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Government Ignorance, Technical Illiteracy & Control Freakery

David Cameron has proven himself to be as useless and pathetic a Prime Minister as Gordon Brown was.  Politicians govern in ignorance; it is their duty to make sure they get the best advice from the best advisors.  So one could possibly understand (if not forgive) Cameron’s ignorance.  But to choose the technically illiterate Claire Perry as his internet advisor is beyond ignorant, beyond stupid and almost beyond non-offensive pejoratives.

Cameron and Perry are using the emotive phrase “think of the children” and the guise of blocking child pornography to rail through the kind of censorship that would not be out of place in China.  It was typical politician soundbite without thinking through what was said: “One click to protect your whole home and keep your children safe”.  An impossible claim.  One which, if he didn’t already know it, his advisors should have told him it was impossible.

This isn’t about porn.  It’s about control freakery and censorship.  Porn is merely the paint job on this wagon of control freakery and censorship.

Let’s start off with a few facts:

  1. I am a techie, CRB cleared and believe child porn and child abuse is utterly repellent.
  2. In around 20 years of being online in one form or another I have NEVER seen or been offered any child pornography.  I have been to some pretty seedy areas of the internet too.
  3. In my evidence to the APCOMMS committee, I was quite clear on how technically clueless government was.  Edward Snowden’s revelations and the recent Open Rights Group meeting in the House of Commons backed that up.  Parliament really hasn’t got a clue.
  4. The Home Office consultation on Parental Internet Controls (August 2012) contained a number of loaded questions aimed at promoting the right wing agenda of the likes of Premier Christian Media, SaferMedia and the Daily Mail.  My response to that consultation was critical of that line of questioning.
  5. Stuart Hall wasn’t using the internet when he was sexually assaulting children.
  6. Jimmy Savile wasn’t using the internet when he was sexually assaulting children.
  7. Ex-swimming coach Rick Curl wasn’t using the internet when he was sexually assaulting children.

The “protect the children” boat has been pushed out again, journeying the Internet seas to protect us all.  The point being missed is that once one thing can be blocked/censored then it’s all too easy for other content to be blocked as well.  Do you really trust the government to focus only on blocking porn?  If you do then you’re very  naïve.

Why is it so difficult for government to say to parents “Don’t leave your child unattended when they’re online at home”

Why is it so difficult for government to say to parents “Consult your local computer techie community for advice on securing your computer so it’s safer for your child to use”

Why is it so difficult for government to provide independent, impartial advice, free from propaganda and religious bias?

The answer is simple – vested interests and religious belief.  It is my sincerely held belief that good government is based on evidence, not religious belief or prejudice.  Religious dogma should have no place in attempting to skew policies or law.

Ministry Of Truth points out some facts about Claire Perry:

Remember, this is the same MP who ran her own sham ‘inquiry’ in online safety, publishing a report that most definitely was sponsoredby a Christian radio station, in order to inveigle her way into her wholly unofficial position as Cameron’s chief ‘doing it for the kids’ advisor – and by no coincidence whatsoever, Perry’s ‘report’ relies to a considerable extent on the exact same bullshit zombie porn ‘statistics‘ that I’ve since comprehensively debunked.

Let’s talk about technical illiteracy briefly.

A couple of days ago Claire Perry’s website got hacked and started showing links to NSFW content.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term (perhaps Claire Perry was until recently) it means Not Safe For Work – usually content that could potentially offend.  Well known political blogger Guido Fawkes reported this and was bullied by Claire Perry for his efforts.

She accused Guido of being behind the hack and demonstrated that she doesn’t really know much about hyperlinks before threatening to complain to The Sun newspaper where Guido writes a column.

And this is David Cameron’s internet advisor?

On this evidence I should be Mr Cameron’s advisor on nuclear issues.

Guido’s threatened to sue Perry and I hope he does.  If I were Guido and I won the case I think I would donate my payout to Backlash UK. It would be a nice little “get stuffed” sign to Claire Perry.

Here’s some more technical illiteracy for you – David Cameron has praised the net filter used by TalkTalk which is made by Chinese firm Huawei, a company whose ties with the Chinese government are causing concern.

Related to technical illiteracy is the IWF.  It may have noble aims but the IWF isn’t without problems of its own.  I have already written about the mess caused when the IWF decided to classify a Scorpions album cover from 1979 as illegal and tried to block it from UK internet users.  The questions from that debacle remain unanswered.  The IWF has not had its status changed into that of a law enforcement body.  Therefore it remains an unaccountable body which lacks transparency.

Until the questions about blocking/censoring, transparency and due process are satisfactorily answered this project shouldn’t even be near getting off the drawing board, never mind the ground.

Then last night came the confirmation I and others had been expecting:

UK censorwall will also block “terrorist content,” “violence,” “circumvention tools,” “forums,” and more

UK porn filter will censor other content too, ISPs reveal

So anything with “forum” in the title is going to be blocked?  The guys over at the Eagle Transporter Forum are going to be a bit miffed about that.  What’s subversive or pornographic about Space:1999’s iconic Eagle spacecraft?  The Professional Drivers Foundation will be upset their forum’s going to be blacklisted too.

Like I said, this isn’t about porn, it’s about control freakery and censoring dissenting or potentially dissenting voices.  Or is it really because there used to be a porn mag called Forum?

Bill Hicks makes an interesting point when he says “I find it ironic that people who are against things that cause sexual thoughts are generally fundamentalist Christians who also believe you should be fruitful and multiply”

I could go on at length about high profile right wing Christians who have been caught in sex scandals.  You know the kind of thing – televangelists who speak out against equal marriage on one hand yet are caught in motel rooms with rent boys.  If you don’t know what I mean, start here, look here and then go here.  Makes me wonder if the chatter I sometimes hear about MPs doing kinky things is true.

It may be of interest to note that Claire Perry did not vote in February’s Commons vote on Equal Marriage.  You can see her spinning that here.  This brings me to another aspect that has surely not been given any consideration, never mind the serious consideration it deserves: support groups for the LGBT community.

There are many excellent LGBTQ support communities online – these would surely be blocked by this proposal.  Does Claire Perry support the rights of all people struggling with their sexuality to seek advice and support online? Or does that just extend to heterosexuals?  As one friend told me: “This filter will surely block access to self-harm support group & suicide support group sites. Without those a few years ago, I would probably be dead.”

Australia implemented a filtering system a couple of years ago.  It didn’t take long for sex education sites, gay and lesbian sites, forums discussion sexual issues to disappear from the net.  Thankfully that filtering scheme has been terminated.

As a techie I can and often do provide advice to people on computer issues and internet safety.  It’s not rocket science.  Another friend told me that a neighbour of hers was on the rampage demanding to know who had named their WiFi router “You’re_downloading_porn” because his young daughter had asked “Daddy, what’s porn?”.  If that guy is allowing his young daughter to access the control panel of his computer then in my opinion that’s poor parenting.  Children should be given their own accounts on computers which restrict them from accessing areas like the control panel.

Where is this heading?  Josef Goebbels introduced the Volksempfänger (“People’s Receiver”) in 1933 – a government approved radio.  Is this where Cameron and Perry want to go – approved devices for approved internet access to approved websites?  That word – “approved” – smacks of the kind of intolerant society that deserves no place in a supposedly free, democratic country.

It seems to me that there is a need for good, impartial, supportive and non-judgemental sex education all over the world instead of FUD and stupid soundbites from from media, right wing religious types and ignorant and technically illiterate politicians.

There is no substitute for good parenting.  There is no substitute in a free society for debate and education.  There is no place in a free society for state censorship of “disapproved” opinions.  This idiotic posturing from David Cameron and Claire Perry must be fought.

Here are some links worth reading. Some relate to technical aspects of the idea, others relate to the discussions about what should not be blocked and why.  They are presented here purely for informative purposes, detailing why this blocking idea is severely flawed:

Dani Garavelli in The Scotsman – Cameron Crusade Casts The Net Wide

Paul Bernal – 10 Questions About Cameron’s “new” Porn-blocking

ConservativeHome – Claire Perry’s porn filter is fantasy policy-making, and it’s coming unstuck

The Economist – Default Cameron

Daily Telegraph – Cameron Can’t Protect Us From Child Porn Because He Doesn’t Understand The Internet

Dan Bull’s song The Porn Minister

Megalomaniac’s Lair – Dave’s Censoring The Internet (interesting point about The Pirate Bay here)

Mollys Daily Kiss Highlights Daily Mail Hypocrisy

Milena Popova – Porn Blocking – A Survivor’s Perspective (Child sexual abuse trigger warning)

Open Rights Group Who exactly is responsible for ‘nudge censorship’? – “We have no legislation, a contradictory official government policy, and ISPs promising that they will deliver a ‘pre-selected’ censorship approach”

Open Rights Group – Sleepwalking Into Censorship

Dr Brooke Magnanti – Cameron’s Internet Porn War Won’t Put Women Off Watching It

Pirate Party UK Opinion – Claire Perry’s “Porn Filter” Is Internet Censorship v1.0

Gone Digital – Cameron’s brave new world – clueless, puritan and just plain wrong

ZDNet – Key Is Tackle The Darknets, Not Let Censorship in By The Back Door

Girl On The Net – On Why We Need Stricter Controls On Literature

Moronwatch – How The Religious Right Censored The UK Media (from 2011)

The Register  – Pressure Group Demands UK Apes China Net Filter Plan (from 2009)

Please sign the E-petition against compulsory filtering

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Published inbad government ideasbloggingcensorshipEducationfreedom of speechInternetlack of Clue