Censorship on the internet

Over the years following a mix of the establishment and puritan attitudes the UK has had many State censorship bills/laws.  The latest battleground for those who want censorship and those who do not, is the internet.

The government is now imposing upon the ISP’s blocking/content filters, which will be turned on by default for new users, and with several ISPs stating it will also be turned on for existing users by default as well.

Now the question is at what level should the State be involved and what is responsible censorship if in fact it does exist?

Following on from the news over the last couple of weeks about the actions of some MP’s in the past and their dealings with some very questionable organisations, let’s look briefly at the age of consent and how this would affect censorship.  Various, ages of consent exist throughout the EU and some strange things exist…  So, as for the average horny teenager, even within Europe they can run foul of the law in some countries and not in others.

In the UK at the moment the age of consent is 16 regardless of sexual orientation.  So, in theory a couple of 16-year-old kids can have sex at 16 as long as they don’t record the event even on their phones and then watch it, since that would be illegal – I guess they could just keep the video till they were 18 and then watch it……  But, if it was found it may still be illegal, due to the age of those on the video…

If the same two kids go to Malta on holiday, they can’t have sex since the age of consent there is 18 years old, yet the same two kids could have gone on a school trip to Spain at the age of 13 and had sex then, since that wouldn’t have been illegal as Spain’s age of consent is 13.

Now for two of the really interesting ones..

  • if our two 16 year olds go on holiday to Turkey.  Whilst, the ‘age of majority’ is 18, if the minor is 15, 16 or 17 and the age gap is less than 5 years, the acts can be prosecuted only upon a complaint.
  • according to a Norwegian law where the age of consent is 16, if a couple of 13-year-old school kids from Spain visit Norway, even if they stop having sex whilst outside Spain, they can still be arrested and imprisoned, since according to Chapter 1 of the penal code, §195 applies also if the act was committed outside Norway and by a non-Norwegian citizen or resident.

In Cyprus it is dependent on where you are on the island.  If it is on the either of the British bases of Akrotiri or Dhekelia these are deemed to be under British Sovereignty there the age of consent is 16, if it’s in the North (Turkish held) it’s 16, and if it’s in the South of the island it’s 17.

Now, what about say a couple of schoolkids on an Exchange program…. Schoolkids from England and Spain….  If an English 13-year-old student goes to Spain and has sex then returns to England, even private sexting would be illegal…. for the English student that returned to the UK.

Out of interest, if this did happen I wonder what would happen if the kids then took the UK government to court in the Hague, there’s got to be a case in there somewhere over their rights since they are both European citizens….

So, back to the internet….. If we are attempting to protect the children in the UK, are we attempting to enforce our legal age on the rest of the world?  In the case of our young lovers, if the one in Spain posted pictures which are legal in Spain on a Spanish Hosted site, would blocking access to that site in the UK be in breach of European law?

Now, back in the ’70s we didn’t have the internet.  Photos and TV newsreels were means of finding out what was happening around the world.  In 1972 a photo taken by Nick Ut, showing a 9-year-old  Kim Phuc running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back by a South Vietnamese Napalm attack, won a Pulitzer Prize and was said to be instrumental, in changing the attitude of the American public over the horror of the Vietnam war.  The photo was no doubt one of; if not the, most haunting images from the Vietnam War and was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year for 1972.

The impact that photo had was huge, New York Times editors were hesitant at first, because of the nudity, but still went ahead with the photo for publication because it had such impact.  Today, would that same image be allowed or would it be censored?

Great works of art and literature could be censored.  History was re-written by the Nazi party during their time of power within Germany, and world events were ‘molded’ into their view before being presented to the German people, the same thing is done by other countries today, by censoring what the population sees and hears from the outside world.  We have to be careful that the blanket of protection the government wants to cover us with isn’t going to suffocate us in the process.

Many argue that parents need the government to do this, for the life of me I can’t see why.  Part of being a parent should be looking after your kid(s), having home computer(s) and running parental controls on it, and parents putting in the effort to monitor what is going on a bit would be far more sensible.

Admittedly, if this had come in 15 years ago, it might have made more sense, since the parents then had less of an idea about computers.  But, today the internet has been in existence since the mid/late ’80s, so the current generations of parents have grown up with computers and the net, so they should be able to use one.

If we go back in history, we expected parents to be able to help teach their children to read, write and do basic maths since these were ‘everyday’ skills that the kids would need.  Today, that basic skill set should include the use of the phone and a computer, if the parent is technically ignorant should we not be promoting the adult education of computer literacy for these parents instead of the dumbing down of the system?

If we expect the ISP’s to block everything for us then just what are we missing?  Virgin Media announced controls to block sites that are categorised as:

  • Adult Material
  • Hate
  • Violence
  • Drugs
  • Crime
  • Hacking
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide

But what does that mean?  If a kid is depressed and looking for a support site for drugs/self-harm or even contemplating suicide, is the ISP going to be blocking these support sites due to an error in their white list?

Imagine the outcry if following a death of a child it was found they had been looking for support and the ISP had blocked the search.