Minister considering compulsory Internet filters

Oh dear.

The Herald reports:

New Zealand could follow the United Kingdom in bringing in age restrictions for online pornography and blocking websites which refuse to comply.

That would be incredibly dumb and ineffectual.

Martin supports the approach of the United Kingdom, which has ambitious – and controversial – plans to introduce mandatory age verification for pornographic websites later this year.

First of all the Internet is not just websites.

Secondly age verification is about as much protection as a leaky condom. Any person who wants to see just clicks on the “I am over 18” button.

If the aim is to protect people from accidentally viewing porn, then the issue isn’t websites. It is spam, phishing, deceptive links etc.

She made the comments after the Chief Censor began a major piece of research on New Zealand teenagers’ online pornography habits. Expected to be completed in December, the research will be used to inform Government policy, including possible regulation.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Chief Censor David Shanks said. “We think it’s going to give us some potentially world-leading data on the New Zealand situation and teens and pornography.

I think I can guess the outcome. Shock horror, teenagers view pornography.

The UK Government has a policy which allows internet service providers to block porn websites unless people older than 18 “opt in” to use them. It plans to go further this year by bringing in age verification requirements for online pornography, which will include powers to block websites which don’t offer “age gates”.

Martin said she was not interested in wholesale bans on online content because they did not work. But she supported the UK Government’s approach, saying she was interested in any policy which helped to protect young people.

The UK approach is basically wholesale bans.

Filters always have a false positive rate. That is why they should be opt in, not opt out. There is no shortage of filters that parents can subscribe to, or install on their children’s devices.

Shanks said new regulations may not be required at all, or they could be part of a range of s

olutions including education for young people.

Education is a much better idea. It is awful that kids do get bombarded with porn. But this is more a spam issue, than a website issue. The key is not filters, but educating kids on how to handle this, and never click on the links etc as most of them will be infected sites.

The survey of internet pornography use will ask if teenagers look at online pornography, how often, what sort of content, why they are looking at it, and how they are viewing it. It requires parental consent, but the participants will fill out the survey anonymously and privately.

Will be interesting, but again there is a big difference between wanting to protect teenagers from unsolicited porn, and stopping teenagers from accessing porn themselves.

InternetNZ has a useful blog on why this is a very bad idea.

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