Maybe legislate that parents pay attention to what their kids are doing online instead.
Controversial plans for mandatory age verification controls for pornographic websites have been scrapped, UK culture secretary Nicky Morgan announced today. In a written statement, Morgan said the government "will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography". …
Parenting is about talking with your children, about discussing things, helping them understand and make informed decisions.
A device is no better than a government filter - it takes the job away from the parents, explains nothing to the children and makes everyone think everything is fine.
Pornography is an important subject, it should be addressed in an adult manner and not avoided at all times
Of course, the discussion must be at the level of the child. I'm not saying that you should tell everything to a 5-year-old, but I am saying that you don't let a 5-year-old loose on a screen without supervision.
Spot on, Pascal! I remember back in the 1970s us kids had sophisticated ways to get around the porn-prevention systems then in place, which boiled down to the newsagent not selling smutty mags to kids.
One of the best technological methods used back then was called "the big brother". This worked by someone having a brother old enough to obtain the smut, and then obtaining the hand-me-downs. There were, of course, variations such as "dad's stash", in which we "borrowed" porn from a parent.
Of course, back then, copying was virtually impossible (you couldn't exactly mimeograph Playboy or something written in some Scandinavian language), but none of the approaches we used would be obsolete today, and with trivially easily copied smut and easy methods to hide the stuff, any effort "to protect the kiddies" would be defeated by the kiddies in nothing flat (especially if the parents are lax enough to rely on external mechanisms to prevent said kiddies getting to "the good stuff" -- which is likely only "good" in the sense that it's forbidden in the forbidden fruit sense...
... and there's an object lesson there, too: making fruit forbidden results in conversations with snakes...
'..One of the best technological methods used back then was called "the big brother". This worked by someone having a brother old enough to obtain the smut, and then obtaining the hand-me-downs. There were, of course, variations such as "dad's stash", in which we "borrowed" porn from a parent.'
Add to that, the 'Woodland stash', helpfully created by some unsung hero of a previous generation for the edification of future ones..knowledge of which was carefully guarded and passed on.
The one near my house was in an old barrel hidden in a distinctive copse within a larger plantation of trees beside the local reservoirs, going by what I can remember of the material, it had been started sometime in the late 60's/early 70's and survived at least up till the early 80s. Chances are the remains of it are still mouldering away there as I type..
'... and there's an object lesson there, too: making fruit forbidden results in conversations with snakes...'
There is so much truth in that, I do feel the need, at this point, to confess that most of us who knew about said stash were Catholics from the nearby schools (me?, despite being an 'unrepentant atheist' from the age of 5 or so, I attended the same Catholic schools for family reasons)
Elementary of course. A legal Adult, having obtained said stash at some point has to restrict their collection to the best/latest that will fit in the homely hidey hole. But wait! how to dispose of the older unwanted stash? You couldn't exactly just throw it in the bin without raising some eyebrows. Home shredders weren't very popular back in those days either. How about a quick detour on the way to work down that track to the railway arches....
Be careful, folks. Any time somebody brings up a 5-year-old child, I hesitate about everything they say. There's nothing wrong I can see in this instance, but too many forget existing laws on age limits. It started with the USA's Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 which set a minimum age of 13. It's not a total ban on kids under that age, but parental consent is required. So it's a part of the terms and conditions for social media sites.
Is age-13 the right age for that? It's not blatantly wrong.
Then I am wary of the way the label "child" is thrown about. It does have specific legal meanings, and in that sort of context there isn't really a choice. But, in the UK, a 16-year-old can still lawfully marry, even though the law often labels them as a child. (Does that law need changing? We do seem to be saying somebody old enough to marry can't access porn.)
Is this a question about children or teenagers? "Teenager" isn't a great label, it includes people over age-18 and had its roots in a time when people could leave school and get a job at a much younger age, spending their money in ways the provoked paraoxysms of pearl clutching.
>But, in the UK, a 16-year-old can still lawfully marry, even though the law often labels them as a child. (Does that law need changing?
IIRC two 16-year olds in the UK can marry and enjoy marital relations, but if they take photos/film the event, or send each other revealing photos then they are potentially at risk of appearing on the sex offenders register...
I agree, up to a point. The talk must take place, but putting in a filter that does away with such sites, for all users or specific devices is a good secondary measure.
I have a Raspi with Pi-Hole installed, which blocks malware, tracking and porn sites, oh, and all 1500 Facebook domains. It doesn't bother me, I never visited such sites anyway, so I left the option activated. Apart from the Raspi, it is a free service (donation-ware).
Stopping access to unwanted domains, as well as having the discussion is a good two-step way of ensuring they are not accidentally exposed. Even if they "know" not to go to pr0n sites, there is always the possibility that they accidentally click on a link.
Obviously that only helps at home, but there again, they probably shouldn't be surfing alone at that stage anyway. Once they are "young adults", some form of trust has to exist. If the discussions are open, the filters can be gradually relaxed as they grow up - gradually whitelisting a few "verified" sites, for example and viewing them together and discussing what they see. Then, when they are ready for their own device, they already have a healthy understanding of what is right and wrong and what is acceptable.
Back in the dialup days I was asked help a friend of a member of my family. She had switched on the monitor and on one of the IE windows was a smutty site. Convinced this had to be her son she wanted proof of all the Desmondesque sites he'd visited. After a virus scan proved negative I looked at the logs rather than the totally deleted history. There were quite a few of them and she was hopping mad. I asked when her son went to bed and it was early say 8pm, the daughter half an hour later. All but one of the sites were accessed after 10pm so that ruled the kids out. The daughter confessed she'd gone to a previously normal domain that had lapsed and been bought by a smut peddler.
That accounted for the earlier one and I got the feeling her husband would be getting a right telling off that night. The son was obviously playing Wolfenstein obsessively given the game was installed and the maps stored under the keyboard.
> then surely they can also look at getting a device to filter out adult websites to keep their offspring away from such things.
Trouble is that the simplest 'device' is to contract with one of the major ISP's eg. BT, and subscribe to their web content filtering service... But this only covers the home and not what they might do whilst out with friends.
Also, life with teens isn't just about adult websites, it includes: Instagram, Facebook, Twitch...
After being hit a couple of times with persistent 'you need to upgrade flash' type popups from supposedly SFW sites on my personal mobile I decided to sign up for BT's content filtering but then found I couldn't get to many sites, not even Google... no error messages, just nothing!
Yes, Google may be the root of all evil (well except that perpetrated by BoJo + co) but that was a wee bit extreme
I remember in first year at high school a boy was called a wanker, and he owned it and made it a badge of pride. "Aye, I'm a wanker, and in a year or two you will be too"
I stole that. A decade ago a young guy smirked at me and called me a dirty old man. I told him if he lived long enough then it is the fate of every dirty young man to become a dirty old man.
They will no doubt attempt to (secretly) legislate that every IP address generates an "observed smut list" document every year/on demand, that is then filed in a cabinet somewhere for future use just to make sure parents/opposition MPs are behaving themselves. Obvs with some "security" exceptions to such data gatherings..
Definitely not Yay.
El Reg's article doesn't seem to highlight it, but there's a reason they've done this:
> As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms.
They've not scrapped it because it's draconian and privacy invasive, but because it does not go far enough.
They're going to come out with a replacement for it that isn't limited to porn.
The only upside being that the likelihood of this government sticking around long enough to do it really is quite slim.
So, not because it's totally unworkable then?
Clearly it is.
Won't stop them creating further abominable pieces of legislation that are unworkable (or merely Human rights infractions), spend years and more money trying to work out how to implement them only to fail again.
The government is getting more and more like a cartoon Dad, totally ridiculous antics and they never learn anything at the end of an episode.
I'm not sure how many people have spotted that one of the driving motivations for BrexitShambles is the elimination of outside oversight, so the potential for the idea of "human rights infractions" being anything other than an academic talking point is very real.
[ Granted, ECHR is not an EU institution, but how many rank-and-file Brexiteers knows that, and anyway the UK under Cameron/May/BoJo have all wanted out of that, too. ]
For new EU countries, it's now an obligation that the ECHR be incorporated into national law and older members have all done it already.
If the UK leaves the EU it can remove the ECHR from national law and make it much slower (years) and much more expensive as you have to exhaust all national options to be able to escalate your case up to the European Court of Human Rights.
"I'm not sure how many people have spotted that one of the driving motivations for BrexitShambles is the elimination of outside oversight..."
Private Eye has just pointed out something similar... the promise of elimination of red tape... except the host of new gov.uk/brexit ads are telling you to check what you need to be doing if you want to continue doing x, y and z
So far there has only been one instance of a country being sanctioned for defying the ECHR, and that took years even though the country was Russia and they were being sanctioned for using blatantly dodgy judicial proceedings to forcibly nationalise a company (one which had significant foreign shareholders too). Since the biggest porn companies were in favour of smashing out the competition, the only reason I'd expect for other Council members to get upset about a porn ban would be as a pretext.
Inside the EU, the much faster internal sanctions process (designed to punish Austria for electing the FPÖ, which looked likely at the time) can be used to eliminate all benefits of EU membership while keeping all the downsides. The EU also doesn't have anything allowing the signatories to exempt arbitrary regions at will, put in for Algeria and which the UK government forgot to invoke in NI.
There's also no real penalty for leaving the Council of Europe, especially if you're planning a lot of ECHR violations (in which case you probably don't care about the cultural and community aspects of the Council), whereas it is generally expected that the next EU treaty will fix the EU's rules to make Council of Europe membership an ongoing rather than instantaneous requirement.
"As well as the Left-Right policies there are definite Authoritarian-Libertarian policies [...]"
The USA libertarian Mises Institute web site used to have multi-choice quiz you could do. The result plotted your total as a point on a square divided into four equal quarters. The vertical and horizontal dividing lines were the neutral zones of "Authoritartian-Libertarian" and "Left-Right". The position of your point indicated your degree of bias for those attributes.
A young friend had attended one of their summer schools - and wanted us both to take the test to prove his superiority as a libertarian with right-wing bias. He believed that anyone with "left"
bias would also be "authoritarian".
Imagine his chagrin when his result was "Authoritarian Right" - and mine was "Libertarian Left".
That was in his late teens. Now in his 30s - from conversations I would anticipate he has shifted more towards "Libertarian Left"
As a parent of a teen and a recently-a-teen, One Size Does Not Fit All.
I think the key is finding a way to really communicate. Don't just lump the issues together, find out how they see the situation... restrictions on porn and restrictions on access time are two different issues, even if the control point is the same. Does the configuration of the Parental Controls match your agreement with the teen... Is their issue that the forum they want to access ("all my friends use it") is blocked for frequent use of 'shit' and 'fuck', or because it's a child trafficking grooming site? It might make a difference to your reaction.
I'm quite puzzled about those tactical lesions he was giving.
OK, so lets take a big pinch of salt and assume that he's telling the truth.
What technical knowledge could bj possibly possess ? He's a classics 'scholar' fer gawds sake. And a politician. He's not going to know about anything except fornicating with pigs.
Several MPs and/or “important people” had a quiet word with senior members of both major parties, and possibly even with the Lib-Dems or whatever they’re called this week, and pointed out how easily this could be used against _them_. Should someone get hold of Very Important Source of Fundraising’s records and reveal to the Daily Fail that VISF is really quite fond of foxes, and no, not fox hunting, there might be consequences.
(Yes, I like wolves, but not _that_ way, and besides wolves are big enough to take care of themselves. And, yes, I have a certain particular VISF in mind. No names, El Reg world have to mod the post pretty much immediately.)
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Okay, so maybe this tech idea didn't work. But encryption that can't be broken by anyone except the government, by whom it can be trivially broken — and only by this government, not the hostile ones — is still a go, right? Along with using unspecified technology to maintain border inspections without border inspectors, fibre to every home within six years, etc?
"Hello, Cabinet Office?, GCHQ here. This porno thing, it's going to cause a huge increase in VPN use, err. that's a technology which makes it hard for us to read the traffic, which will make our job a lot harder"
"Cabinet Secretary here. That's too bad, you'll just have to work harder and spend less time drinking Martini's and driving your Aston-Martins"
"Well, let me put that another way, we already know what everyone does online, including your good self, and it would be a shame if it became public knowledge about the site you visited on Saturday night..."
"Yes, yes, I can see how this VNP thingy might be a problem, I'll get right on it"
I wonder if it was more about DoH than VPN. Google have agreed not to make DoH the default for UK users, but if these controls came into place it seems likely 50% of the population would have found out how to enable it within a few months as it is trivial to do and is free!
Or (alternately) someone at DCMS realised what un utter load of unenforable codswallop the law was and quietly 'forgot' to talk to the EU.
Which gave them time to remind the minister involved of the fine old principle of "never make a law that you can't enforce"..
 Somewhat appropriate since 'cods' is old slang for testicles..
Oh cum on! You know the government will have spunked at least few million quid on consultants and consultations with their rich friends. A golden shower of cash for them to gobble while the rest of us remain in bondage with our delicate encryption to be vigorously violated by government probes and insertions.
So some time ago, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) was born. It being a Directive, all EU members are expected to take a firm grasp and submit. Some clauses are easier than others, eg-
(Article 13) 1. Member States shall ensure that providers of on-demand audiovisual media services under their jurisdiction secure at least a 20% share of European works in their catalogue and ensure prominence of these works.
And I've heard that east European members and other performers are prominently featured in a lot of content. The contentious part though is Article 12-
Member States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that programmes provided by audiovisual media service providers under their jurisdiction, which may impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors are only made available in such a way as to ensure that minors will not normally hear or see them. Such measures may include selecting the time of the broadcast, age verification tools or other technical measures. They shall be proportionate to the potential harm of the programme.
The most harmful content, such as gratuitous violence and pornography, shall be subject to the strictest measures, such as encryption and effective parental controls.
So the UK proposals are/were mechanisms to comply with the EU's Directive.. Especially as that was updated to include non-traditional broadcasting, ie the pron sites.
But having watched a fascinating doc called 'Pornocracy' on Netflix about the way MindGeek came to dominate the pron industry, I wonder whether they'd really be a fit & proper body to run any age verification service.. but given their dominance, they'd have to be involved.
So the UK proposals are/were mechanisms to comply with the EU's Directive.
1. Isn't it odd that no other EU country felt the need to do this? Has the UK gold-plated something again?
2. I'm willing to bet it was actually the UK that pushed for this in the first place to have an excuse to do it ("but it's in the EU directive...").
1) Probably. We do seem to end up being more compliant wrt Directives than a lot of our fellow members.
2) I doubt it. Don't forget the EU is dominated by the EPP (European Peoples Party) which in turn relies a lot on various Christian groups, so provides some moral direction. Also don't forget the potential of lobbying from the likes of MindGeek who'd stand to make bank flogging W4nkPasses at 9.99 a pop, and collect a lot of marketable and valuable data in the process. Privacy? What privacy?
But being a Directive, it's something all member states would be expected to implement. It does provide some 'flexibility', ie if you look at the text from Article 28a below, it gives the illusion of choice wrt age verification and parental control.. But realistically you'd probably find it hard to claim compliance without age verification. Clause (d) is also potentially fun given the trend to deplatform anyone with opposing views, so could allow groups to (ab)use rating to deplatform anything they consider hateful. On the plus side, it should also make it easier to flag that stuff to platform operators.. But the operators (eg Facebook) won't like that as it moves them ever closer to being publishers. Text is below though.
1. Without prejudice to Articles 14 and 15 of Directive 2000/31/EC, Member States shall ensure that video-sharing platform providers take appropriate measures to:
(a) protect minors from content which may impair their physical, mental or moral development;...
... Those measures shall consist of, as appropriate:
(a) defining and applying in the terms and conditions of the video-sharing platform providers the concepts of incitement to violence or hatred as referred to in point (b) of paragraph 1 and of content which may impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, in accordance with Articles 6 and 12 respectively;
(b) establishing and operating mechanisms for users of video-sharing platforms to report or flag to the video-sharing platform provider concerned the content referred to in paragraph 1 stored on its platform;
(c) establishing and operating age verification systems for users of video-sharing platforms with respect to content which may impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors;
(d) establishing and operating systems allowing users of video-sharing platforms to rate the content referred to in paragraph 1;
(e) providing for parental control systems with respect to content which may impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors;
It looks like there's a few ways to weasel out of it, aside from the classic approach of ignoring it until the Commission or an affected business (in this case just MindGeek) starts proceedings. The simplest is to decide that it isn't "appropriate" to use anything except a free web filter supplied by the government or ISPs or someone.
"Assuming of course that it would not be too easy to circumvent, [...]"
A blackmailer relies on the bigotry and hypocrisy of a society that will inflict a punishment on the person being blackmailed. Religions have generally set up their dogma sexual proscriptions in order to give them an excuse to shame - and thus control - their congregations' minds.
while, at first glance, it might look they decided a ban would be ineffective, this doesn't make sense - they knew it would be ineffective with pirate blocking in the past, and they implemented it anyway. Another potential reason is that somebody in government just for once applied "reason" - and decided the cost would be too high. That, however, is hardly ever a reason to cancel any project, no matter how stupid - particularly on government side and particularly one that fits so well with "think of the children" - and particularly before election. So (tinfoil hat on) this highly unexpected decision makes me very, very worried indeed. The only other reason I can see is that such a block would, possibly force massive migration by those millions and millions of filthy British males towards "alternative measures" - such as vpn. And this might mean, that instead of focusing on mere thousands vpn users who have something to hide, our beloved spies would have to keep tabs on millions.
no, I've just considered again this crazy idea that somebody applied common sense, but it just makes no sense. Common sense?! Government?! No way!
The VPN conspiracy?
You really think the majority of the (porn watching) population would be even that aware of the risks?
They spaff a lot already to Facebook and their ilk without a care.
I think they just realised the system they were about to inflict was massively unsecure and when (not if) it backfired, there was a high chance of massive public feedback, even unrest.
(Not as in "road traffic accident", obvs).
This relies on Webmasters adding a meta tag to page headers, which describes the level of "adultness" of the content, It works with most browsers, has been around for years and works. So what's the problem?
I get the feeling from reading the news here on El Reg, that those in charge finally woke up and realized this wet dream wouldn't cum true. Due to the technology involved in implementation, legal obstacles etc. I think they finally thought about something other than the children.
Typical Gov misunderstanding of how technology works.
Let's assume there's a smut site at foo.com. So accessing that requires an age verification check. What if someone accesses it legitimately (age verification passed) and then copies the material to bar.com, Whatsapp, Twitter, (insert myraid of other services here which might not have the same check)?
Oh yes, now everyone can still access it.
This is much the same as you can build all the copy protection you want into a Bluray disc. What's to stop someone playing it and then recording the playback with a cellphone? How can you police that? Sure some quality might be lost but it's not exactly impossible to circumvent the original protection and distribute the material.
Except now it's being distributed in more ways that you can't really keep tabs on.
This is the same thinking as whichever Gov cretin came up with something along the lines of "we need to find a way to delete a photo off the Internet" and thought this was something that, legitimately, tech communities were capable of solving. Ignoring the obvious point that if it's copied and distributed there's no way of knowing exactly where it's been distributed to. Which is also a vicious circle in that it can be done repeatedly.
Leaving aside all the ways around it, it really was a poor choice of technology solutions for the problem at hand (oe-er).
Now look at all those "technology solutions" the Brexit, Leave and Tory Government have said they'll deliver to make Brexit happen.
If they can't deliver this then they haven't got a whelks chance in a Supernova of delivering anything for Brexit
"Sorry we didn't have a bloody clue what we were talking about with this internet thingy when we suggested a block, so we asked some egg-heady types, paid them £5m and they said it was impossible to save your kids from the dirty filty paedos and terrorists that lurk on porno websites. So sorry and all, it's all off I'm afraid!"
Been saying for years it would never ever happen
What, you mean the gov would refrain from ramming a broken system on the population, of course they wouldn't, they save the half-arsed and broken changes for unimportant things like Tax and Welfare, porn is too critical to risk breaking...
Perhaps the government realise that with the ability to use encrypted DNS with just a tick of a box away in Android 9/10 and Firefox and it supposedly coming to Chrome soon, it wasn't worth the money and effort to try implementing a DNS based block that could be easily circumvented by end users especially as the cost would be way more than they would have estimated.
I worked in schools for a number of years and kids are savvy and find ways around blocks and once one discovered its soon spreads around their peers. It was a constant fire fight to block new sites that sprung up that weren't in the filter lists.
"It was a constant fire fight to block new sites that sprung up that weren't in the filter lists."
Apparently Tumblr used to have some very explicit channels. Their user base shrank considerably when they banned them. The users' channels migrated to at least FaceBook and Twitter - and many more such popular sites - so I am told.
Or are they just holding out for more draconian measures.
The only way to absolutely prevent children from seeing pornographic images would be to build a sanitized version of the Internet that includes only stuff that has been explicitly approved by a government agent. Something not unlike North Korea's 'internet'. Given the current government, not sure if that is a bug or a feature...
I thought that the UK had quite some time ago, made it a requirement for ISPs to filter porn out of the Internet as they fed it to people's homes, although people could choose to opt out of this.
So if they just required ISPs to verify the age of subscribers who ask to have porn filtering turned off, instead of asking the porn sites to verify the age of visitors, wouldn't that achieve the goal, while avoiding the problem of having huge numbers of British citizens' credit cards on porn sites just waiting to be stolen by hackers?
"[...] wouldn't that achieve the goal [...]"
Only the biggest UK ISPs do that sort of filtering. As the government has possibly just realised - explicit sexual depictions are also rampant on many large social media sites. A filter would have to blacklist individual users on FaceBook, Flickr, Twitter etc.
Those companies are in a Catch-22 situation. To which countries' "morality police" do they acquiesce as the lowest common denominator? While remembering that Tumblr purged all "sexual" user channels - and their user base (for advertisers) dropped very significantly.
Public nudity is not a big deal in the rest of the EU. I've seen Dutch workers sunbathe topless outside their work, experienced a French nudist beach accidentally, communal naked saunas in Finland including children, and just mass German nudity, yet in the UK our bodies are an affront to God.
I support our current laws. British people should not be allowed to disrobe in public - have you seen our bodies? We are like Americans.
Nobody who isn't an athlete should be allowed to wear Athlete-wear. Yes, your bum looks big in that.
"British people should not be allowed to disrobe in public [---]"
Clothes are for protection from the environment - flora, fauna, and weather. For many people they are an essential identification of a person's tribe and status. As D.H.Lawrence opined in his poem about figs - concealment of parts of the body enhances the allure for curious human minds. Nudity per se soon becomes boring to an onlooker.
The many British naturists are club affiliated - or just GYKO***. The England & Wales law (SOA 2003) allows nudity in public - as long as there is "no intent to cause alarm or distress".
***Get Your Kit Off
If its not broken, don't change it. Or pass laws against bad parents who neglect new age supervision duties.
Decency laws are dumb idea to appease whingers and SJW's. Extend this to thou shall not fart, thou shall not swear in front of kiddies - well they have no chance of changing things. Plus the UK laws already regulate decency and censorship. Bad international actors will always be there, and those of size do not target anyone without a credit card or means of online payment. As stated elsewhere - France and Germany accept reality, and the reality that only the USA can make matters hard for those seeking to monetise whatever.
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