The UK Coalition Government has elevated half-baked ideas to an art form. Whether it be the Pasty Tax, House extensions, or mortgage help (which could mean assistance for affluent second home buyers) to name but three, the Government has a remarkable knack for not really thinking through ideas.
It’s almost like Ministers leave a policy discussion mid-way through and brief the press instead of thrashing out the policy.
Meet the latest crack-pot idea from the Government – banning porn in public places on WiFI. Well, sort of . Maybe.
According to a story in the Telegraph today, and being picked up on by the news networks, David Cameron will announce a Government-backed code of conduct which will mean that pornography is blocked in public spaces such as cafes and railway stations where children are likely to be present.
The Government is apparently aiming for “good, clean WiFi”. If that moralising drivel didn’t clinch it for you, there is even an economic angle: “clean” WiFi plans could help reinvigorate local high streets claims Cameron. Yes, first Mary Portas was drafted in, now no naughtiness on your mobile device. It can be only a matter of time before the IMF advise economies across the world to roll-out similarly innovative and economy-boosting measures.
Now, Cameron is a man of the twenty-first century and it strikes me as a little odd that he hasn’t yet noticed that modern phones, and iPads/similar devices often come with 3G (and increasingly 4G) technology. The idea that you need WiFi is absurd.
Which spaces are to be included? Those pesky young people get everywhere. Presumably we are not merely talking about the devices that ‘children’ are using but also the devices that children might view? So, we need to block content on all devices.
But what content is it that we will be blocking? Is it pornography? How far will ‘clean’ go? Would a Viz count as filth? What of Private Eye magazine? What of the various tasteless videos to be found on YouTube? I’m quite sure the Government didn’t intend to unleash the greatest example of state intrusion and censorship of recent years, but then the Pasty Tax was only meant to target those cooked chickens in Waitrose that a junior minister once spotted.
Will it extend to Apps and sites that are capable of delivering ‘pornography’ or simply those that appear to be prima facie porn? Take the ‘gay’ networking App Grindr. It does not display nude photographs as the profile picture in accordance with Apple policies but men can easily send naked images to one another within the App. Given the rationale of the government, the App would need to be blocked as a whole.
How will this be regulated? Will cafes need to apply for new licesnses to permit the public use of WiFi? Will they ban people from using mobile devices unless it is on the official ‘clean’ WiFi?
As ever, this is a throw-away policy, badly thought through (if at all) and counter to the values of freedom and individual liberty which supposedly both parties in the Coalition believe in.