back to article UK kids' charity lobbies hard for 'opt-in' web smut access

The founder of British charity ChildLine is calling on the government to take a hardline approach against what some consider to be hardcore pornography online - by enforcing an opt-in system for adults to protect kids from being traumatised by the images. Esther Rantzen said in an opinion piece published in the Daily Mail - …

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Anonymous Coward

Down to the parents....

to monitor and restrict their children on the internet. My supplier (Virgin somewhat ironically in the context) gives out free parental control software, so there is no excuse.

Since "sexting" is on the go, should mobiles not be restricted for children?

And what about the fact that all the supermarkets are now flogging "mummy" porn next to the cornflakes, or is that OK cos it is not the internet? And it's written for women not men. Cant see Asda and Tescos placing copies of Fanny Hill next to the checkouts somehow.

All this proposed censorship and state sponsored nannying cos parents shirk their responsibilities irritates, me, as well as this whole "internet is evil" crap....

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Re: Down to the parents....

So, logically, you would take the position that parents who shirk this responsibility should be held liable for any "damage" to their offspring that results from their "negligence" in failing to set up suitable internet filtering. Next stop, a country where you can end up on the sexual offenders register and have your kids taken away for not ticking the right boxes when you set up your internet connection.

Rightly or wrongly, I get the impression that on the subject of spam and viruses, ISPs get a hard time from these forums for their failure to set up ISP-level spam and virus filters for the benefit of customers who don't know how to do it themselves. However, and quite conversely, they also get a hard time whenever they suggest setting up ISP-level porn filters for the benefit of the same customers.

Given the widespread use of spam to install viruses that are then used to support distributed porn nets, this is ironic. Doubly so when you consider that the El Reg readership is probably more aware than most of the link between the two issues.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Down to the parents....

Damage to offspring?

What damage would be caused by a child seeing people have sex?

Maybe some of the more extreme stuff would disturb them, but I doubt they would find that by accident!

And yes it IS parents responsibility, if your child sees something that disturbs them, then I hope they know they can talk to you about it...

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FAIL

Re: Down to the parents....

@Ken Hagan - "Next stop, a country where you can end up on the sexual offenders register and have your kids taken away for not ticking the right boxes when you set up your internet connection."

And what, precisely, is wrong with this? You'll get in deep kaka if you don't ensure your kids are properly belted in a car. There's more do-do if you don't ensure your kids go to school. If you don't keep the booze under control and let your kids start necking slammers, you'll be up to your neck in it. Rinse and repeat.

Why is the Internet any different?

Because it is a "computer" and computers are big-n-scary and people don't know how they work? No excuse. If you are going to let your kids loose on something, you better have at least a passing knowledge of:

1) Do they need protected? and

2) How to protect them.

If kids start seeing porn on the house PC, the parents have no one to blame but themselves. If they don't understand, they can either learn or hire someone who does. Ignorance is no excuse.

There are two main differences between SPAM, malware and porn.

1) SPAM is an irritant at best, an attack on the recipient's naivety at worst and a strain on the ISP

2) Malware is an outright attack and may result in a strain on the ISP (e.g. DDOS zombie)

Porn is just yet another piece of content and getting at the content is what people pay for. It is not up to the ISP to censor or restrict people, only to protect itself and SPAM or malware really fall into that remit. This, of course, does not alleviate the responsibility of people to know what they are doing. We would have less SPAM and malware issues if people were not so monumentally ignorant and knew basics like "What's a file extension?", "Don't execute random guff off the interwebs", "What's a security update?" etc.

"support distributed porn nets" what the hell are you talking about? If you mean porn-bait sites used to distribute malware, that's one thing and I'm fine with an ISP blocking those. But not blocking porn (or pretty much anything else) in general.

Furthermore, we must consider the unintended consequences of the "opt-in" list. When that gets leaked to the press, how do you think people are going to feel when the gutter rags splash "Internet Perv Joe Miggins is Primary School Neighbour"? Not well at all.

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Re: Down to the parents....

@AC 09:20 - A good comment, but why AC? Hey ho.

"What damage would be caused by a child seeing people have sex?"

Because the parents don't want to have to answer questions that they are uncomfortable with due to the dogma of their chosen sky-fairy cult.

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JDX
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What damage would be caused by a child seeing people have sex?

Porn isn't [real] sex.

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Re: Down to the parents....

@The BigYin 11.54

I was going to write a reply, but you have quite eloquently already covered pretty much and more of what I would have said so a simple upvote should suffice on this occasion.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Down to the parents....

Isn't it surprising how the comments fall into two particular groups, those that have children and those that do not.

For those that do not I suggest that you make your comments when you do have them, they will be more relevant.

As a parent myself, it is up to me to deal with this, whether I put parental controls on the Internet, or discuss the issues with my children and help to make them responsible choices, it is still up to me.

I do not need nannying by the state, being told what I can or cannot do. For those irresponsible parents, they don't need to be nannied, they need to be trained in how to be parent, but that too would have to be defined.

Once given the tools, they can then make choices.

I do not need some mumsnet middle class goody two shoes parent lobbiest forcing through an unenforceable law.

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Megaphone

Re: Down to the parents....

Folks, remember to add your voices to combat the whitewash of a consultation.

Although keep in mind the original questionnaire had such travesties as (paraphrased) "Do you think everyone's connection should be censored, or just those of the people who live with children? Tick the box of which one below."

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Re: Down to the parents....

@Glen 1 - Closed questions like that are common and should render the consultation null-and-void. It's a travesty that it is so easy for government to manipulate democracy in this manner.

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Re: Down to the parents....

Well.. The solution is obvious then.. Ban the sky fairy cults.

Think of the amount of confusion that would save. The amount of children who would never be traumatised.

Not to mention the sheer spiteful joy of watching them try to argue around the "think of the children" meme.

Seriously though..

The whole sex information approach is the only practical workable solution. But it can never be applied as long as religious groups "preserve the innocence" of children.

Make it mandatory, Make it impossible to qualify as a school unless it is taught PROPERLY. And make it an offence similar to truancy if the kids do not get taught it.

Within a generation, family child molestation (a real and serious problem) will disappear. Uncle Tony will be serving a stretch for touching his nephew in a way that really is unacceptable. Not just taking a photo of the kid in pair of swimming trunks in the back garden.

Teenage pregnancy will be down.

Children will not be traumatised by boobies.

People will have a much healthier attitude to sex.

Where is the down side?

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Re: Down to the parents....

"And what, precisely, is wrong with this? You'll get in deep kaka if you don't ensure your kids are properly belted in a car. There's more do-do if you don't ensure your kids go to school. If you don't keep the booze under control and let your kids start necking slammers, you'll be up to your neck in it. Rinse and repeat."

What, precisely, is wrong with this is that 99% of the population can manage all of the straw men you put up but couldn't manage to configure parental controls on their internet connection in a way that blocks the average teenager with a hand-held device. Most parents aren't stupid or irresponsibly negligent, but most don't have your level of technical expertise either.

ISPs are in the right place on the network (upstream of all the devices in your home) and have the necessary technical skills. Certainly the parent needs to be in control of the *policy*, but if they then decide that they want someone clueful to actually implement said policy, I see no reason not to encourage that.

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Re: Ban the sky fairy cults.

No-one mentioned the sky fairy cults before you did. They aren't actually relevant to this discussion. Check out church attendance figures. The vast majority of people in the UK do not subscribe (except perhaps when asked a loaded question on a census form every ten years) to any "sky fairy cult". The UK is one of the least religious countries on the planet. Whatever is driving these calls for internet censorship, it is not religious fundamentalism.

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Facepalm

but...

Think of the CHILDREN!!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: but...

downvoted for lack of originality.

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Coat

Re: but...

Ok, lets.

Trying to limit porn on the internet is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.

So rather than try and limit porn on a tool that was meant for adults, lets kick the little buggers off the 'net until they are old enough.

Sure that sounds pretty piss poor, but lets consider that little Jimmy probably doesn't know how to find a book in a library. There are some serious off line skills that he needs to learn...

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Unhappy

It's called "pr0n"

> ChildLine was witnessing a rise in "sexting" among teenagers, with boys putting pressure on girls to send them sexually explicit images of themselves via text.

Kids these days. We didn't have half that kind of fun. In fact, the local church representative told us in no uncertain terms what's what.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's called "pr0n"

"We didn't have half that kind of fun. In fact, the local church representative told us in no uncertain terms what's what."

In 1962 our church youth club was a house where young teenagers could play table tennis etc. It had a trendy supervisor who you had to call by his first name. It was closed down after the church organist's daughter took advantage of some of the more secluded facilities and became pregnant.

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Re: It's called "pr0n"

"the local church representative told us in no uncertain terms what's what." ..and in some cases showed us what was what and where it went even if you didn't want them to. Subsequently many church representatives needed the help of the bishop to avoid prosecution for their unwarranted demonstration. The church should hold it's tongue on the morality of porn and children, if it doesn't want accusations hypocrisy.

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Anonymous Coward

only growth industries are; blocks/filters, guards, non lethal weapon design, surveillance, spy gear

So now we have this schizophrenic government that can't decide whether it is a) proud to have invented the internet or b) wants to be the first to destroy it.

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Anonymous Coward

Government funded "charity" lobbying goverment.

This is nuts.

Childline merged with NSPCC.

Goverment funds NSPCC to the tune of £11m

They do a good job, but they should stfu when it comes to lobbying.

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Re: Government funded "charity" lobbying goverment.

NSPCC is a fake charity.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Government funded "charity" lobbying goverment.

NSPCC annual income - £114million

RSPCA annual income - £115million*

RSPB annual income - £122million

What I find staggering is not just that people give more to animals than children but that the annual income for these charities is over £100 million.

* The RSPCA operates a franchise system with each district a separate charity. The figures for each district would significantly increase this figure. As an example example, Bolton and District has an annual income of £300k

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Re: Government funded "charity" lobbying goverment.

"What I find staggering is not just that people give more to animals than children"

People give to other children's charities too. Given its bad reputation it's a marvel the NSPCC gets that much.

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Re: Government funded "charity" lobbying goverment.

@AC 09:35

It's because, on the whole, animals are much more rewarding than children.

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OK if they want to protect children then make it simple.

Require all computers to be sold with a "Nanny" system installed so that you need to log in to be able to access various stuff.

That way the kiddies can have their login which has a whitelist of sites they can visit and you can turn off chat, mail etc if you want, then your login that has full unfettered access to everything, it could then in the event of a non kiddie house have a choice once logged in to disable the login process.

It is down to the parents to decide what their children can see and use not the state or campaigners no matter how well meaning, lets make it simple for all parents to take control and leave us the adults free to make our own choices without having to be recorded on a database etc as someone who enjoys porn or anything else "adult" on the net.

The government could set up a site that lists all child safe sites with easy download to the computer if they want to be involved but to demand I must say I like porn etc is at the most basic level an infringement to have my own opinion on a subject and the right to keep that opinion to myself.

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Re: OK if they want to protect children then make it simple.

So this whitlist will contain sites like facebook and twitter where there is a lot of nasty stuff like bullying. Yeah, a list will really work - not!

Best thing is to teach kids how to react to bad stuff. To report bullying and to tell parents about what they see. That way they can be told that sex is normal but sometimes there are fetishes. And bullying can be nipped in the bud.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OK if they want to protect children then make it simple.

"all computers to be sold with a "Nanny" system installed "

I presume you actually mean "all OSs..."

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Re: OK if they want to protect children then make it simple.

'I presume you actually mean "all OSs..."'

Politicians. I doubt they know the difference.

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Linux

Re: OK if they want to protect children then make it simple.

"Require all computers to be sold with a "Nanny" system installed so that you need to log in to be able to access various stuff."

Oh yes because that will stop it.

All it takes is for some kid to pop in a live linux disk from the cover of just about any linux magazine in any reasonable sized supermarket in the UK or even just download a live linux image and burn it to a USB stick. No blocks, no trace of any dodgy surfing and mum and dad live in a pink fluffy world thinking that the software is working.

Kids are far more switched on when it comes to IT (specifically circumventing blocks) than adults. The only way is to talk to and educate the kids about the risks or else become Amish.

Andy

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Re: OK if they want to protect children then make it simple.

If a kid can figure out how to do that, they can handle the porn.

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Re: OK if they want to protect children then make it simple.

Hey Andy,

Check out Secure Kids by Jumpto. Admittedly it will not work with older kids or with kids already used to the Internet., They will find the restrictions too limiting. But with younger kids, they love the interface and they use it willingly. There is no way to circumvent Secure Kids unless the parent who owns the main account allows it.

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Re: If a kid can figure out how to do that, they can handle the porn.

Really? You cannot possibly be a parent. Consider...

A family has three children. The eldest is 15 and can easily figure all that out. The youngest is 8 and couldn't possibly figure it out but can certainly copy his big brother's memory stick once he's been let in on the secret. Aforesaid 8-year-old then exchanges "magic internet stick" with friends in playground who don't have older siblings. End result? The parents of an 8yo with no elder siblings to learn from has managed to bypass the parental controls software on a PC that is "locked down" with separate administrative and normal user accounts in the approved manner. So he finds some juicy porn and shows it to his younger sibling because he knows it will make her shriek in an amusing fashion.

Now, what proportion of the parental population do you think are able to block that attack vector? 1%?

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I thought ChildLine was supposed to be there for abused children who are in fear for their safety or their lives. Is Esther seriously now saying that part of their time is being taken up by "a big rise in calls from disturbed youngsters who had encountered smut when surfing the web" ? I find it very hard to believe you can "accidentally" find smut on the internet. If you find it then you were already on the shady side of town. I wonder if these calls are simply convincing pranksters like the little gits who dial 999.

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Re: accidentally find smut

I think the suggestion is that these youngsters were looking for smut but found something rather more grim.

The article doesn't say how old these children are. If we are talking about under 12s then accidentally finding a link to Caterpillar probably *is* rather distressing and (equally) probably something you don't want to resolve by going to Mummy and admitting that you turned off "safe search".

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Childcatcher

Re: accidentally find smut

I get your point, but If they're going to look for smut online then they need to accept that they may occasionally stumble across some awful awful stuff* - that's just a fact of the world today and I don't think something ChildLine has the power or the duty to stop beyond giving advice. What gets me is Rantzen using it to support the opt-in nanny state crackdown. After all fifty calls a year is less than one a week - but THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!

*And becoming interested in nudie pics and looking for smut is a healthy part of growing up in my opinion. Cracking down on relatively safe access from the privacy of the home could well do more harm than good.

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Re: accidentally find smut

I've never seen any real evidence that the 'awful, awful stuff' is really damaging. Distressing for a while, yes. It can send the kids running to Mummy and give them nightmares for a while. But lasting psychological trauma? No. I don't think children are that delicate that a few images are going to ruin them, and I shall continue to think so until I get to see some credible (ie, not-from-a-pressure-group) child psychologists show that this happens in more than a tiny minority of cases.

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Sexting

Children were always showing one another their bodies. Sexting adds a layer of safety by allowing them to do so from beyond arm's reach.

However, it is not in the NSPCC's interests for children to be safe in a recession, so they need it stopped.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sexting

I agree with you, there has always been an element of 'you show me yours and i'll show you mine' between boys and girls, more so from families that hide away nudity from kids and don't discuss sex with them... the fact is kids grow up, and if they don't learn that there is nothing wrong with nudity & sex, then they will grow up disturbed more so than if they accidental visit a porn site..

WHAT child would call child-line after seeing porn?

Surely it should be more of a concern at what are the parents doing that the kids can't ask them rather than saying 'oh no a child saw a bit of nookie' lets censor the internet!.. IMHO even the IWF needs to be very careful in its job, especially after the wiki incident!

I am all for offering filters to parents, but make them opt in, or as they say an 'active choice' on signup but I know that my son by the time he is 8 will be able to bypass any blocks put in place..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sexting @Mycho

' Sexting adds a layer of safety by allowing them to do so from beyond arm's reach.

However, it is not in the NSPCC's interests for children to be safe in a recession, so they need it stopped.'

Odd and disturbing comment you make here? Sexting is also a known predator activity used to encourage children. Not to mention to sexting photos that have been passed round mobile phones, one example being a young girl having a photo passed round nearly all mobile phones in her year group at school.

Yet you say Sexting adds a layer of safety? I think you might want to withdraw the comment,as it is so inane.

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Re: Sexting @Mycho

Odd and disturbing comment you make here? Sexting is also a known predator activity used to encourage children.

So is talking to them in the park, what's your point exactly?

What the OP should have said is it adds a layer of perceived safety.

It's incredibly stupid to send pics of your body parts to someone else if there's any chance they're going to get shown around, but then teens aren't exactly known for having great judgement all the time! The fact is, the principle isn't that different to passing someone a polaroid, it's just that it's now far easier to 'share'.

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Gimp

"what some consider to be hardcore pornography"

Only some?!

I'm pretty sure it IS hardcore pornography.

Perhaps I'm not looking in the right place?!

Or, perhaps the Daily Mail readers are not looking in the right place......

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "what some consider to be hardcore pornography"

I'm pretty sure that Daily Mail readers won't consider it hardcore pornography. It will be some variety of 'sick filth' that will need to be banned before the country descends into anarchy.

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Do-gooders at it again.

Methinks our Esther doth protest too much. She was always too much of a do-gooder for MY liking on her TV show. Surely the answer is good parenting? Why should the internet be different to anything else that kids see? There's enough "undesirable" stuff in every-day life and media news items that parents have to deal with that might disturb children and most handle it very well. I can see the "opt-in" suggestion that is being championed by the usual technically-incompetent group of politicians and grand-standers (as the colonists across the pond are fond of saying!) being used to deliberately block legitimate sites or just producing plain old errors. Who's to grade the "undesirability" of sites? Will we have a minus star rating? I strongly object to being nannied in this way. The government has much more pressing and world-shattering things to worry about, like the extradition or Julian Assagne, Richard O'Dwyer and Gary McKinnon. (Oops. Click! Sarcastic and cynical modes switched off).

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Title should've been

"Technically clueless busybody wades in with useless 2c."

Seriously censorship enforced for everyone is NEVER the right solution. Net control software is widely available and easy for parents to set up & loads of people who will help if they have problems with it.

What is next for those who ask not to be censored? If you are on the list you are forced to wear a playboy bunny badge in public?

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Re: Title should've been

No-one is suggesting *enforcement*, merely a default option. Also, parents may not know that they've failed to set it up properly and so won't seek help even if it is available. ISPs are much better placed to get such technical issues right. (Yes, even the bottom feeder ISPs who we love to hate.)

I'd also point out that kids have access to the internet through all sorts of devices these days. The assumption that a software package on the PC is going to suffice is just laughable. You need to cover games consoles, Android hand-helds, Nintendo DSes, etc. The *appropriate* place to install filters is therefore at the home router or even further upstream.

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Headmaster

Re: Title should've been

This "default option" requires ISPs or some other entity to take an active role classifying and listing sites as either "safe" or "unsafe" and its status as a default creates a situation where you have to ask for permission - in effect a license - to carry out acts that were previously free and unencumbered.

And the definition of enforcement?

1. To compel observance of or obedience to something

2. To impose (a kind of behavior, for example)

3. To give force to; reinforce

So they are in fact suggesting enforcement.

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Unhappy

Re: Title should've been

"No-one is suggesting *enforcement*"

Not yet.

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Re: Title should've been

The test to see if the censorware works is obvious: You go to sex.com, and see if it works.

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Re: definition of enforcement

All 3 of your proposed definitions have an element of compulsion that "default option" lacks. So by your own argument, this isn't enforcement.

And unticking the box on your ISP's settings page is not "in effect a license". Licences are things you have to pay for or obtain approval for from some agency who have the authority to say "no". That's not what is suggested here. One can easily imagine a police state where that is the next step, but no-one with political credibility has suggested that yet and we can beat them to a pulp with a clue stick as and when they do.

All that an *optional* filter would do would be to give the vast majority of people as much control as they want. It would take the sting out of this issue, since the rabid control freaks would no longer have the silent majority behind them muttering "well, yes, the present system isn't working".

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