Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

The answer to failed censorship is always more censorship

Yesterday, there was a big hoopla in the papers over the way that teenagers are watching porn on the Internet. If you want to read some hand-wringing, here: BBC, Daily Mail etc.

If you read the stories, you’ll see that the current hand-wringing is in part due to concerns that teenagers are now meeting up using the Internet to have sex. I’m pretty sure that the problem used to be that teenagers watching porn was that they’d get unrealistic depictions of sex and thus not be able to have sex. At some point, I’m guessing someone will realise that those two theses are incompatible.

The reason there’s been a flurry of such news reports is because of new research by Andy Phippen from the University of Plymouth. Not being a psychologist or sexologist, but a mere programmer, I have no strong opinions on Phippen’s research, but I do wish to take issue with something the professor said that was reported by the Metro:

Five years ago, internet speeds weren’t fast enough but now they are and they’re getting faster. You can put filters in place but they can just get their smartphone out, load up 3G and away they go.

Phippen is saying here that parents concerned about pornography are not helped by adding filters to their home Internet connections because teenagers just use their mobile 3G connections. That’d be the filtered 3G connections. Yeah. All of the mobile networks have adult content filters installed by default, and you have to prove that you are over 18 in order to have them removed.

Is this a tacit admission that the operator-instituted mobile filtering doesn’t work well enough to keep teenagers from getting to porn? If so, that’s kind of an own goal for anybody advocating that we need filtering on residential ADSL to keep teenagers from getting to porn.

(Here’s a hint: don’t bother. Horny teenagers will find ways of getting porn. Where there’s a willy, there’s a way. When I was a teenager, I didn’t even need to look for porn, people shared it with one another. Admittedly, it had a few too many girls in for my tastes, but whatever. This is why this whole debate is pointless hand-wringing: because however scandalously immoral, wrong and evil you think pornography is, you can’t stop horny teenagers from wanting it and finding it.)