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.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

An Iranian Woman Was Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist. Can Activists Save Her?

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 2:08 PM We Need to Talk: Terrible Name, Good Show
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 3:01 PM Netizen Report: Hong Kong Protests Trigger Surveillance and Social Media Censorship
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.