• Ineffective, insecure, overdue: the ‘porn block’ gets everything wrong
    Style
    The Guardian

    Ineffective, insecure, overdue: the ‘porn block’ gets everything wrong

    ‘If anyone knows how to circumvent restrictions, it’s a teenager’. (Image posed by model). Photograph: Getty Images Britain has been a breeding ground for stupid ideas lately. While Brexit may be the biggest and baddest example, the UK government’s plans to implement what has been dubbed the world’s first “porn block” comes a close second. The new restrictions, to be introduced as part of the 2017 Digital Economy Act, will require pornography sites to verify that visitors are over 18. This may involve uploading a passport or driving license to prove your age, or buying a “porn pass” from a newsagent. After long delays the law was expected to go into effect this month, but the government recently announced it has been postponed again. Now, in theory, restricting access to porn via strict age-verification methods seems like a sensible and necessary thing to do. The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is just 11 years old; it is terrifyingly easy for kids to access explicit material online. So it is understandable that 83% of parents recently polled by the not-for-profit organisation Internet Matters support age-verification on commercial porn sites. However, things are generally a lot more complicated in practice than they are in theory, and the government’s ludicrous age block seems to have been devised by people who have no idea how the internet works. As Jim Killock, executive director of the UK’s Open Rights Group, put it: “The policy is completely full of holes.” He’s one of many digital experts who have warned that the restrictions are doomed to failure, and liable to do more harm than good. It doesn’t matter how anti-pornography you are: no one in their right mind should support this policy. To start with, the age block will be ridiculously easy to bypass – and if anyone knows how to circumvent restrictions, it’s a teenager. It’s simple to download tools that would let you circumvent the restrictions, such as a virtual private network or the anonymous Tor browser. The government itself has noted in an impact assessment that pushing people towards Tor, which is often used to surf the dark web, may also have the unintended consequence of exposing people “to illegal activities and more extreme material”. Then there are the privacy implications. It is not entirely clear what age-verification technology will be put in place, but one solution might be a service called AgeID, administered by MindGeek, an adult-entertainment behemoth that owns sites such as YouPorn and PornHub. MindGeek reckons about 25 million Brits might want to use its system. Do you really think it’s a great idea for a porn company to have the personal details of 25 million porn users stored in a central database? Because I’m sure plenty of hackers do. Spokespeople for AgeID have, predictably, made lots of reassuring noises about how safe people’s information would be with them, but I’m afraid I have a hard time trusting the Facebook of the smut industry. And even if the privacy implications don’t bother you (although they should), doesn’t it seem rather antithetical to crack down on porn by giving porn companies more power? Whatever your views on porn, Brits should give a XXXX about this very worrying legislation. • Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist

  • Opinion: Catholic woman's plea for young women to ditch leggings is not OK
    Style
    Elizabeth Di Filippo

    Opinion: Catholic woman's plea for young women to ditch leggings is not OK

    “I’m just a Catholic mother of four sons with a problem that only girls can solve: leggings."

  • Karl Lagerfeld doesn't deserve a hall pass for the things he's said and done
    Style
    Hilary Hagerman

    Karl Lagerfeld doesn't deserve a hall pass for the things he's said and done

    "Is it possible to mourn the death of a true icon and still acknowledge that he was often a fatphobic, racist misogynist?"

  • Lisa Rinna, 55, rocks bikini, dismisses haters. Why do moms get so much pressure about what not to wear?
    Style
    Lindsay Powers

    Lisa Rinna, 55, rocks bikini, dismisses haters. Why do moms get so much pressure about what not to wear?

    This is an opinion piece by Lindsay Powers, author of the forthcoming book, You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids. Reality star Lisa Rinna has a few choice words for anyone who dares judge her bikini body. The 55-year-old mom of two recently posted a photo of herself in a tiny Fendi bikini on Instagram.

  • VOTE: Would you host a 'fiver' party for your child?
    Style
    Elizabeth Di Filippo

    VOTE: Would you host a 'fiver' party for your child?

    "I don't think it's any more tacky than saying your child has a wish list for their birthday."