Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: UK-Style 'Porn Filter' Doesn't Belong in Canada

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: UK-Style 'Porn Filter' Doesn't Belong in Canada

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: UK-style 'porn filter' doesn't belong in Canada

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published July 25:

The British government's ineffectual, overreaching new plan to censor online pornography has been the subject of muchridicule this week. Strange, then, that a member of Canada's Conservative party is considering importing it.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday that he has instructed Internet service providers in the U.K. to introduce filters that automatically block access to pornography websites unless users choose to opt out. He also demanded that search engines blacklist terms that might turn up porn. It's all part of Cameron's crusade to combat the "poisonous" online filth that he says is "corroding childhood" in Britain.

At least one influential Tory backbencher in Ottawa thinks the so-called porn filter is a pretty good idea. "It is bold and I applaud it," said Winnipeg MP Joy Smith, who has successfully lobbied the Prime Minister's Office on legislation in the past. "Absolutely I will flag this to the prime minister," she told the Star. "I would see this as the next step."

Let's hope not.

Cameron's plan has two stated goals -- to combat child pornography and to spare children from the corrupting influence of ubiquitous online smut. It will do neither -- and in the process it will infringe on free speech and violate Britons' privacy.

Cameron's quixotic approach betrays either a basic misunderstanding of how the Internet works or a cynical populist streak. There is no filter that can effectively separate pornographic from non-pornographic content. Some smutty sites will sneak past the protections, just as some innocent ones will be blocked. And the filter will do next to nothing to stop pedophiles from sharing child-abuse pictures, the vast majority of which are accessed not through search engines, but through peer-to-peer networks.

Then there's the problem of who is to decide what qualifies as "pornographic. …

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