Forcing Internet Providers to Filter Pornography Would Prove Disastrous

In light of Prime Minister Cameron’s announcement last week that Britain has asked their country’s Internet service providers (ISP) to filter all pornography before it reaches civilians computers, an interesting, and somewhat ignorant, debate has sparked here on our own soil. Should our ISPs be required to do the same?

If one inquired of any professional network engineer about the topic, he or she will undoubtedly report that the amount of work to enforce such a standard would be incredibly tremendous and cost a very large sum of money. The amount work and coordination necessary is undeniable, but whether or not the ends justify the means is a political debate. But before exploring the political side, at least some understanding of the work needed is essential.

Computers think and process in 0s and 1s. There is no grey area. Things are black and white, yes and no. A poll is not required to conclude that the general population’s definition of the word “pornography” is not as binary. If a blanket computer application were to be written to block pornography for the entire United States’ population it would be difficult to come to a conclusion as to what should be blocked and what shouldn’t. This would obviously leave people unsatisfied with the results, they would opt out of the program, and the sweat and tears will have been in vain.

Another approach could be taken from a network-engineering standpoint rather than that of computer programming.  All pornographic sites can be blacklisted and all non-pornographic sites can be whitelisted and kept in a huge database. This would require a vast amount of manpower, which would lead to large expenditures to satisfy development and the increased payroll of each ISP.  Not to mention, it would start a wild goose chase between ISPs and pornographic websites. New, explicit sites would most likely be created more frequently, thus further populating the Internet with the exact product targeted to be cleansed.

The required funds for either approach would no doubt be large and constantly needed. Updates would have to be developed continually to keep up with technology and trends and as Internet traffic grows continually the amount of man hours required to pull it all off with at least some success would grow as well. If funded by the government, the project will raise our taxes or force more currency to be printed. If funded by the ISPs themselves, the cost to use the Internet would rise thus also increasing the prices of goods and services sold on the Internet. Consequently as well, our ISPs’ rights as businesses will also be infringed upon and not allow them to conduct business as they see fit.  The giant expenses would force the smaller ISPs to shut their doors and the government would be successful in finding yet another way to interfere with capitalism.

Finally, think about the individual situations of guns, drugs, and prostitution in the United States. All three products are either banned or limited in some form, yet all thrive and can be obtained illegally in the black market.  The laws limiting them achieve the complete opposite of what they were designed to accomplish. While it has not been proposed that pornography be classified illegal, evidence suggests that if legally limited, its arms will still reach out to embrace even the forbidden destinations of cyberspace. All things considered, evidence suggests that not all seemingly good ideas are as good as they initially appear.

Content published on the Young Americans for Liberty blog is only representative of the opinions and research of the individual authors. It does not necessarily reflect the views, goals, or membership of YAL.

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