Censorship - In The UK?

Something disturbing is going on here in Blighty. Thought I'd share this with you.

 Some MPs and religious groups are mounting a campaign to push 'default on' network level blocking on the UK Internet. There is now a public consultation considering this idea. However well meaning, we know from our own research what happens when ISPs put blocks on the Internet.

Through accident or abuse, censorship leads to lots more content being blocked than originally intended. Sites will get blocked if they casually mention sex. Sexual health sites will get caught. The websites of clubs and bars, personal blogs and community sites get filtered. Chat sites may be banned – because they might not be sufficiently “policed”. In short, if you’re small and independent, you will suffer. Innovation and free speech are threatened by this clumsy website blocking.

And the government is considering turning this on by default. You may be presented with a list of ticked “filtered” categories, and have to untick them if you want to avoid the filtering. And if this happens at the network, then future governments can easily extend what gets filtered without having to ask you. Mass censorship would be couple of clicks away.

Here is my response to them.

I would like to submit the following evidence:

It has long perplexed me that materials promoting sexual activity between consenting adults, when viewed by adults for both entertainment and education, should be viewed as something shameful, to be hidden from view, when shows depicting violent content are foisted upon children.

Cartoon series such as Ben 10, Batman, The X-Men and the comic 2000 AD depict scenes of violence and, occasionally, atrocity with such loving detail that it would not surprise the psychologists of the future to wonder about the mentality of a people who glorified the depiction of the action of ending life with more gleeful celebration of stories, images and footage depicting the action of creating it. We have not only outgrown shame - we are outgrowing the need for shame.

The only reason why this is happening right now is the financial austerity: it has been established that times of austerity are supposed to be periods in history where prudishness is on the increase, and some people in power are hoping that this is the case today, so that they can pass this Bill which, by at first picking on an easy target - namely sex - can later be expanded to cover censorship of non-sex based topics, of far more importance, such as politics.

It really would not take any effort at all to be able to rewrite the law to expand its remit to cover news and blogs, using the pretext that they could report on matters of sexual health. What would that mean for sites promoting gay activism, bisexual awareness, anti-bullying where the bullying is caused by homophobia, anti-rape sites, and blogs presenting evidence of child abuse in the Catholic Church?

Just today, I posted links to a Facebook account, Les Albums de Celine E, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Les-albums-de-C%C3%A9line-E/157466500975013?ref=stream. These are links to some of the most beautiful art I have ever seen.

Then there are websites devoted to Classical art, featuring nudes. Whither students' academic discussions of such artists as Manet, Rubens and Titian, or depictions of the Venus de Milo, without nudes?

What of the BBC, where even the most innocuous programs might contain a picture or sculpture of a nude in the background - thus bringing it under the axe? Could BBC Four ever again come up with a TV show on iPlayer, and trust me when I say iPlayer online is the wave of the future and not broadcast TV, in which the subject is sexual health, art or the history of the naturist movement?

What about websites dedicated to naturism, websites run BY naturists FOR naturists, and innocent sites depicting the art form now known as the Simple Nudes Movement, recreating the Romantic era of natural nudes as art but with photography?

And erotica, as compared to pornography, would also take exception to being culled. The popularity of "Diary of A Call Girl," based on the blog of Belle du Jour, and the novel "Fifty Shades of Grey," depicting fan fiction, shows that far from being a topic of darkness and shame, sex on the internet is nowadays a source of inspiration, of beauty and a leading force in modern literature.

I here present to you links to two sex-positive websites, whose political stance is that sex is not the enemy.

- http://sexisnottheenemy.tumblr.com/ - Sex Is Not The Enemy, a tumblr aggregator which collects artful photosets, blog posts and links to many sex-positive sites

- http://pervocracy.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/sex-pozzie.html - The Pervocracy, a semi-regular blog on sexual issues.

The censorship of sexual activities online could even extend to cutting off access to essential news about rape trials, about changes to rape laws, about feminist movements promoting activities such as slutwalks and many activities which promote women's health, women's rights, and the rights of gay people and lesbians, bisexual people, asexual people, transsexual people and the consenting BDSM community.

Sites devoted to the provision and sale of materials to the various communities above could be curtailed, adversely affecting over-the-counter commerce which has been legitimate since the Nineties. Victoria's Secret and Ann Summers would have a hard time, sites promoting pregnancy advice would be blocked from the women (and their male partners) who need it most, and the casual celebration of people's lawful, consenting sex lives in the form of home porn reels would be turned into something shameful and nasty.

In short, this action would - even taken at face value purely as an attack on sexual freedom - turn Britain back into the kind of dark, grubby landscape that it was back in the 1950s. And that is something that can never happen. Because all of the above materials mentioned ... are marketed towards, produced by and consumed by women.

This is not an era where women are demanding that this stuff be branded as smut and taken down off the shelves. This is an era where the women are just as capable of turning out sensual, sexual, steamy content for their own consumption as the men. In fact, they are far better at it.

Do not attempt to turn back the clock. We are a far more resourceful people than this Bill would give us credit for, and the right to express our sexual being is one of many rights for which we have fought for a long time.

The glorification of war, death, terror, mutilation, domineering behaviour, bullying and violence is a sign of a great, deep sickness in society. Sex, on the other hand, is the expression of joy between consenting people, and it is more essential to the human species than violence - for without men having sex with women, we would be a rare species indeed.

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