This Is What Happens When You Let the Daily Mail Set Your Policy Agenda

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 19 2013 1:34 PM

The U.K.'s Porn Filters Are Blocking Sex-Ed Sites, Domestic-Abuse Hotlines

Of pornography, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once claimed, “I know it when I see it.” The same, it seems, cannot be said for the automated pornography filters that the U.K. government has required the country’s major Internet providers to install on everyone’s broadband service.

An investigation by the BBC finds that the filters—part of conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s “war on porn”—are failing to block some major porn sites. Worse, they are blocking important educational sites, including an award-winning, youth-focused sex-education site called  Also blocked as “pornographic” by British ISP TalkTalk’s porn filter are sites like the homepage for the Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Center. Meanwhile, TalkTalk failed to block 7 percent of the 68 major porn sites tested by reporters for BBC’s Newsnight.

A typical article in the online version of the Daily Mail, the U.K. newspaper credited with spurring the government to crack down on Internet porn sites.
A typical article in the online version of the Daily Mail, the U.K. newspaper credited with spurring the government to crack down on Internet porn sites.

Screenshot / Mail Online

Another ISP, Sky, succeeded in blocking 99 percent of the actual porn sites tested, but also blocked porn-addiction sites—which seems a little counterproductive, no? A third provider, BT, blocked online domestic-abuse resource centers.


At the same time, parents’ groups are complaining that the porn filters are problematic even when they work. That’s because they imply to parents that children can be kept safe on the Web simply by activating certain filters, rather than by actually talking to them about the risks associated with various online behaviors.

This is, of course, what happens when you take your domestic-policy agenda from the Daily Mail, whose anti-child-porn campaign was widely credited with spurring Cameron to action. No doubt this is all working quite well for the Mail, however, which in addition being a righteous crusader against pornography is one of the Web’s leading purveyors of wardrobe malfunctions and sideboob.

Previously in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.