The Surprising Data About Porn That Should Shock Britain Into Ending Its XXX Crusade

On Monday British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his campaign to cleanse the UK of internet porn — a plan that aims to prevent the “corroding” effect of porn on children and to limit the browsing privileges of pedophiles. While it seems well-intentioned, his plan could set a dangerous precedent of federal censorship and wider-spread surveillance.

Cameron proposes that each English household will have to opt-in with their internet service providers if they want access to porn, and providers would filter and limit available material. This will inevitably lead to countless uncomfortable conversations with tech service and whoever pays the internet bill (your mom). Cameron also aims to outlaw porn with scenes of simulated rape and sites with “abhorrent” buzz words that signal extra-illicit content.

Cameron’s initiative marks the first step on a slippery slope to increased surveillance of the ever-growing population of internet browsers — a slope already slid by other countries, namely China, Russia, and Australia. China’s web restrictions led to the development of “Green Dam,” an internet filtering software embedded in Chinese PCs. Chinese officials explained they designed Green Dam to target online porn, but they also used the software to monitor and restrict access to sites with violent, political and even educational content.

If Cameron goes forward with his plan, internet surveillance could increase both within the UK and abroad. “Blocking certain searches in one country could set a precedent elsewhere, making other governments more confident in applying censorship," says BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

In addition to the threat of civilian surveillance, the porn ban would likely have the inverse of its desired effect on sex crimes. Countries in which porn is illegal do not have lower rates of rape, and in some countries (i.e. India) rapes are even more prevalent than porn-permitting nations. In the U.S., reported incidents of rape decreased by 85% over 25 years in which porn became more prevalent and accessible. The Atlantic Wire infers, “at best, there's no clear relationship between banning porn and that country's treatment of women and children. At worst, a ban on porn is perhaps harmful.”

The ban could also block educational sites on sexual health and identity. Liberal parliament member Julian Huppert warns of the filters, “too often they over-block — for instance for young people unsure about their sexuality — if you filter out references to homosexuality, then you make things a lot worse for children. It’s very hard to get filtering correct.”

If put into effect, the UK's internet porn would go under by the end of this year. Considering the amount of backlash Cameron has already received and his confusion about how to implement his own proposal, there’s reason to be optimistic that his plan will not become reality without some revisions. More to the point, “The fact is people like pornography,” says English website designer Alan Thomson. “Forcing people to explain to their mother, wife, or roommate why they want the porn filter off is hardly going to be a vote winner.”

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Anna Hogeland

Anna is a clinical social worker with an MSW from Smith College School for Social Work and a BA in history from Bates College. She has clinical experience with adults with mental illness, obstetrics and oncology patients, and folks with all sorts of neuroses. She is currently a Post-Master’s fellow at CU Boulder’s counseling center. While not at her day job, Anna is writing and reading about anything and everything or making pottery. She's a native of the Berkshires in western Massachusetts and currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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