This Government doesn't understand technology. The attempt to block porn proves it

Cameron's plan is an unworkable sop to the Tory right

Share
Related Topics

The consensus in the software and web development industry is that politicians are simply incapable of “getting” technology. They don't understand the Internet, they don't know how to police it and they are completely clueless as to how to tackle challenges posed by an increasingly online society. Whether it's suggesting that Blackberry Messenger be shut down in response to the 2011 riots or producing a laughably impossible proposal to assign every individual a static IP address, governments never fail to produce reactionary policy in an area they know nothing about.

It's understandable from an electoral sense why Cameron made this speech: "The internet and pornography: Prime Minister calls for action". We are 94 weeks away from the next general election and the right-wing element of the Tory party are bruised from horrible liberal things like equal marriage. This dog-whistle style war on porn would seem like the perfect way to remind the country and his party that he is a Conservative Prime Minister and doesn't agree with this sort of thing.

Cameron suggests that filtering sites at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level is the answer to helping parents keep their children safe from porn. There are a myriad of problems with this approach. Filters are known to block out things that needn't be blocked and conversely fail to block the things they should. The Prime Minister makes a remarkable promise in his speech regarding the former to "ensure that does not happen". To give such a guarantee is to promise the impossible, no matter how well-intentioned.

The other reason such a tactic is doomed to fail is exactly why efforts to ban The Pirate Bay failed. ISPs can block IP addresses like they did with TPB, but that does not deal with the existence of proxies. Proxies are not expensive bits of kit, rather they can be a few lines of code hosted on a cheap web server. The user chooses to send their request to the proxy which then itself sends a request to the banned server, with the banned material returning via the non-banned proxy server. Of course, ISPs can do their utmost to find these proxies and add them to the blacklist, but as they found with TPB, more spring up in their place.

Cameron asserts that “it should not be the case that technically literate children can just flick the filters off at the click of a mouse without anyone knowing”. They may not be able to flick the filters off, but it’s not too difficult to bypass them.

What is most disingenuous about Cameron’s speech is the direct statement that any opposition to his unworkable proposals amounts to inaction. If he wishes to pursue alternative options that are viable, he could put his ministerial appointments where his mouth is.

He could create a Minister at the Home Office with specific responsibilities for technology, communications and the Internet and give the job to his coalition colleague Dr Julian Huppert MP, the one Parliamentarian who seems to understand technology. Even then, it won’t change the fact that the most effective means of keeping children safe on the Internet is through direct parental guidance. A government e-petition has been set up to this effect and has, at time of writing, gathered over 8,000 signatures.

Instead of opting for the same old reactionary hyperbole that has poisoned the debate on online child protection for years, the Prime Minister had an opportunity to do it differently, informed by technological experts with viable solutions. Cameron and his colleagues have produced ill-considered blunt policy that attempts to deal with youth who are miles more resourceful and technologically literate than they are. The void between technologists and the legislature has never been wider and the need for more engineers in Parliament has clearly never been greater.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company has been manufacturing high quali...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is the fairest onl...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Production Planner is require...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

No more big characters or Tory clowns like Boris Johnson. London desperately needs a boring mayor

Rachel Holdsworth
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black death: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen