Well, at least now we know why the Tories are so obsessed with internet pornography: they seem to spend a lot of their time looking at it. Well, allegedly, in the case of Damian Green, the former de facto deputy Prime Minister, who was forced to resign following allegations the he had had porn on his office computer, discovered in the course of a police investigation when he was in opposition. Indeed, at one point it was claimed that he had so called ‘extreme porn’ on his official laptop (claims which were subsequently dropped). I say ‘so called’ as it is surely all a matter of taste as to what constitutes ‘extreme’ pornography. Personally, whenever someone uses that term, I think of stuff like bestiality or child pornography, which, I’m sure, is what most other people would class as ‘extreme’. Or perhaps ‘extreme’ in the sense of ‘extreme sports’, with people having sex on mountain tops, underwater or on top of a moving train. But the government seems to think that some types of bondage porn are also ‘extreme’ and need banning. They really should get out more – Fifty Shades has made bondage mainstream. Not only that, but if we’re to believe the rumours, many Tory MPs pay good money for that sort of experience. But to get back to the point, it isn’t just Green who has been at it – I seem to recall cases of online porn being accessed on mobile devices inside Number Ten during Cameron’s premiership, (it was an aide, rather than him, apparently). They just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff, it seems.
Which makes their continued attempts to restrict access to internet smut all the more hypocritical. Of course, as I’ve argued previously, the supposed threat of children being exposed to internet porn is merely a Trojan horse, a convenient excuse for the authorities to place restrictions upon our web browsing. It’s the thin end of the wedge: pornography today, who knows what tomorrow. Who decides what constitutes ‘offensive content’ on a web site? Who knows what else will be ‘accidentally’ blocked along with the porn? But do you know what I find most disturbing about all of this? It’s the thought that horrible old Tories like Green have probably been sat in their offices at Westminster wanking off over online porn. I mean, really, can you think of a more horrendous mental image than Damian Green, behind his desk, with his trousers around his ankles giving it the five knuckle shuffle? Just imagine the embarrassment of his staff in the outer office as they hear the groans as he reaches the vinegar stroke? Mind you, it is the Commons cleaners I feel most sorry for – people that low paid really shouldn’t have to deal with the sticky tissues, let alone the stains on the desk. There probably isn’t any kind of cleaning product strong enough to shift those. Yes indeed, I shudder to think what goes on behind Green’s door.
But, to be serious for a moment, let’s not forget the government’s most recent knee jerk reaction to the non-threat of internet pornography, which was more than a little worrying. Last year they proposed that, from this year, 2018, age verification of some kind will be required to view pornographic sites. This could involve giving up credit card details (always a good idea on the web, eh?) as proof that one is over eighteen. Now, this is worrisome on several levels. Most obviously, it seems to demonstrate that our rulers have only the flimsiest grasp of how the internet actually works. They are aware, aren’t they, that the overwhelming majority of porn sites are based outside of the UK and therefore beyond the reach of such regulations? They do know, don’t they, that the web is a global thing that transcends national borders? They don’t seem to grasp that any UK porn sites covered by such legislation would simply move to overseas servers, where they can’t be prosecuted for not enabling this ludicrous age verification nonsense. The only way they can make such legislation effective – and here’s the next worrisome thought – would be to try and set up something like China’s so called ‘Great Firewall of China’ and attempt to regulate what UK citizens can and can’t see on the web.
Such censorship would be an extremely repressive move and a clear attempt to block both freedom of information and free speech. Of course, they’ve already tried a variation on this approach by trying to get Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to place content filters on customers’ accounts by default, blacklisting ‘adult’ sites and requiring customers to actively request the filters’ removal. The thing is that these filters and blacklists won’t just stop you from seeing so called ‘adult’ sites – they will block all sorts of innocent sites. There have been plenty of reports already of sexual health sites being blocked, not to mention sites promoting ‘alternative lifestyles’ and esoteric beliefs. I’ve had personal experience of this sort of thing: I once tried to look at Gav Crimson’s blog using the 4G connection on my phone, only to find it being blocked on the grounds of it containing adult material and my carrier demanding age verification (which, I found, would actually cost me money). Naturally, my reaction was one of ‘fuck off’ – I thought then and still feel that it is a real liberty to try and dictate to me what I can and can’t see on my personal phone using a data connection I pay for. Even worse is the fact that the blog in question isn’t pornographic, it merely reviews and discusses vintage British adult films and pop culture. But, it has been placed behind one of those warning screens by Google – which they slap on any Blogger blog if some busybody has complained that something on it has offended them – which my 4G carrier clearly equates with pornographic content.
As I said, we really need to be worried at this latest attempt at censorship. As ever it is all being justified on the old ‘won’t somebody think of the children’ schtick. Apparently, repression of the internet is the only way to stop children seeing all that horrible porn (the fact that the same sort of stuff is being peddled as prime time entertainment in the form of ‘reality TV’ like Love Island on freely available mainstream TV channels doesn’t seem to come into it). The sort of porn that it is perfectly safe for Tory MPs to safely view in their offices. The fact is that restricting what children see, whether it be on TV, in print or on the internet, is a parental responsibility, not that of the state. We really need to oppose these measures, otherwise we won’t just be porn losers, so to speak, but also risk accepting an unprecedented and unregulated degree of censorship.