Yesterday the Government took to the broadcast airwaves and David Cameron has taken to Twitter to say how fantastic it is that they have “forced” the Internet giants to block child porn online. But don’t be fooled. The Government is making you think that they have achieved something, when in reality they have probably made things worse.
This is not the first time the Government has fooled the public into believing it is doing something about online dangers. Earlier this year it suggested that service providers would make all kinds of pornography blockable, thereby filtering out potentially dangerous material for children in particular. As I wrote at the time, this is patent nonsense showing a complete lack of understanding of the way the Internet works and the way people use the web.
This time, the Government has shown yet more misunderstanding. It seems to believe that people interested in child pornography go to Google to find it. Fact: they do not. They share it using “torrent” style sites, peer-to-peer networks and in the inner recesses of what is known as the “dark” web. Indeed, there is little benefit in them trying to search on Google anyway because existing filters would have blocked much of the vile content anyway.
Google and Microsoft have tightened up their existing filters and added in some additional boosts to their software so that illegal material will be flagged. That’s a great addition for the innocent finding of child porn by people looking for something else but where their search term unearthed dubious content.
However, none of this is going to have any significant impact on the production and sharing of child pornography and it is hardly going to impact upon the harm and abuse happening to children.
The Government is making people think that their initiative is brilliant and that it will have an effect. The Government and David Cameron are making the public think something is being done, when in reality what they are doing is making the situation worse. The reason is that by making people think something is being done, the politicians will be under less public pressure to do anything about the issue. It is a smokescreen.
Apart from the fact that this latest “initiative” shows, once again, a fundamental misunderstanding of how people use the Internet, it also implies that the Government is involved in a cynical move aimed more at attracting votes than actually doing anything about the problem.
The real issue is that CEOP, now part of the National Crime Agency, has had budget cuts and has a really small number of staff in comparison to what it needs. There is serious under resourcing in dealing with online crime of all kinds, in particular in terms of child abuse.
This week’s initiative from the Government which David Cameron appears to be proud of, is actually virtually useless. Indeed, it is likely to be making the situation worse, because rather like the move in the summer to block porn at source it lulls people into a false sense of security, making people think something has at last been done, when in reality the child abusers will be rubbing their hands in glee that the Government has missed the point – AGAIN…!