Censorship in the Identity Era

In these unpredictable political times, one thing is certain: there isn’t any campaign (even the US presidential election) that can’t be hijacked and trampled by identity politics. As I wrote previously, identity politics is the vehicle via which the privileged middle-classes make everything about themselves. And so inevitably, and depressingly, every important issue gets quickly taken over and turned into an identity issue. If the issue isn’t actually sexist, homophobic, racist, or whatever, never fear: they’ll say it is anyway.

So of course, no sooner does the government announce that it will giving the BBFC the power to block websites (a power virtually unheard of in democratic countries), than identitarians are elbowing their way to the front of the victim queue, determined to make it all about them.

A particularly bad example of this is floating around social media – an article in Dazed by Jake Hall, entitled Why the UK’s new laws could destroy queer & female-led porn. The premise is basic nonsense – there is nothing in the new laws that could justify this claim. In fact, there is no evidence given in the article that this is true either, other than a couple of vague quotes that support the headline. In an attempt to nip this sort of stuff in the bud (I failed), I wrote a piece a while back to explain why the BBFC’s rules aren’t sexist – they’re much worse than that.

Furthermore, Hall’s article is literally riddled with inaccuracies and confusion. The very first sentence repeats an old myth: “According to recent figures, the global porn industry is currently worth around $97billion.” This is a claim I cover in my book Porn Panic!, and is one that was fabricated some time ago, and is regularly used by by anti-porn campaigners. Hall doubles down on his mistake by sourcing his claim to fightthenewdrug.org, a notorious anti-porn site with religious links.

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

Hall also states that “[t]hese acts are yet to be officially defined” – this isn’t true – the BBFC guidelines for porn have been in place for years. He goes on to repeat more anti-porn myths, such as “Anybody with any experience of porn knows that a vast majority of it depicts muscular men and petite, shaven women” (well, at least we know what Jake likes to watch); and that old favourite of anti-porn activists, stating that it is… “true that our porn use does need to be monitored – there’s a lucrative market for child and non-consensual pornography growing daily” (Really Jake? Please provide some statistics to back that – preferably ones that don’t come from a religious anti-porn site).

So under the guise of being all nice and inclusive to “oppressed” identity groups, Hall ends up apparently supporting the worst aspect of the new censorship laws, age verification, under which millions of sites containing sexual imagery may be blocked under the bogus excuse of “protecting children”.

Although the new left likes to imagine that it challenges the “status quo”, it has failed to notice that is has become the status quo. Much of today’s censorship regime is crafted by the left’s identity-and-diversity obsession, rather than by the Tory establishment of old. Today’s censorship organisations have diversity built it to their very cores. Every body that makes censorship decisions today – especially Ofcom, the UK’s super-censor – has been created for an era of identity politics, and are impeccable in their meeting of diversity targets.

And many of the censorship rules imposed by Ofcom and the BBFC are specifically targeted at protecting women and minorities from “offensive” language. The BBFC guidelines state:

Potentially offensive content relating to matters such as race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion. The context in which such content may appear also has a bearing. Works with such content may receive a lower category where discriminatory language and behaviour is implicitly or explicitly criticised; or the work as a whole seeks to challenge such attitudes”

The reality of the new laws is that a massive censorship regime is under construction to increase the state’s control over free expression; not in order to oppress women and minorities, but partly under the pretext of protecting them. Tragically, the great equality battles of the 1960s have been turned into yet another excuse for state control and middle-class bullying.

My book Porn Panic! details the rise of the authoritarian new left and its determination to censor everything.

Donate by Paypal, card or Bitcoin
sexandcensorship.org/donate/

Podcast 14: Jerry at BBFC HQ

For a long time, I’ve predicted that the “porn panic” was leading to mass website blocking. Recently, this very measure was introduced to the draft Digital Economy Bill. Britain is set to be the world’s first democracy with a powerful Internet censor. So I went to BBFC HQ in Soho Square to rant about it. This is the audio version – the video is on our YouTube channel.

Buy Some Free Speech This Xmas

The UK state will begin censoring the web in 2017 – and almost nobody has noticed. Online free speech as we’ve known it for over 25 years is about to come under fundamental assault. The Digital Economy Bill, currently going through Parliament, will become law in 2017. It contains a little section about “protecting children from pornography”. And who could disagree with that? But this isn’t about porn, or child protection: it’s a power grab by the state, which wants to control the Internet as it does TV and video.

From next year, a state-approved private company (the BBFC), funded with £millions of taxpayers money, will have the power to block websites that it considers pose a “threat to children”. Initially, this related to sites containing sexual or erotic images, video or even audio. But we know it won’t stop there. Porn is the testing ground for one of the greatest attacks on free speech in British history. This campaign has worked for three years to inform the press and public about a disguised threat to Internet freedom.

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

It is vital that we continue to educate journalists, politicians and the public on what this law is actually about: censorship. I can’t continue this work without your help. Please donate to support Sex & Censorship – donations above £20 will receive a signed copy of my book Porn Panic!, which documents how the “porn threat” is used as an excuse to attack sexual freedom and free speech in the UK.

Jeremy Hunt’s Curious Sexting Ban

(This article first appeared in the i newspaper under the title “A proposed ban on teen sexting is just another excuse to spy on our phones”)

Taken in isolation, Jeremy Hunt’s suggestion that teenage “sexting” should be banned might seem like one of those quaintly out-of-touch things that fuddy-duddy Tory ministers tend to say. After all, a generation of teens have had access to camera phones and smartphones, and have (unsurprisingly) used them to share photos and videos of their naughty bits. And teens were the first adopters of SMS 20 years ago, and (also unsurprisingly) used the technology to send each other dirty messages. Hunt’s target group, everybody under 18, is an odd suggestion, given the age of consent is 16.

And then, when you take a moment to consider how such a ban could be implemented, you realise just how ludicrous the suggestion is. Does Hunt seriously think that mobile phone networks, WhatsApp, Apple, Facebook, Gmail and a plethora of other platforms should all install technology to ensure that under-18s don’t send each other sexual content? And if they do, then what happens when they catch a repeat offender? Do the morality police arrest them, and perhaps take them away for a programme of modesty and decency training?

But although the temptation is to gently mock politicians who say such silly things, such outbursts should be taken seriously, especially in the current authoritarian climate. As I outline in my book Porn Panic!, sex is regularly used as an excuse to justify attacks on both privacy and free speech (terrorism being another favoured excuse). The Snoopers’ Charter represents the greatest attack on online privacy in any democratic country, ever. And the recent announcement that porn sites are to be blocked is also unprecedented in a “free” country. Britain is trying its best to become China.

If you’ve been paying attention for the past few years, you’ll have seen multiple government attempts to spy on, or block, Internet communications, using a variety of excuses. Perhaps the first example came during the 2011 riots, when the government and police blamed services like Blackberry Messenger and Facebook. Then in early 2015, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, David Cameron threatened to block encrypted services like WhatsApp and iMessage. Twitter, a popular platform for free speech, regularly comes under attack by assorted moralists and control-freaks for not censoring its users enough. So far, these companies have – to their credit – largely resisted UK government attempts at intrusion, and even strengthened their encryption. They are mostly US-based, and protected by the US Constitution. This infuriates the UK authorities.

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

To implement Jeremy Hunt’s apparently simple anti-sexting proposal would require wide-scale automated spying using intelligent text-recognition and image-recognition technology. Such technology would, of course, be able to spot a far broader range of thoughtcrime than sexting. And once in place, of course mission creep would set in. Why not use it to identify drug users, tax evaders, or racists?

Some would argue that this is desirable: after all, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide, right? But if we are to introduce automated policing of speech and behaviour, and erode our right to privacy on this scale, we need a serious discussion in Parliament and beyond. Instead, our rights to privacy and free speech are being eroded step-by-step, in a series of small, quiet nudges.