- Site Feedback
- IDEA Sites
- Digital Freedoms
- International Justice
- 2012 Presidential Debates Guide
- Asia Youth Forum
- Big Apple Cogers
- Debate Changing Europe
- Debate in the Neighborhood
- Debating and Producing Media
- Debating the Future of Youth in Africa and Europe
- Dialogue without borders
- Digital Debating Blog
- Free Speech Debate
- Global Youth Forum
- Global Debate and Public Policy Challenge
- International Public Policy Forum
- Online Mentoring
- Securing Liberty Series
- Youth and Sports Mega-Events
- League of Young Voters
DiN Debates: This House would require ISPs to block access to pornographic websites
DiN Debates: This House would require ISPs to block access to pornographic websites
During the summer of 2013, the United Kingdom’s government put together a plan to change the way that people in the UK access the internet. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that all Internet Service Providers, or ISPs (companies that link homes and businesses to the internet), will have to block websites that contain images of sexual acts or sexualised nudity. ISP customers who want to view websites that contain sexual material will have to ask their ISP to remove these blocks.
Put more simply, in the future internet service providers will be required to block access to pornographic websites unless their customers ask them not to.
Currently, only adults can pay ISPs to set up internet connections. Up until the government’s plan is put into place, it will still be possible for anyone with access to an internet connection to look at pornographic websites.
Mobile phone companies voluntarily set up a similar blocking system several years ago, as more and more people began to purchase smart phones that could access the internet.
The UK government has stated that these new rules have been created to protect children from the harmful effects of viewing pornography. The UK government has claimed that young people’s understanding of healthy relationships and safe sex can be damaged by watching sexually explicit content at a young age. Some senior government politicians believe that young people’s behaviour can be heavily influenced by images, videos and games that they view on television, via the internet and through videogame consoles.
The government has also suggested that websites that contain sexual content could be used by sex offenders to exploit children and young people, especially if the users of those sites are able to interact with one another using chat rooms or picture messaging.
Some Members of Parliament have stated that blocking sexual images is the only way to prevent disturbed individuals from viewing illegal types of pornography, including sexual images that feature children or acts of torture and violence. However, freedom of speech campaigners and other politicians have pointed out that ISPs, government organisations and charities already work together to block access to illegal pornography.
Anyone trying to debate on this motion should make very, very sure that they understand how online pornographic images are currently controlled and blocked. Remember, the government’s proposals for blocking access to all online pornography have not been put into practice yet.
Debaters discussing this motion should also try to separate legal pornography from illegal pornography. In the UK it is currently legal for adults to view images of people taking part in sex acts, provided that those people have consented to do so and are not doing anything that might cause them to be harmed. It is illegal to view sexual images involving animals, children or activities that could cause injuries. ISPs already block most illegal forms of pornography, using lists of illegal content provided by a charity called the Internet Watch Foundation and a technical system called Cleanfeed.
Debaters should also be ready to defend or attack the idea that viewing pornography can be harmful. Debaters should be described how and why people encounter pornography in a frank, sensible and plain way.
Although this debate features information that people might find embarrassing, silly or disturbing, the teams arguing the motion have a duty to take it seriously and to help their audience move past their discomfort so that they can understand the benefits and harms of blocking access to graphic online images.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Exposure to pornography should be restricted||Forcing people to opt in to allow porn is an invasion of privacy|
|The social impacts of the Over-Sexualisation of Children||Porn is changing.|
|Porn VS Real life||By not having a flat out ban, people are still able to access pornography.|
|Women in Porn||The slippery slope of censorship|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Exposure to pornography should be restricted
Pornography is called the ‘Adult entertainment industry’ for a reason; it is potentially harmful and so should not be freely available. Just like other harmful products it should be restricted until those who wish to view pornography are old enough to realise the consequences of their actions both on themselves and others. The internet has however has made pornography widely available to the point where even those who do not wish to view it may encounter it. Studies have found that large numbers of people have accidentally seen pornography on the internet, though the suggested figure itself varies ranging from 25% to 70% of teenagers having accidentally encountered it.1 It is wrong that people, particularly children, should be exposed to pornography without their express consent.
1 Brown, Jane D., and L’Engle, Kelly L., ‘X-Rated: Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Associated with U.S. Early Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Media’, Communication Research, Vol.36, No.129, 2009, http://womenfordecency.org/Resources/Brown%20X-Rated%20Sexual%20Attitudes%20a%20nd%20Behaviors%20Associated%20With%20U.S.%20Early%20Adolescentsi%20Exposure%20to%20Sexually%20Explicit%20Media%202.pdf p.131
This is not about restricting access to pornography but about restricting it online. It is clearly not simply a moral position but a political one. At the same time as David Cameron is advocating restrictions on online pornography he is refusing to back a ban on topless images in the tabloid newspaper the Sun.1
1 Gentleman, Amelia, ‘Cameron refuses to back ban on Sun’s Page 3 topless images’, theguardian.com, 22 July 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/jul/22/cameron-no-ban-sun-page-3
The social impacts of the Over-Sexualisation of Children
Children are incredibly vulnerable and susceptible to the images they come into contact with. The first exposure to pornography among men is usually at about 12 years old. The normalisation (making something seem normal) this results in can have some very negative effects.
Upon exposure to illicit images, as well as the narrative portrayed within the media, children feel pressured into participating in sexual acts at a younger age. This is bad because the child may not be ready or mature enough to fully consent into these acts. If sexualised at a young age it is increasingly likely they may not be educated about the consequences of their actions, which may lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But these are merely the obvious effects but exposure to pornography can have much wider consequences; there has also been research showing that those who are more exposed to pornography are more likely to display anti-social behaviour.1
Blocking porn unless adults opt out of the block will prevent children from accessing porn from such a young age, as it will not be as easy as a google away.
1 Papadopoulos, Linda, ‘Sexualisation of Young People Review’, Institute of Education, http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/10738/1/sexualisation-young-people.pdf p.46
Everything here when related to whether to block porn online hinges on the assumptions that children look at porn and they do so through a search engine so they would be prevented from doing so by this proposal. There are problems with both assumptions. Kimberly Mitchell of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire has found from a survey of kids from 10 to 17 that they don’t start seeking out internet porn until 14 years old.1 This age is also little change from before the internet; a 1989 study found the average age of first exposure to Playboy was 11 years old.2 Second are search engines the main route of exposure? David Cameron himself says “Over a third of children have received a sexually explicit text or email” it is unlikely that text and email will be blocked under the proposal so it is assuming that whoever sent the image would not be able to find it.3
1 Mitchell, Kimberly J., and Ybarra, Michele L., ‘Exposure to Internet Pornography among Children and Adolescents: A National Survey’, Cyber Psychology & Behaviour, Vol.8 No.5, 2005, http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/jvq/CV76.pdf
2 Bryant, J., and Brown, D., “Use of pornography,” Pornography: research advances and policy considerations, Hillsdale (NJ): Erdbaum; 1989, p. 25-55. From ROCK http://www.myrocktoday.org/default.asp?q_areaprimaryid=7&q_areasecondaryid=74&q_areatertiaryid=0&q_articleid=861
3 Cameron, David, ‘The internet and pornography: Prime Minister calls for action’, gov.uk, 22 July 2013, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-internet-and-pornography-prime-minister-calls-for-action
Porn VS Real life
i) Like with advertising, the audience compare themselves to the people they see in porn. This means that young adults feel insecure and inadequate in comparison. These leads to low self-confidence which can affect the child in later life, such as in work, relationships and even sexual encounters themselves. By minimizing access to porn, people are less likely to directly compare themselves to the unattainable standards of porn.
ii) Exposure to pornography influences what an individual desires from a sexual encounter. It dictates an idea of how sex should be done, what you should do to your partner and what you should be able to demand from sex. It can lead to people being pressured into participating in activities they don’t feel comfortable but think “all people do” because they are so prevalent in porn. Exposure to sexually explicit media between 12 to 14 years old results in more permissive sexual norms and results in more frequent sexual harassment, more than three quarters of males who reported committing sexual harassment at age 14 to 16 had viewed sexually explicit imagery when they were younger.1
1 Brown, Jane D., and L’Engle, Kelly L., ‘X-Rated: Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Associated with U.S. Early Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Media’, Communication Research, Vol.36, No.129, 2009, http://womenfordecency.org/Resources/Brown%20X-Rated%20Sexual%20Attitudes%20a%20nd%20Behaviors%20Associated%20With%20U.S.%20Early%20Adolescentsi%20Exposure%20to%20Sexually%20Explicit%20Media%202.pdf p.145
If the problem is the effect on perceptions and attitudes then the answer should be education not an outright ban. Instead of outright blocking there should be an attempt to change the pornography industry so that it shows less harassment and violence so that the imparted perceptions are not as harmful. Along similar lines there are periodic concerns about the influence of violence from films or computer games on children yet the response to this is to have a ratings system rather than outright blocking. Also as mentioned by proposition there is concern about the effects of sexualised advertising, but little discussion of an actual ban.Improve this
Women in Porn
In porn women are often used as facilitators of the males pleasure rather than an equal partner in the sexual encounter. They are portrayed as a means to an end – the gratification of a sexual desire – rather than as individuals and human beings. This means pornography is dehumanising women, turning them into objects. In young children, this can alter the opinion and self-worth of a girl in the eyes of a boy and even in girls themselves. Equally dangerously it challenges the notion that everyone, and both sexes, are equal as the woman is almost never presented as such in pornography.Improve this
Yes some pornography does objectify women like this but certainly not all. There are even feminist porn awards so it cannot be true of all pornography. Moreover while this may be offensive it is not in itself enough cause to block access to something as we do not automatically ban something that some people may find offensive because everyone has a right to freedom of expression.Improve this
Forcing people to opt in to allow porn is an invasion of privacy
For almost everyone watching porn is a private act, it may be done as a group, but almost never in public. Yet this block forces people to declare that they do watch porn to enable them to do so. The result is that ISPs working closely with Government now have a list of all households and their occupants who are able to access pornography – and these are almost certainly people who do watch porn or else they would not have signed up. This is bad in several ways; the Government now has some of the most private information about what innocent people do in their own home, and these innocents are deemed sexual deviants just because they enjoy exploring their sexuality through porn.Improve this
Some loss of privacy is necessary in order to protect children from pornography. This is not a particularly large invasion of privacy; first the ISPs and government don't know who in the household access pornography, or if the opt out is based on principle. Secondly this is not information that the government or ISPs are going to share with anyone else or use for other purposes.Improve this
Porn is changing.
Nowadays, porn is moving more towards safer practices than previously, such as using condoms, being less aggressive and concentrating more on an equal relationship between the porn stars involved. There is even female friendly pornography, and since 2006 there have been Feminist Porn Awards.1
1 Techmedia Network. Feminist Porn Award. http://internet-filter-reliew.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html
Porn is changing; it is becoming more freely available. While it is increasingly encouraging safer practices it is wrong to suggest that it is becoming less aggressive. Yes there are a few cases where pornography is becoming me women friendly but this is very much the exception. In general pornography is featuring increasingly violent storylines and it is becoming less common to have much, or even any, narrative or even any relationship between the participants.1
1 Papadopoulos, Linda, ‘Sexualisation of Young People Review’, Institute of Education, http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/10738/1/sexualisation-young-people.pdf p.45
By not having a flat out ban, people are still able to access pornography.
It is not via porn websites that these materials are distributed, but through sharing networks that cannot be controlled by ISPs or search engines. The material will still be distributed and produced as it doesn’t tackle the main issues underneath just porn on the internet.
It is almost impossible for ISPs to block ALL pornography. There are disagreements as to how porn is defined, for example, some people would determine Page 3 girls as being pornographic images, but under David Cameron’s ban, they and other soft porn will not be classified as such.1 If people cannot define what pornography is and isn’t, it is even more difficult for a computer to be able to make that distinction. In which case, you end up blocking a lot of sex related things that may not actually be porn, for example sexual health websites.
1 Wright, Oliver, ‘Family filters won’t block ‘soft’ porn: David Cameron retreats in war on internet porn, admitting there will be ‘problems down the line’’, The Independent, 22 July 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/family-filters-wont-block-soft-porn-david-cameron-retreats-in-war-on-internet-porn-admitting-there-will-be-problems-down-the-line-8726991.html
The block is not meant to totally ban pornography. It is intentional that it simply makes porn much more difficult to find and access. This will move the situation back to a couple of decades ago where people who wanted to view pornography had to seek it out rather than getting it thrust at them through the internet.Improve this
The slippery slope of censorship
This is simply one step along a road to censoring other things. Having the system in place will make it easy for the government at a future date to say it should apply to other things as well; there could be a very similar rationale for banning violent online games for example. This move actually itself shows that Britain is slowly moving down a path to censorship. There is already censorship through cleanfeed so as to prevent child pornography, this block represents a move down the path by blocking much more material and making it less reactive – the Internet Watch Foundation relies on users reporting, whereas this will be proactive by ISPs and search engines.1 Even worse is that according to ISPs this may go way beyond censoring porn and include in the opt in list things like 'terrorist related content', 'suicide related websites' and even 'web forums'.2
1 Kline, Jesse, 'The concerning trend of online censorship in the West', National Post, 23 July 2013, http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/07/23/jesse-kline-the-concerning-trend-of-online-censorship-in-the-west/
2 Killock, Jim, 'Sleepwalking into Censorship', Open Rights Group, 25 July 2013, https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2013/sleepwalking-into-censorship
This is pure speculation about what the government may do in the future. Moreover this is not censorship as in this case the user has the choice to opt in to being able to access this content. They simply need to tell the ISPs they want access to this content. This is nothing like censorship where everything is blocked with no choice.Improve this
Curate this debate
If you are an academic or highly knowledgeable about a particular debate could you give an hour or two a month to curate a debate?
Be a debatabase editor
Idebate needs editors from around the world to check, moderate and create content for debatabase and the site more generally. Editors are vital in making the site run smoothly and ensuring that debates are as informative as possible.