Is Ridding the Internet of Porn a realistic objective?

I posted the following article to both Benscomputer.no-ip.org and Helium quite some time ago. However, with recent calls for the UK Government to censor pornography on the Internet, I felt it may once again be relevant. So, is ridding the Internet of porn a realistic objective?

Whatever your feeling on pornography, there's no denying that it seems to be everywhere. A quick Google search for the wrong phrase can quickly provide you with hundreds of thousands of sites offering Pornograhpy of different types.

So is it realistic to thin that we can rid the Internet of porn? The short answer is no.

There is a common misconception, especially amongst Governments, that anything can be removed from the Internet. The simple fact is no-one owns the Internet, and no-one has the power to permanantly remove a site. Organisations such as ICAAN and Nominet may regulated the Top Level Domains (.com .co.uk etc.) but they have very little say about any content that is posted.

Whilst hosting providers could be required to take down any sites containing adult material, this would be a short-term setback for the Porn Industry. The simple fact is that anyone with a broadband connection is capable of hosting a site, and if the main hosts were required to take action then we would soon see a black market of cluster servers. There already exist anonymous networks, similar in function to the Internet, information is stored in a great number of places depending on it's popularity. This means that it is very hard to remove, and the owner can remain anonymous. Some of these networks utilise a system whereby users can dedicate a portion of their hard-drive to the network, but are unable to view it's contents. This offers a level of protection against prosecution, as they have no control over what is posted.

The Internet is quite effective at regulating itself, Porn sites exist because there is a demand for them, bandwidth and domain names both cost money so if the demand does not exist the site fails.

A good example of why removal of Porn is un-realistic is the intended removal of child pornography. If a hosting provider finds evidence of Paedophilia material they remove the site and notify the authorities, but the Internet is far from free of Child Porn. Some countries have not subscribed to the agreement, so pages can be hosted in those countries and remain available to the rest of the world.

Similarly the anonymous networks are beginning to fill up with child porn, the demand exists so the delivery method has simply changed. The Internet is unlikely to ever be free of Child Porn, and will certainly never be free from ordinary Pornography - for which a much bigger demand exists.

A similar, and more widely publicised example is that of Wikileaks.org. A US Judge recently ordered a hosting provider to cease connections to Wikileaks.org due to material hosted on it, within hours the site was available again, and had remained available to everyone outside the US. For various reasons Takedown-resistant servers are already in operation and being developed, this is partially due to the abuse of takedown notices by courts around the world.

Another example is the world renowned Russian Business Network, the RBN was renowned for hosting malware and phishing sites. An initiative was launched to disconnect the RBN from the Internet, but within hours of the main provider ceasing relations with them, another provider stepped in and provided a link. Once this provider realised it's mistake the RBN was disconnected again, but now very similar sites have appeared with hosts in Asia.

It is also worth noting that there was an initiative to introduce a .xxx domain for Adult sites, however this was stopped by Christian Groups in the USA. They believed it would have made porn more prolific, whilst in reality it would have made it far easier to restrict access to porn sites.

As these examples display, sites can be taken down temporarily but will always re-appear. There are a wide number of things that are illegal throughout the west, but you can still find evidence of them on the Internet. Whether it be child porn or necrophilia it exists on the net.

The widely shared belief that anything can be permanently removed from the Internet rises largely out of technical ignorance, most people do not know or understand how the Internet works and is regulated. If an attempt to rid the Internet of Pornography were to be successful, it would only serve to push the market underground. Currently there is a lot of regulatory power over the adult industry, including protection for the stars themselves, to remove Porn from the Internet would require a change in regulation and put many of these stars at risk.

It is far more feasible to regulate the browsing of our family than it is to regulate the net itself.

 
 Share