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

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions