UK Porn Ban: Union Jack Gets a Whole New Meaning At Houses Of Parliament

300,000. That was the number of times official records showed that the 5,000 members of Britain's House of Parliament were accessing online porn.

In a Freedom of Information Act request by the Huffington Post UK, authorities were obligated to show that Parliamentary Network users, including both MPs and staff members, have consistently tried to access pornographic websites from May 2012 through July 2013. (Fun fact: numbers peaked in November 2012 at 114,844 times.) A House of Commons spokeswoman could not provide evidence to the high influx of numbers and added that, "We are not going to restrict Parliamentarians' ability to carry out research."

Some figures may be slightly inflated due to things like "pop ups" or embeddable content like videos; however, this information regarding radically high access rates comes at an incredibly sensitive time — no pun intended. This has followed David Cameron's recent push for an "opt in" system for viewing online porn, perceived by many as an extremely restrictive and nearly impossible task. Combined with the recent discovery of porn popularity in Parliament, it seems as though the U.K. government doesn't quite practice what it preaches.

Understandably, the recent scare over pornography has come from two British murder trials where the defendants were said to have viewed images of child sexual abuse online. In his speech, Cameron stated that he meant to tackle a two-pronged problem: online exploitation of children through child pornography and easy access to legal pornography at an early age. As such, Cameron has announced a new interpretation of law that will make porn depicting rape illegal, along with any other child pornographic sites in "the darkest corners of the Internet".

The problem here is that in his hopes of protecting children, his new "Family Friendly Wi-Fi" label would have all UK internet providers by default block all pornography on all computers, smartphones, and tablets unless explicitly requested. Thus far, the biggest UK internet providers have agreed to the filter, censoring around 95% of homes. Cameron argued, "I'm not making this speech because I want to (moralize) or scare-monger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come … This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence." In his crusade, Cameron has since called Google and other search companies into meetings, attempting to convince them to place a higher priority on hiding porn from children. He has even appointed Parliament member Claire Perry as a special adviser targeting the issues.

Ultimately however, Cameron's adviser, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, was correct in describing his plans as "absolutely ridiculous." Not only did web freedom advocates almost immediately criticize the plan, but "As a technological feat, it would be utterly impossible," stated columnist Andy Dawson in the Daily Mirror. "It isn't actually [technologically] feasible. He's got just as much chance of banning (gray) clouds while giving us all access to the nice white, fluffy ones." Other critics, such as BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, have also noted that default-on filters can give a false sense of security to parents, leading to more laid-back restrictions when observing their children's other online access.

Until both the government can show that they will be just as much a part of the ban on pornography and can find a realistic way to ban it, it is unlikely that any legislation, even if passed, will cause the average consumer any strife.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Alexandra Cardinale

Alexandra Cardinale curious, quirky, and vivacious student currently researching Communications, Business and Law at New York University. Her extensive study in 16 countries have given her a unique perspective on both domestic U.S. policy and current international policy outside. She works to apply this inquisitive point of view to her writings here at PolicyMic and to any and all of her political discussions.

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