Sunday 25 August 2019

Ian O'Doherty: 'One problem with proposed porn laws? They simply won't work'

The Government is trying to introduce a porn block law (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The Government is trying to introduce a porn block law (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Politicians do love a good old moral panic and few moral panics are as consistently popular as those to do with porn.

Perhaps the first - but certainly not the last - area where religious conservatives and secular feminists found common ground was back in the 1970s when movies like the infamous Deep Throat popularised smut for the masses.

Ever since then, this vexed topic has always been a popular target for politicians looking to score some easy points.

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Now it looks as if our own, dear and much beloved Government is taking a leaf out of the UK's books by trying to introduce a so-called 'porn block' law.

In the UK, this remarkably invasive new policy, due to pass in a few weeks' time, would require people to buy a government-approved 'porn pass', which would show proof of age.

Other proposed solutions include entering your passport or credit card details, to prove that you're over 18.

Ah yes, what could possible go wrong with that?

In many ways, it's easy to scoff at the think-about-the-children-brigade who have welcomed the move.

But it's also true that a lot of the stuff online is a much more extreme beast than some cheesy American skin flick involving a lucky pizza delivery guy and dodgy soundtrack.

And no matter how libertarian or libertine you might be in your own outlook, nobody thinks it's a great idea for the average child to get their sex ed through some bondage website.

But apart from the sheer weirdness of forcing people to pay for state approval to watch mucky material, there is one other problem - the proposals just won't work.

Already in the UK, there are websites showing people how they can easily bypass any blocks on what they watch.

Here is the real irony - the very people these laws are meant to protect (teenagers and younger kids) are the very people who will be able to easily bypass the restrictions.

Ultimately, it's none of any government's business what people choose to watch in their own home, and I don't know about you, but I don't feel comfortable allowing Richard Bruton and Charlie Flanagan dictating what grown-ups watch and how they watch it.

You can watch porn or not, it's nobody else's business. But when it comes to blocking kids' access to such material, that's a job for parents rather than moralising ministers.

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