bad as existing filtering proposals, with the added nastiness of creating a much larger blacklist (itself open to manipulation and abuse). Here's hoping the plan doesn't surface in the UK, and that it doesn't give Mr Conroy any ideas.

Pornography online: David Cameron to consider 'opt in' plan [The Guardian]

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    From memory the education department handles this kind of scenario very poorly, one can only assume that this reflects on the rest of the government's ability as well.

    It's very misleading to call it opt-in censorship, since it's actually opt-out censorship.

      completely agree! how can it be opt in if your requesting them not to do something?

    I can't wait for the phone calls to ISPs to start.

    "Umm, hello, Yes, I would like to watch some creepy fetish porn, can you switch off my block...?"

    looks like it's time to draft up a letter to my ISP stating that if they implement conjobs "save the children" censorship and enforce it on me, ill be leaving them as a client. I'm a single white male with a high disposable income, i have the power not some religious nutjob.

    why is 'opt-in' or 'opt-out' worse than what we are getting here, correct me if I am wrong but labours Orwellian plan involves compulsory censorship with a secret list of sites blacklisted so we wont know what we are not allowed to see. It seems to me if you have to have a internet filter and optional one is better than compulsory. By the way the current filter proposed proposed by our government makes me sick to my stomach, reminds me that we only have the illusion of freedom in Australia, there is no laws protecting freedom of speech or expression.

      This is not a filter blocking "illegal" content though, it's a filter blocking all adult content, so it would most likely be used in addition to a compulsory filter.

        The filter is not something it meant to be, it's something based on what it does. If there's no transparency on the working mechanism and no third party auditing on stuffs it blocks, I don't see any difference with the Chinese GFW.

    Ya it's very similar to elections. Which thief manager do you want to vote to exploit you ?

    Personally, I •••• every time I read another ••••• article about some ••••••• •••••••• who wants to control what I do and don't ••••••••• on the web. I •••••• and •••••• about ••••••••• •••• •••••••• is dangerous, and to think that we •••••••••• ••••••••• •••• ••• ••••••••• ••• ••••••••••. When •••••••••• •••••••• ••••••••• •••• ••• •• ••••••••••••, •••••••••• •••• ••••••. •••••••• •••••• •••• •• ••• •••• ••••• •• ••••• •••• ••. Censorship •••••••• ••••••••• ••• •••••••• •••••• •••••••• ••••• •••••••••• ••••••• ••••••• •••• ••••••• ••• •••••• •••• our freedoms.

    Ugh. I see this going WONDERFULLY in family court.

    'Why do you believe you should have full custody of your children?'
    'My ex Husband is a filthy porn consumer, you can see here that he's opted in to filth!'
    'Is this true Mr Ex Husband?'
    'Your honour, my children are not permitted to use my computer or internet connection. The computer is secured by biometric security (a finger print scanner) and a strong password and the network device is secured by MAC restrictions to prevent other devices from being connected.'
    'But you watch pornography?'
    'Never while the children are in the house your honour, but unfortunately my work as a medical imaging technician requires sometimes examining medical imagery of mamograms which is restricted by the filters. My only option to access this content should I be required to urgently review a patient's file from home is to opt out of the filters'.
    'And you chose to continue this vile past time despite the fact that you have children sir?'
    'I have attempted to change career your honour, but my ex wife sued me when my income decreased as a result and claimed that I had reduced my income to avoid my obligations for child support. I was forced to return to a more highly paid career in this field in order to continue to pay the cost of my children's education and the child support requirements beyond those costs, as no allowances were made for my changed circumstances.'
    'In light of this heinous character flaw and your obsession with filth and smut, this court has no alternative but to grant full custody of your children to your ex wife, may god have mercy on your villainous soul.'

    And if you don't think that's how it would go down, I invite you to check out some family court proceedings. I might be slightly exaggerating, but really only slightly.

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