Will Porn Filters Work?

The UK has recently enacted the Digital Economy Act. The act sounds harmless enough but what it really does is censor adult content heavily. The point of the act was to make sure that only adults look at porn, which is an important mission, but the way they go about it might prevent adults from researching recipes with risque names and accessing information about sexual health. The act was implemented after a failed attempt to block porn at the level of the internet service providers, and then porn watchers would have to “opt in” to watch porn, effectively creating a list of porn lovers. However, this attempt was problematic. The filter ended up blocking about 20% of total websites, including some car sales sites, feminist blogs, and even political websites. Basically, if the site had ever talked about something sexual, they were blocked! So, this new DEA was created to put the onus on the pornographers themselves to make sure that everyone is over the age of 18, and providing the type of porn the government thinks is best.

Porn filters are notoriously hard to operate. Apple recently enacted new parental controls for their users, but those who were trying out the program for the first time discovered that something as simple as a recipe for dulce de leche wound up blocked because it is a rare sex act in which a woman lactates onto a guy’s chest while he jerks off, and probably because in Spanish, leche not only means milk but it is slang for semen. Other sites that offer sexual information for queer people were blocked, as were most sites with general information about sexual health. Michael Stabile, a representative for the professional industry group the Free Speech Coalition, says that the problem begins with the fact that porn filters are there to block, and that most people only complain when something XXX is not blocked, not when something useful is accidentally blocked. This leads porn filters to be more extreme than they need to be.

What is the solution? Well, developmental experts believe the best thing to do is to just talk about sex and to let everyone know that it is normal to be curious about sex and sexuality. Everyone 18+ should feel comfortable to watch porn, learn about sex and talk about sex as much or as little as they want, without any interference from porn filters.

Now the Digital Economies Act takes a new vantage point on the age verification process by making porn companies use an age verification service in order to let users watch porn. It’s not quite in place yet, but many porn sites are taking the initiative by signing up for one of several age verification services and implementing the service. Some porn makers worry the service will turn down porn sign ups, but others feel confident that the age verification will do the job and help everyone watch porn with confidence.

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