Relax, you can still watch porn in the United Kingdom, but it’s about to become a bit harder. As reported in Wired, Internet service providers (ISPs) in the country will “make filtering a standard option across industry.” If you don’t act, parental filters will come “pre-ticked.”

Therefore, if you don’t want your Internet connection to be quite so vanilla, you’ll need to opt-out. ISPs are implementing the filtering system without a legal requirement, so we will not see a law enforcing the new policy.

The kicker to this is that the system will not only be put in place for new accounts, but for existing accounts as well. This is pervasive. Claire Perry, a Member of Parliament, described how one might opt-out of the system: “We will have automatic put on, so if you turn the filter off at 9pm, it turns on again at 7am.”

Thus, even if you turn the damn thing off, it will come back on before your first cuppa.

There are myriad jokes that could be made here, but let’s refrain. Here’s what’s going on: In collaboration with their government, UK Internet providers are deciding to filter the Web connections of their customers. Thus, in the UK by 2014, you will no longer have access to the web unfettered; instead you can, with added effort, remove the blinders and access whatever the hell it is you want, but only for a short period of time before the handcuffs are reattached.

The moral imperative of the issue is lost when filtering is forced; it becomes in this case not a defensive shield for families with inquisitive kids, but a societal-level imposition of one perspective of what’s smut, and what’s just fine.

The censoring of adult content is hard to stand up against, as you sound silly: no porn restrictions! Who wants to be the politician standing before the public advocating for the rights of pornographers? But we know that porn is popular, and why it is popular, and that’s enough.

It’s not the place of a government to decide what form of information isn’t fit for its citizens to consume. While titter-inducing, this blanket filtering undermines free speech, and turns regular folks doing regular things into furtive creatures with something to hide.

The solution to this is to make the system opt-in, and not opt-out. That you can’t opt-out for life adds a level of comically petty censorship to the issue; yes, the government will let you make your own choices, but only for a few hours. That’s as much as you can be trusted. But this is for the kids.

The next question is who decides what constitutes adult content. What counts as porn? Films will too much sexual content? The rape scene in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo may be exceptionally painful to watch, but do we have the right to watch it and the movie it’s contained in at all? Your porn might be my sex, and the other way around. Shall we censor Game of Thrones?

Christopher Hitchens has a decent kick on this precise issue, arguing in Canada against censorship [Bolding: TNW]:

Bear in mind, ladies and gentleman, that every time you violate or propose to violate the free speech of someone else, you’re in potentia, you’re making a rod for your own back, because the other question raised by Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes is simply this, “Who’s going to decide, to whom do you award the right to decide which speech is harmful, or who is the harmful speaker. Or to determine in advance, what are the harmful consequences going to be, that we know enough about in advance to prevent? To whom would you give this job? To whom you’re going to award the task of being the censor?”

Isn’t it a famous old story that the man who has to read all the pornography, in order to decide what’s fit to be passed and what is not to be, is the man most likely to become debauched. Did you hear any speaker in the opposition to this notion, eloquent as one of them was, to whom you would delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read? Who to me would give the job of deciding for you, relieve you of the responsibility of hearing what you might have to hear? Do you know anyone? Hands up. Do you know anyone to whom you’d give this job? Does anyone have a nominee?

You mean, there is no one in Canada good enough to decide what I can read or hear? I had no idea. But there’s a law that says there must be such a person, or there’s sub-section of some piddling law that says it. Well, the hell with that law then. It’s inviting you to be liars and hypocrites and to deny what you evidently know already.

I hate to make a perhaps petty comparison, but the last major country to take a whack at porn, to my knowledge, among its population was China:

Chinese authorities have continued their war against online porn after closing down 225 websites, 4,000 Web channels and columns, and 30,000 blogs and microblogs which stood accused of “disseminating obscene and vulgar information”.

The People’s Daily — one of a number of government-run news outlets —reported the news via a statement released by the State Internet Information Office — although it isn’t quite clear how officials differentiate between websites/channels/blogs, each of which could be considered a website.

This the latest in a long line of government initiatives aimed at cutting down on pornography on the Chinese Web, which have been ongoing since even before 2009. Since China does not permit access to a range of popular Western services — such as Facebook and Twitter — it is hardly surprising that porn is a target for authorities.

The flow of information should be free. And not just from 9 pm until morning.

Top Image Credit: Getty Images