Well it's happened to our friends across the pond. The Prime Minister has made it official - pornography will be blocked by default on the Internet in the UK unless you choose to "opt in" to receive it. (And of course, if you do "opt in," your name will be forwarded to a UK government agency in charge of overseeing citizens who are seeking out banned material. Isn't that special?)
I'm absolutely horrified by this development and the attitude of a government who believes it needs to step in and regulate adults and adult behavior. The prime minister claims this is about children having access to pornography on the internet - but it isn't the role of any government to step in and regulate what goes on in people's homes. Pornography isn't illegal (yet) so why is it being denied to adults by default? I understand having a filter that can be turned on and off, although it is a bit of a slippery slope to have government supplying that filter. However, having that filter set to "OFF" by default makes it a much slipperier one.
When you have a child, do you expect the government to raise it? Do you expect them to feed it, care for it, change its diapers, keep it safe? I certainly hope not. It's not the government's responsibility, it's the parents' responsibility. As a parent, you're in charge of keeping that child safe until it's old enough to do so. If you have bleach, you keep it in a locked cupboard under the sink. If you own a gun, you keep it unloaded in a locked cabinet. If you possess pornography, you keep it locked away and out of a child's sight. That's a parent's responsibility. Not the government's.
A computer and the internet are no different. I'm a parent--I don't let my children have access to the internet without my direct supervision. But as an adult, I don't want my government making those choices for ME. I'm not a child and I don't need a nanny. A government that steps in and makes those kinds of decisions for parents by default is effectively saying to adults, "You can't parent. I must do it for you."
Is this the level the UK has sunk to?
And how long will it be before politicians on this side of the pond start making these kinds of decisions for us?
We've gone down this road already in the realm of erotic ebooks with corporate censorship. Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Paypal--the list of companies who have attempted to or continue to deny adults access to adult materials while claiming they're doing so to "protect the children" (never mind that they're still selling sex toys, porn DVDs, torture-porn movies like "Hostel" and books like Jack Ketchum's The Woman)--have all participated in some form of corporate censorship. Right now, the American government can get away with using corporations to do their dirty work--mostly because America itself is in the pocket of corporations, and government motivations are in line with the corporate bottom line.
But whistleblower Eric Snowden has given us a glimpse into just how much information the NSA is gathering about average American citizens while at the same time using the media to whip people into a frenzy with fear-mongering about vague threat of terrorists. What's happening in the UK just may be a portent, a keyhole peek into the future of government control and the ever-growing nanny state in our own country.
For example, Tumblr has always had anti-censorship beliefs and policies in the past, so well known for their stance they inspired articles like this one in Salon about the best adult porn Tumblr blogs. But recently, Yahoo purchased Tumblr. Soon after that purchase was announced, users started to return "no search results" for certain terms relating to sex and pornography. Yahoo effectively made adult blogs invisible, in the same way Amazon's ADULT filter makes adult ebooks invisible. Another example of corporate censorship? Yep.
Where does it end?
Right now, Americans are being offered a censored version of the world, and many don't even know it. I'm not sure if that's better or worse than the UK government stepping in and forcing ISPs to block pornography by default. The former is an insidious form of censorship, a creeping, crawling, sprawling sort of censorship that most won't even acknowledge IS a form of censorship. At least the latter is more direct. As we've learned with the "war on terror," or the "war on drugs," the enemies you can't see, the ones that come at you from behind or underneath, the ephemeral sort, are a lot harder to fight then those who attack directly.
This is a direct attack on personal freedom and liberty. It's shocking and appalling, and if you're not shocked and appalled, you should be. This is government censorship being wrapped up in a nice "protect the children" wrapping paper with a big fat bow on it. It's a slippery slope that should not only horrify and frighten you, it should motivate you to act. At least I hope so. You can protest. You can sign this petition. If you're in the US, you can write to your congressmen protesting legislation like the proposed SOPA. You can support the Office for Intellectual Freedom, Banned Book Week, the Open Net Initiative and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange or even just go and like our Facebook page - Banned Erotic Books, where I will post everything I hear about banned books or censorship - in all forms.
And if you're thinking, "Well isn't this a good thing? Aren't they protecting the children?"--think again. This isn't about protecting children, it's about control. Control of consenting adults that should be free to watch what they like. Maybe you think I'm alarmist, just being a Chicken Little, and you don't believe in slippery slopes. If that's the case, consider this - Scotland and Wales banned "pornography depicting rape" back in 2008. Now the UK has followed suit. This law now also makes it illegal to possess any sort of pornography depicting rape. So what does that mean? Is BDSM pornography illegal now? Even if it's between consenting adults? Even if there's a "safe word?" Who makes the decision about what is or isn't rape, exactly?
By effectively "banning" pornography by forcing ISPs to filter it by default, politicians aren't really solving any problems. It's an easy fix. They haven't done anything to keep actual children from being harmed in the making of pornography. They haven't helped any actual rape victims by making stricter rape laws. They haven't done anything to teach real children about real sex--its dangers and pitfalls, as well as its true nature, meaning, and significance in life. They haven't done anything to help actual sex workers who endanger their lives in order to make more money than they could working at the local Wal-Mart. They haven't helped the actual harmful practice of women being sold as slaves in human trafficking. They haven't done anything about curbing the mainstream media's portrayal of women as sexual objects. Pornography has nothing on Cosmo, folks. They've gone after pornography, but they haven't gone after the "torture porn" in movies. It's okay to watch someone's head severed, to see a woman's nipples cut off, her labia flayed in a horror film, but it's not okay to watch two consenting adults with nipple clamps and hot wax?
They have gone after what they see as an easy target, something that can be perceived as "action," but is, in fact, a non-action. It's not a step forward, it's a step backward. This law creates a false sense of security for parents. Worse than that, it encourages parents to take less parental responsibility when they should be taking more, and it sets up both parents and children (who will, in another generation, become parents themselves) to rely on the government to control them. If that isn't the scariest slippery slope of them all, I don't know what is.
So before you start cheering because you feel children are being "protected" by the law just passed in the UK, imagine a world where everything you read, watch or do is restricted by government control. Imagine China. Imagine 1984. It's really not as far away as it seems. As Chicken Little as it sounds... sometimes the sky really is falling. Sometimes a slippery slope turns out to be far slipperier than you imagined.
Sometimes you wake up in a world you don't recognize, and wonder how in the hell you got there.
But by then, it will be far too late. The time is now. The choice is yours.
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget