Groundhog day - the government's new plan to deal with adult material online...

iqoniq

Well-known Member
Apparently the government are going to have another crack at tackling online porn (funny how they usually talk about this when they're in crisis). Now I freely applaud people trying to stop kids accessing porn, but the problem is when the plan has already been mooted and dropped.

Their ground breaking idea is to make all websites verify a users age if they're from the UK, and if they don't they'll be blocked.

They keep mentioning this time and time again, and they've been told time and time again, a VPN will negate any efforts. I usually run a VPN as standard, and my main reason is to bypass geo-locks on content I can't access because of where I live. It makes the site's server think I'm somewhere else (another country) and let me watch whatever I want to watch. The same thing will happen if I go onto a porn site, and the porn site will think I'm in whatever country I've told my VPN to connect to. The system is broken.

VPNs are becoming widely available, some are free, and some are even baked into browsers. These don't require any age verification checks or anything much in the way of setup, and at one point in Opera merely turning on the Off Road setting would bypass all the blocks the government put in against piracy sites. There's no way to check where traffic from a VPN has actually originated, either.

The government's plans for a "porn pass" was shown to be totally unworkable from the start, and I was surprised how far along in planning it got, before it was quietly dropped shortly before launch (the company that would be running the verification was a porn producer themselves, there was a very strong conflict of interest as they would be able to stifle competitors, and were also heavily implicated during the underage/revenge/rape porn scandal).

What the government could do is target commercial VPNs. Give the VPNs the same terms as the porn sites, but instead of the porn site doing the age verification, requiring that the VPN takes over that part the moment they see a domain on the naughty list. This would work, but you'd also end up with most VPNs refusing to do any business with the UK.

A legitimate function of a VPN is to bypass government placed restrictions on freedom of speech or real news, and as part of this service, VPNs do not store records. At any point the authorities could turn up armed with subpoena's, search warrants and everything and demand that the VPN tells them who was accessing dodgywebsite.com, and the staff will smile politely and say they can't because they don't keep logs. This isn't because they want to help people get access to porn, but because if you're in a country which restricts what you can access online, and the only news is propaganda, would you want the company you use to escape that keeping records that the authorities could access? If a VPN starts asking for some personal details outside of an e-mail address (some don't even require that), then all trust is lost.

You can't even push this onto ISPs. When I use a VPN, all my ISP sees is encrypted traffic heading to a server in Spain. It doesn't know what this data is, and it could be cat pictures or classified plans for a US fighter bomber. The ISP doesn't know where it goes to after that either. All the ISP is doing is acting as a road for the traffic between the VPN and myself.

The government need to realise that trying to block websites will not work. They've tried the same with file sharing and torrent sites, and that hasn't worked out so great. They're just asking the same question on a different day and getting the same answer. They can't just magic up some solution, because that's not how technology works. They have no power whatsoever over any company or server not sitting on UK soil. In short, they need to realise we're nothing but a small country, and when it's a choice of 72 million customers or 7.2 billion, it's obvious who will win.

Maybe education as opposed to censorship might actually be the key here.
 

KBD

Well-known Member
Have you ever been to China?
They do a good job of blocking VPNs there.
 

richp007

Distinguished Member
Apparently the government are going to have another crack at tackling online porn (funny how they usually talk about this when they're in crisis). Now I freely applaud people trying to stop kids accessing porn, but the problem is when the plan has already been mooted and dropped.

Their ground breaking idea is to make all websites verify a users age if they're from the UK, and if they don't they'll be blocked.

They keep mentioning this time and time again, and they've been told time and time again, a VPN will negate any efforts. I usually run a VPN as standard, and my main reason is to bypass geo-locks on content I can't access because of where I live. It makes the site's server think I'm somewhere else (another country) and let me watch whatever I want to watch. The same thing will happen if I go onto a porn site, and the porn site will think I'm in whatever country I've told my VPN to connect to. The system is broken.

VPNs are becoming widely available, some are free, and some are even baked into browsers. These don't require any age verification checks or anything much in the way of setup, and at one point in Opera merely turning on the Off Road setting would bypass all the blocks the government put in against piracy sites. There's no way to check where traffic from a VPN has actually originated, either.

The government's plans for a "porn pass" was shown to be totally unworkable from the start, and I was surprised how far along in planning it got, before it was quietly dropped shortly before launch (the company that would be running the verification was a porn producer themselves, there was a very strong conflict of interest as they would be able to stifle competitors, and were also heavily implicated during the underage/revenge/rape porn scandal).

What the government could do is target commercial VPNs. Give the VPNs the same terms as the porn sites, but instead of the porn site doing the age verification, requiring that the VPN takes over that part the moment they see a domain on the naughty list. This would work, but you'd also end up with most VPNs refusing to do any business with the UK.

A legitimate function of a VPN is to bypass government placed restrictions on freedom of speech or real news, and as part of this service, VPNs do not store records. At any point the authorities could turn up armed with subpoena's, search warrants and everything and demand that the VPN tells them who was accessing dodgywebsite.com, and the staff will smile politely and say they can't because they don't keep logs. This isn't because they want to help people get access to porn, but because if you're in a country which restricts what you can access online, and the only news is propaganda, would you want the company you use to escape that keeping records that the authorities could access? If a VPN starts asking for some personal details outside of an e-mail address (some don't even require that), then all trust is lost.

You can't even push this onto ISPs. When I use a VPN, all my ISP sees is encrypted traffic heading to a server in Spain. It doesn't know what this data is, and it could be cat pictures or classified plans for a US fighter bomber. The ISP doesn't know where it goes to after that either. All the ISP is doing is acting as a road for the traffic between the VPN and myself.

The government need to realise that trying to block websites will not work. They've tried the same with file sharing and torrent sites, and that hasn't worked out so great. They're just asking the same question on a different day and getting the same answer. They can't just magic up some solution, because that's not how technology works. They have no power whatsoever over any company or server not sitting on UK soil. In short, they need to realise we're nothing but a small country, and when it's a choice of 72 million customers or 7.2 billion, it's obvious who will win.

Maybe education as opposed to censorship might actually be the key here.

Funnily enough I've just commented about legislation and censorship in the Jimmy Carr thread.

I'm all for education though, it's what we desperately need. Younger males than ever are watching porn, and it's warping their ideas about how relationships work and how to treat women.

But as per usual the government shows us it hasn't a clue about how to approach any serious issue. They're an absolute waste of space. This will be yet another all for show failure of a policy.
 

DemonAV

Distinguished Member
So this is going to be similar to the Youtube model where to watch certain content you are asked to enter your card details as proof of age? I don't even trust Youtube let alone a dodgy porn site to have my bank details in confidence. This govt are in my humble opinion a complete bunch of ******s for even trying this after their failure several years ago!
 

iqoniq

Well-known Member
Have you ever been to China?
They do a good job of blocking VPNs there.
I'd be highly surprised if the government went as far as that. Theoretically, they could force an ISP to detect if traffic is going to known VPN server and require some proof of age regardless of what you're doing with it which periodically resets. There are issues with this (especially in a multiuser setting), but it would be a start. To be honest, I think that would be the only one that would work on a technical level with VPNs, and because the information is encrypted if using a VPN then it's not possible to know who's watching porn and who's not.

Moving away from VPNs, they could also shift the onus onto ISPs by requiring an unlock if you want to view the more colourful parts of the internet. This could work by simply asking for the verification and off you go. If the government go as far as putting online gambling, pro-drug websites and a few more things in there, then as there's no record of what site you were trying to go to that's stored, it doesn't mean that everyone will be looking for porn who's signed up, and less interest to hackers. Fair enough, if someone wanted to use a scattergun approach then they could, but people are savvy enough to know when someone is trying to blackmail them, and usually post it everywhere for everyone else to know.

The only solution is at ISP level from the looks of it, but whether the ISPs want to become the gate keepers is a different issue.
 

KBD

Well-known Member
It's a little Puritanical.
Meanwhile children can watch gruesome violence in Horror films without anything getting in the way.
 

iqoniq

Well-known Member
So this is going to be similar to the Youtube model where to watch certain content you are asked to enter your card details as proof of age? I don't even trust Youtube let alone a dodgy porn site to have my bank details in confidence. This govt are in my humble opinion a complete bunch of ******s for even trying this after their failure several years ago!
That depends whether the government want to go down the Porn Pass route again. The plan that got quite far on required you to go to the newsagents, show them some ID, buy a card and enter some numbers. I dare say it was probably available online as well, but it wasn't intended to be something solely online.

The thing is, unless the ISPs get on board and are happy to handle it then there's next to no way of it working. They're highly unlikely to do so because it's going to have a cost to it, does there need to be compatibility or can each use their own system, it will need to be extremely secure against hackers, robust enough to withstand denial-of-service attacks, and be thoroughly and regularly checked for exploits.

It wouldn't be the first time the government have tried to get the ISPs on side. A while back there was a bit of a thing about ISPs basically child locking the internet. Anything adult would redirect to a page telling you off, unless you went into the ISPs website and opted out. A few ISPs got on board with it, but it never really amounted to much. The main problem with that approach was the fact that it used some extreme family friendly filter, and it was prone to a lot of false positives (although I did like the fact it blocked Facebook, even if by accident). You'd end up switching it off because it was too aggressive. It was also an all or nothing approach. There was no way of saying leave it on for my kids, but off for the adults. All the ISPs were using different systems as well, so some systems didn't work as well as others.
 

shodan

Distinguished Member
If the concerns are that online porn warps young people's minds about relationships and how to treat women (when I was growing up - pre internet - we still had access to pornography through books and magazines we couldn't legally buy) then isn't that the responsibility of parents and guardians to teach children about respect and healthy relationships?

Also, to prevent the criminalisation of under 18s, it is not an offence for someone under 18 to watch porn.

I don't believe the government could put a blanket ban on viewing porn sites in the UK because it isn't illegal and VPN negate it anyway.

So I don't think this can work at all and that leads it back to being the responsibility of parents and guardians.
 
Porn has been around since people found out how to draw on cave walls and I don't see how you can control with any great degree of success.

I'd guess the vast majority of men have watched porn at some point and these days woman have joined the viewing public for this genre.

I agree with what shodan said, parents need to do more educating their children, no use telling your lad he'll go blind or his todger will drop off looking at porn talk about it with him/her, explain they need not watch it all the time but you won't die if you indulge now and them etc.

Someone mentioned China earlier, well I have a niece who was a dance teacher on mainland China 2016-2018 and within a couple of days one of her students showed her how to get round the government blocks so don't think they control the internet much better then we do.

New rules like these will be circumnavigated in the blink of an eye IMO.
 

richp007

Distinguished Member
If the concerns are that online porn warps young people's minds about relationships and how to treat women (when I was growing up - pre internet - we still had access to pornography through books and magazines we couldn't legally buy) then isn't that the responsibility of parents and guardians to teach children about respect and healthy relationships?

Also, to prevent the criminalisation of under 18s, it is not an offence for someone under 18 to watch porn.

I don't believe the government could put a blanket ban on viewing porn sites in the UK because it isn't illegal and VPN negate it anyway.

So I don't think this can work at all and that leads it back to being the responsibility of parents and guardians.

Of course it is the responsibility of parents and guardians, but where are they? And in their defence to a degree it's very difficult to regulate online access now. A child could just leave the house with their phone and go and watch porn outside instead.

The internet and it's pitfalls need to be something that is included in our school curriculum as well these days. It's a way of life and along with all the other terrible things they can encounter like bullying and self-harming, we need to educate on these matters before children discover it for themselves - but not in the appropriate manner.

I know that's drifted from the thread title somewhat, but I view a lot of this all as part of the same package.

Just on a side note there, this is a fabulous story born out of the darkest of circumstances.


 

WombatDeath

Active Member
This is a classic case of "Something must be done, and this is something, so we'll do it". It's impossible for the government to prevent a determined child from seeing porn.

Let's go into the territory of the absurd and imagine that the government not only bans children entirely from using the internet, but is also magically able to enforce the ban. Within a day or two little Tommy will be popping to school with a £10 SD card and a ten pound note, both of which he'll hand over to Barry (whose big brother doesn't mind sharing his porn pass with Barry), and the next day Tommy will be the proud owner of an SD card containing 64GB of porn in his chosen genre.

It's functionally impossible to thwart little Tommy's desire to see porn. It can't be done, by anyone, short of locking him up. It's a complete waste of time and money to make the effort. As mentioned above, the only thing you can (and should) do is educate him.
 

iqoniq

Well-known Member
This is a classic case of "Something must be done, and this is something, so we'll do it". It's impossible for the government to prevent a determined child from seeing porn.

Let's go into the territory of the absurd and imagine that the government not only bans children entirely from using the internet, but is also magically able to enforce the ban. Within a day or two little Tommy will be popping to school with a £10 SD card and a ten pound note, both of which he'll hand over to Barry (whose big brother doesn't mind sharing his porn pass with Barry), and the next day Tommy will be the proud owner of an SD card containing 64GB of porn in his chosen genre.

It's functionally impossible to thwart little Tommy's desire to see porn. It can't be done, by anyone, short of locking him up. It's a complete waste of time and money to make the effort. As mentioned above, the only thing you can (and should) do is educate him.
With the above, it requires adult intervention. If the government were able to do this, and somehow find out that the child was using the pass, then there should be a "X strikes and you're out" system where the "owner" of that number gets a strike. Hit the X number and the person is prosecuted (like shop owners can be when selling cigarettes or alcohol to kids). This would also stop adults passing the pass to kids. The downside is this requires personal information to be passed to the shop at the least.

Having said that, it's probably easier just to implement a system that logs access and if two IPs start sharing the same number, then access is restricted, and if a load of IPs start using the same number then it's cancelled.

I think part of the education should be reducing the stigma that surrounds porn and sex work. Out of all the professions out there, it's probably one of the most honest and straight forward. You see the goods, you pay for them and get the service. When you've got shows like Love Island, where people will couple up purely to win a competition (and enhance their career prospects), is there that much of a difference. While this is bordering on a different discussion, I think that shows like that, which do have a large teen following should be banned because it's teaching kids that they're nothing unless they're in a relationship.
 

Tempest

Distinguished Member
All seems a bit silly.
I'll admit, many moons ago in early Internet days I thought it was totally stupid to try and promote the Internet in anyway to children.
Almost felt like there should be like a kids internet, though perhaps that would never work.

Internet to me was an adult thing.
It's not the Internets fault if Kids look at things they should not.
No more than it's real life fault if kids go places and see things they should not.

But of course, personal responsibility is not a think anymore....

They'll be banning shows about animals next and wanting them to cover up.

91108a543980fa03fbbe2d79e16c0bab.png
 

iqoniq

Well-known Member
All seems a bit silly.
I'll admit, many moons ago in early Internet days I thought it was totally stupid to try and promote the Internet in anyway to children.
Almost felt like there should be like a kids internet, though perhaps that would never work.

Internet to me was an adult thing.
It's not the Internets fault if Kids look at things they should not.
No more than it's real life fault if kids go places and see things they should not.

But of course, personal responsibility is not a think anymore....

They'll be banning shows about animals next and wanting them to cover up.

91108a543980fa03fbbe2d79e16c0bab.png
Is that taken from the C4 show that explored swinging and dogging, but had everyone wearing animal masks to hide their identity, and at the same time made them look totally ridiculous?
 

The latest video from AVForums

Prey + Bullet Train reviews, Heat 4K + Event Horizon 4K and all the latest movies and TV news
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom