Letter to my MP

For the first time in two years I am writing to my MP. I will let you know if I get a response! For more information see, Sex and Censorship Blog

I am writing to you regarding the above bill as you are my MP. The Online Safety Bill is a private member’s bill and is currently undergoing its second reading in the House of Lords. This proposed piece of legislation is of serious concern to the freedom of the Internet, and it is imperative that it is stopped.

The specific item that is of grave concern is under “duty to provide a service that excludes adult content” and reads as follows:

 (1)Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(2)Where mobile telephone network operators provide a telephone service to subscribers, which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(3)The conditions are—
(a)the subscriber “opts-in” to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;
(b)the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and
(c)the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over.

I fundamentally disagree with all forms of censorship: I can point to dozens of examples in history where the censoring and suppression of speech has had the reverse effect, and it is always the last refuge of the desperate. However, this bill will have dramatic consequences that go beyond its supposed intention. Currently totalitarian regimes like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia repress large portions of the Internet, and if this bill passes, the UK can be added to that list.

The clause 1(3)(c) will force ISPs to either check that every site they permit access to adheres to an “age verification policy,” but obviously, as this is not feasible, the only technical solution would be mass-blocking of any service unless it appears on an OFCOM-approved list.

Currently, OFCOM do provide a list of approved adult sites, through the discredited ATVOD, which requires services to register and pay; there are millions of “adult sites” on the Internet, and only twenty have joined ATVOD’s list. It’s simply not credible.

Current services, such as Wikipedia, Radio Times, WordPress and Archive.org have already been blocked over the years, despite them being “non-adult” as the “over-blocking” and over-zealous filters deployed by the ISPs censor legitimate content. This would be the future, and if an ISP was ever in any doubt, they would block access, just to ensure that they definitely were not breaking the law.

It is likely that sexual health advice services, sex toy retailers and possibly even naturists will experience the “false positive” nature of this action. This is unacceptable. A government-mandated censorship of the Internet is evil and must be resisted by everyone who values the freedom and democracy that this country was founded upon.

Furthermore, many smaller and niche ISPs would struggle to fund the demands placed upon them and could fold, while the costs of implementing the unwanted censorship would fall upon the subscribers. This is unfair and unacceptable: forcing the censored to pay for their censoring.

I know the argument is hysterically touted as “think of the children!” However, this is not credible. It is the duty of any adult providing Internet access to a child to ensure that the content they access is fit for their consumption; it is not the duty of the state to parent my children, it is my job. The day I feel unable to provide safe Internet access to my children is the day they lose access to the net.

Censoring the entire UK population and saddling seventy million people with a technically unworkable solution to a problem that only exists if parents do not parent, is irresponsible. Furthermore, this will harm the UK’s reputation in the global IT industry; the UK will be the only Western democracy censoring the Internet and its citizens.

I implore you to reject this bill and these clauses when they reach the House of Commons. Please note, that I will put this letter and any response on my adult-themed blog.

Kind regards,

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  1. Pingback: How Under-18s can break the UK Internet Filters! | John D Stories

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