In Brief

Backlash over UK bill to block 'unconventional' porn

Free speech activists warn new legislation banning online videos on moral grounds 'sets a scary precedent'

New proposals to force internet service providers to block sites hosting sexually explicit content amount to draconian censorship, campaigners say.

The plan, contained in the digital economy bill currently passing through parliament, would ban any online video that would not be certified for commercial DVD sale by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

The little-discussed clause will prohibit UK web users from accessing sites portraying a range of "non-conventional sexual acts".

It is part of provisions to enforce strict age verification checks to stop children accessing adult websites.

However, free-speech activists say the move could result in some of the web's most popular sites being banned.

Jodie Ginsberg, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, told The Guardian: "It should not be the business of government to regulate what kinds of consensual adult sex can be viewed by adults."

Pictures and videos of spanking, whipping or caning that leave marks, sex acts in public or involving urination, female ejaculation or menstruation are likely to be ruled out, "in effect turning back the clock on Britain's censorship regime to the pre-internet era", says the Guardian.

So far, criticism has centred on the bill's age verification clauses, which The Independent says are "likely to lead to a database of viewing habits being held by companies or by the government". It is feared checks could force users to reveal their identity before accessing porn and potentially open the doors to hacking, blackmail and credit-card fraud.

Digital privacy campaign the Open Rights Group, which has opened a petition against the bill, say "government attempts to block under-18s from porn sites could have chilling implications for privacy", says Metro.

Others, however, object on principle. "Government blocking of websites on moral grounds sets a scary precedent for our future", says Amelia Tait in the New Statesman. "We must loosen our stiff British upper lips and admit, once and for all, that we are all wankers."

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