Are We Moving From Nanny State To Mother State? | Ben Thompson

In modern Britain, the role of the state is increasingly uncertain. Whilst most of us seem to spend our time disparaging the government for how thoroughly useless it is, we will simultaneously want it to take up more responsibilities.

Up until recently, monitoring internet porn had been added to that ever-growing list of government duties.

That is, until Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, announced that the government would be scrapping plans to bring in ‘Porn Passes’. This law had been hanging around since 2015, and if implemented, would have meant that all adult internet users would have to prove their age with a form of identification before accessing internet pornography.

From the moment the policy was announced, it attracted waves of criticism from all corners. Privacy campaigners expressed concerns that an individual’s browsing history could be linked to their identity, which could be personally damaging if leaked.

When one reads of the ways that somebody would have to gain access to the site, it does make watching porn seem like more hassle than it’s worth. In order to verify your age, you’d either have to get a government-approved porn pass from a local shop (you’d probably have to slip it inside the latest issue of OK! Magazine to save face) or provide the website you’re trying to access with your credit card details, driving license or a photo of your face.

This law, had it been passed, would have been (for a lack of a better phrase) a wet dream for hackers.

Think of the scandal that erupted when the personal details of users on Ashley Madison – the dating site for adulterers – were leaked, and times it by twenty. Your porn-viewing habits – as long as the people partaking in the content are consenting adults – is your business, no matter how gross the rest of us may find it.

The panellists on Loose Women, the ITV day-time show that airs every weekday, took the position that the government was making a grave mistake in abandoning their proposals.

Moderator Andrea McLean declared, “For me…we’re all parents here…the government has 100 percent let us all down.” The rest of the panel were in agreement with her verdict, with co-host Stacey Solomon slamming those who insist the policy was scrapped for privacy reasons – “I don’t think it’s about privacy at all, I think it’s about money. If you put age restrictions on, less people will be less likely to go on those websites and they’ll lose money. I don’t think it has anything to do with privacy. I actually feel really robbed.”

These statements were met with rounds of applause from the audience. Nobody on the panel took the opposing position, so you would be left thinking that only an irresponsible money-hungry pornographer could oppose the government’s proposed plans.

I totally appreciate where the co-hosts were coming from. I’m as concerned about children accessing porn as anybody else. I’ve heard stories from people I know, who’ve told me that they accessed porn when they were a child. And it wasn’t mild stuff either – things that a six-year old shouldn’t be viewing on the family computer by any means.

But the ‘debate’ (If you can call it that, seeing as how no opposition view was taken) on Loose Women highlights a troubling trend in our relationship with the state. As citizens, some of us apparently want the government to have a greater hand in running our day-to-day lives.

At no point during the discussion was the question posed, “Hang on, why don’t you sort it out instead of the government?”

Parental locks are a thing, and if parents aren’t the sharpest technologically, there’s always the option of confiscating your toddler’s I-Pad. Shocking, I know! But I’m sure Little Timmy can get through one afternoon without a three-hour session on YouTube. When I was a toddler, I was addicted to a Thomas The Tank Engine etch-a-sketch. Hard to come across pornography when your head’s in a colouring book or another toy.

It reeks of pure laziness to bypass all responsibility as a parent and to expect the government to pick up the slack. If you’re not sure on how to restrict your child’s access to pornography, look into it. Google is your friend.

We need to have a mature and balanced conversation about the effects of pornography. Better sex education in schools is a must – especially in light of a recent BBC survey which found that 55% of men aged 18 to 25 had gained their sex education through porn.

This same poll found that 50% of these same respondents were in favour of the government’s proposals. Clearly they don’t want what may have happened to them to happen to the next generation.

The now-scrapped proposals would have made porn users sitting ducks for hackers and black-mail. We can’t rely on the government for a way out of this – we have to take it upon ourselves.

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