A new national censor

A new national censor

Parliament has voted to create a new national censor, that can block websites without a court order. The government wants it to censor adult websites that don’t offer “age verification”—and censor “non-conventional” content on those sites that do.

The Digital Economy Bill now has powers to force Internet Service Providers to block erotica and pornography websites that don’t verify the age of their users. It can also tell those sites what kind of material is acceptable—it says it will censor “non-conventional pornography”.

This equates to censorship of legal content - potentially affecting tens of thousands of websites and millions of people.

The government now want to block Twitter accounts belonging to non-compliant websites—while other pornographic Twitter accounts will reman unblocked.

The censorship policy is meant to enforce the use of "age verification” technology, as a punlishment. Most websites won’t add these technological age checks, or will choose to use simple but bad methods.

Age verification could itself lead to widespread credit card fraud, if publishers ask people to share their card details just to access random websites. Collection of porn browsing information would create risks of Ashley Maddison style data leaks. There are no privacy safeguards in the Bill.

Once censorship is in place, politicians will think of plenty more things they can ban. We have heard discussions around this bill asking why more material is not being censored to make the Internet safe for families.

Blocking websites is a disproportionate, technical response to a complex, social issue. The UK’s children need education, not censorship, to keep them safe.