Following is an e-mail I sent to my MP, regarding Ed Vaizey's "internet porn ban". I am awaiting a response (if one is coming, if the sudden stoppage of all electronic cigarette correspondence is anything to go by).
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Dear Mr Harrington,
Is it your party's aim to destroy the Internet in Britain?
Having read Ed Vaizey's opinion on net neutrality, and now his proposal to ban all home computers from accessing anything determined as pornography, your party comes across as wanting to censor the Web in this country even further than China does.
I have had experience with "adult" filters, having in the past spent 9 months fighting T-mobile and O2 because they wouldn't accept a birth certificate as proof of age, and having to use my server in Scotland to tunnel through.
You have to be 18 to have a landline and broadband connection. How many households in Britain have an internet connection and no children? There are five households in my house that are childless and have an internet connection, two of which have no-one with the type of ID that O2 stores require.
I am disabled and have communication difficulties preventing me from telephone and face-to-face contact. Some ISPs refuse to deal with e-mail communications for account-specific issues and insist on the customer calling them. How many similarly disabled people will be discriminated against by the Government because they are unable to "opt-in" to adult content?
ISPs will block access to opsi.gov.uk because it has legislation containing words that are adult. Hansard archives will no longer be accessible because of the content of some debates and the use of double-entendres. Archives of Proposition 8 debates will be blocked for the same reason. The Bible, Koran, and other religious books will be banned for adult themes.
Does your party believe every household in Britain contains children, or do you believe those that don't should be penalised? Are we about to see smoking and alcohol consumption in homes made illegal because the households might contain children? Are adults going to be arrested for using certain language in the bedroom because a non-existant minor in a childless home could have been exposed to adult content?
Has Clare Perry actually spoken to the House of Commons IT Department? Unless things have changed since I did my work experience there, they set OS settings and use a proxy server/filter to limit access to websites and content. Ask anyone in that department - or the average teen - how easy it is to get around "sites being blocked upstream" and they'll respond with their decade's equivalent of "piece of cake". Then again, if the PICT department are still advising MPs that PGP/OpenPGP software should be avoided instead of making sure all software - including VPN clients - are up to date, teenagers should probably be the best people to ask.
Has Clare Perry or Ed Vaizey spoken to Chinese officials about their censorship, particularly the Green Dam Escort software? Does the UK Government plan on spending billions of pounds on a project similar to the Golden Shield Project, and if so do you plan on imprisoning adults that circumvent ISP restrictions because they are unable/unwilling to "opt-in", possibly under the Computer Misuse Act or the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act?
Who is legally responsible for what is done with my internet connection? The County Courts say it is the person that is using the connection, the Digital Economy Act says it is the person paying for the connection. If an adult parent (i.e. over 18) opts in and installs Net Nanny on their teenager's computer, which is bypassed by them booting to an OS on a bootable USB stick, is someone then culpable for allowing a minor to access mature content? Is it the person that pays the bill, the person that opted in, the ISP, the teenager, or is there not actually a legal age requirement for looking at (rather than purchasing) porn?
I ask this because when something is blocked and access is wanted, a way is found around it. Are Clare Perry and Ed Vaizey computer illiterate, or do they really believe parents relying on filters - whether installed at the computer, router, or ISP level - have done all they can to "protect their children" and that anything that does get through or a way around it is possible, it is the creator/maintainer of the filter that is to blame because parental responsibility was delegated to them?
The only way to block anything on the Internet is to remove the Internet, the same as the only way to be 100% safe from malware is to not have a computer. Any "parent" or MP that believes otherwise should be sent to a basic computer security lecture, and I dispute any figures relating to technical know-how of parental controls and filters.
If only 15% of parents in this country know how to install a piece of software, is it any wonder we have so many zombie machines? Or was the question worded in such a way that the other 85% gave the closest answer to the truth - that the filters are nowhere near effective, block sites erroneously, and that what the question asked is technically impossible to do - and therefore "no I do not know" answers were from those more technially aware?
Why is this Government against legislating against something much more important - ISPs discrimating between websites, or as Ed Vaizey put it, a "two-tier internet" - like the FCC just recently ruled against, but you have no problem with legislating against something that is neither illegal, immoral, nor the responsibility of ISPs or Government.
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