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  • Apr 21, 2014
  • Updated: 8:27pm
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BRITAIN

Bid to curb internet porn sparks freedom row in Britain

Critics of David Cameron's internet campaign warn that it could lead to a system in which 'censors' become the arbitrators of good taste

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 8:54am

In a land whose uptight reputation is belied by its wicked ways, the Conservative-led British government is in midst of a crusade to enact some of the strictest curbs on pornography in the Western world.

The campaign follows the rape and murder of two young girls by men seemingly addicted to online pornography. One of the children, five-year-old April Jones, was buried Thursday after a nationally televised funeral.

Just as in the United States, child pornography is already illegal in Britain. But citing widely accessible brands of legal pornography for "corrupting childhood" and "normalising sexual violence against women," Prime Minister David Cameron has launched an all-out assault that opponents say is pitting state-sponsored morality against internet freedom in one of the planet's most open societies.

Family-friendly filters will soon be automatically installed when most new subscribers sign up for internet service, with customers wishing to view pornography needing to make a conscious choice to turn them off. Before the end of next year, most of the 21 million wired households in Britain will also be placed in the awkward position of having to declare whether they want to keep access to legal online pornography or have it blocked by their telecommunications providers.

Cameron is also demanding that search engines such as Google and Yahoo create a "blacklist" of terms relating to child pornography that, when strung together, come back with no hits. His government is additionally moving to ban the possession of a broader range of images, including not only child pornography but also images depicting consenting adults engaged in violent acts such as simulated rape.

"We now have the ambition to make Britain the most family-friendly democracy in the world," said Claire Perry, a member of Parliament from Cameron's Conservative Party.

Free-speech advocates, however, see a slippery slope, one that could eventually rob Britain of the moral authority to denounce government-imposed internet filtration in countries such as China.

Next month, executives from Google, Facebook, Twitter and other technology companies will be asked to appear at a parliamentary hearing in London on internet security and safety - with British lawmakers studying the possibility of fresh guidelines or new legislation to combat everything from cyberbullying to the ability of children to view explicit material online.

Critics say that by moving to expand the definition of illegal pornographic images to include so-called "rape porn," the government will be creating a subjective system where empowered "censors" become the arbitrators of good taste. And in a world of increasingly risqué mainstream material - HBO's hit Game of Thrones, for instance, depicts graphic sexual violence against women - free-speech advocates wonder where the lines of illegally may ultimately be drawn.

Meanwhile, rolling out internet filter systems to such a large portion of British households, some argue, could easily create a tool for blocking other types of objectionable material.

"This is the thin end of a massive wedge," said Alex Bloor, business development manager at Andrews & Arnold, a British internet service provider.

At the moment, however, the fiercest debate is over pornography. On October 1 last year, Jones was playing near her home in Wales when she disappeared. The man convicted of her murder, Mark Bridger, 47, according to court testimony, had "a library" of online child sexual abuse images - including child rape - on his laptop, according to court testimony.

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john.shea.3914
So 'Pornography Addiction' joins the long list of modern pseudo-diseases and excuses for murder...

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