back to article Ex-barrister reckons he has a privacy-preserving solution to Britain's smut ban plans

A British firm says it has developed a tech proposal for preventing children from watching unsuitable internet videos – and doing so without needing age verification or other privacy-busting features. SafeCast Global, run by Alistair Kelman, reckons it has the solution to the age-verification kerfuffle that threatened to …

  1. tfewster Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Because no kids have ever circumvented parental controls.

    Anyway, it's not a new idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_bit

    1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: What could possibly go wrong?

      Anyway, it's not a new idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_bit

      It is closer to the existing "rating" HTML metadata tag.

      < meta name="rating" content=value > where value is one of:

      general

      mature

      restricted

      14 years

      safe for kids

    2. TheSkunkyMonk

      Re: What could possibly go wrong?

      We just need better parenting not more restrictions. We will probably get the sensible solution now though since most people got the new track and trace, and you now have to give details when going for a pint.

      1. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: What could possibly go wrong?

        My local are expecting a long list of famous names, associated with not so famous faces

    3. LDS Silver badge

      "Because no kids have ever circumvented parental controls."

      Only those much smarter than their parents. If the other trusted endpoint sets a reliable "evil bit" the system can work. The problem is another, if content tagging can be used for censorship.

      1. JohnG Silver badge

        Re: "Because no kids have ever circumvented parental controls."

        "Only those much smarter than their parents."

        ,,,plus those children smart enough to find and follow the instructions on a YouTube video about how to get around parental controls on <xyz> hardware. Of course, TV manufacturers have made this child's play by putting a YouTube button on the remote controls of most TVs.

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: What could possibly go wrong?

      There was an edition of Dragons Den where somebody pitched an anti piracy device for films being shown in the cinema. Quite rightly Peter Jones (I think) said the idea had a fatal flaw. It only required one cinema to have the system off and the blockbuster is easily copied.

      Same issues here.

  2. Mark192 Bronze badge

    This could actually make $$$

    Could content filters be the next big thing for TV companies and phone & tablet manufacturers attempting to command a premium?

    Everyone would need to upgrade the hardware or their children would turn out like we all did.

    Manufacturers will be keen on this, or something like it.

    Alternatively we could just educate and monitor our children's content. That does require effort though...

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: This could actually make $$$

      And we all know how for convenience many people will expose all!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: This could actually make $$$

        There are now online campaigns in the USA calling for kids to reprogram older relatives TVs to block Fox news before the election

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: This could actually make $$$

      Plenty of internet and mobile providers already offer content blockers (Vodafone's is called SecureNet) either for free as an incentive, or as a paid program. They mostly seem to be aimed at parents wanting to censor what their kids can look at.

      I'm in two minds about it, because I fell that working out how to circumvent a censorbot would be a good learning experience for kids.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This could actually make $$$

      I completely agree with your sentiment that it is indeed the parents responsibility to monitor their content. However in a practical sense that is very difficult these days with all the connected devices and then you have take into account parents with more than one or two kids and how much technical knowledge those parents have. The education part sure, you bring your kids up to understand what is right and wrong and what they should and should not be looking at on the internet but that's all you can do. What are the options from a technical stand point should you be that way inclined? The first thing to realise is that it's not possible on a per device basis because you would then need to monitor each device for changes, kids are smart when it comes to this stuff. The only way I can think would be to run your own DNS server like PiHole and block url's and a kid friendly DNS provider on the other end. Not perfect and you would still need to make sure they don't alter the DNS on the devices but then you get to things with their own data connections further complicating it. Do I think a government block is the answer? Hell no, a database of people that view pron is a blackmailers wet dream and you can be sure they'll fuck it up in some way and also block things they really shouldn't be blocking. I think the point I'm making here is that it's the easy answer to blame the parents or make them fully responsible but at the end of the day even the most diligent of parent can't do it all. I know this from experience.

      1. The First Dave Silver badge

        Re: This could actually make $$$

        Parents are also responsible for ensuring that their kids don't smoke; that their kids don't fall out of trees, etc., etc.

        Where is the technical solution for ensuring this?

        1. Glen 1 Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: This could actually make $$$

          I propose that a rating system be applied. There! Foolproof!

          1. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: This could actually make $$$

            but the BBFC dont have the time to classify every video on the tinterwebs

            or the FCC ....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This could actually make $$$

          It's called physical pain. That's what stops them physically damaging themselves, also a sense of danger helps. I'm surprised I even have to point this out. Emotional and psychological damage on the other hand are not instantly seen and in some cases take years to manifest. Clearly you don't have kids.

          1. The First Dave Silver badge

            Re: This could actually make $$$

            I do, and she doesn't smoke. Not sure I got everything else right of course. And its sounds like you don't have any kids if you think that 'danger' is a negative

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: This could actually make $$$

              What on earth are you on about? Did you even read what I wrote? "also a sense of danger helps" where is the negative in that? Glad to hear it smoking is a filthy habit that sucks you dry and kills you.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: This could actually make $$$

                It seems that you think a sense of danger puts kids off. It's what lines them up as Darwin award candidates.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: This could actually make $$$

                  I don't get this so maybe someone can explain where I'm wrong.

                  Sense of danger.

                  Kid puts hand in fire or falls of high place. It hurts. Next time they are more careful because of sense of danger. Alternatively they are told that will hurt so they don't do it. Again, sense of danger but taught rather than learnt.

                  I get where you are coming from with the Darwin awards but the context here is why kids don't do stuff. At least I thought it was.

    4. Rich 2 Silver badge

      Re: This could actually make $$$

      Yes it will cost money. But ANY solution will cost money.

      And it may not be perfect but assuming the parents lock down their kids’ phones, it could cut out the vast majority of smut on little Johnny’s phone. Which is 100% more that is achievable at the moment.

      Anyway, if googlies don’t like it, it gets my vote!! With bells on.

      1. This Side Up
        Headmaster

        Re: This could actually make $$$

        Type your comment here — advanced HTML and hotlinks allowed

        "... it could cut out the vast majority of smut on little Johnny’s phone. Which is 100% more that is achievable at the moment."

        Doesn't that imply that currently we can cut out approaching 50% of smut?

    5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: This could actually make $$$

      Kids swap porn at school via bluetooth etc. It will take time for all phones and PCs to be upgraded to ones that only have media players that are compliant - and even if parents can ensure that the phones have adult-content PIN codes, I suspect that non-compliant media players will exist that can be trivially downloaded, as well as apps that remove the flag from the header. Kids old enough to want to watch porn will do so - that genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Kids just need educating to see porn as fictitious entertainment used for sexual gratification and has nothing to do with how people behave (or should behave) in real life. Getting randy and masturbating is highly unlikely to harm any child, although like many other (non-sexual) activities, there is a small risk of it becoming obsessive.

      1. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: This could actually make $$$

        We used to swap magazines nicked from the top shelf, found in bus shelters (assuming the pages werent stuck together), books and 'health magazines' not to mention some pretty but dubious playing cards.

        Its not really abnormal. True we didnt do any of this at 6 or 7 years old, normally from about 11 on. But at 6 and 7 my kids dont get to use devices without some supervision.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: This could actually make $$$

          I remember doing up a house years ago. We lifted the carpets in what had been the son's bedroom....

        2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: This could actually make $$$

          Ah yes, but don't forget that a lot of this is coming from the puritanical US where she slightest hint of female anatomy is considered permanently emotionally scarring for a child but violence and murder are quite normal and accepted as such.

  3. MarkET

    DRM type stuff

    Think that the extra-terrestrial broadcasters cottoned on to this years ago with subscriptions, PIN numbers etc. Problem is the source, not the delivery protection.

  4. Cederic Silver badge

    TSP 2121

    So by modifying a standard that isn't used to share pornography over the internet they think that they can change how pornography is shared over the internet?

    I'm confused.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mind of a teenager

    So 14 year old me wants to see some b00bs on the internet, my browser stops me doing it because of this newfangled DRM type stuff.

    Whats the next thing i do? Give up on looking at b00bs or start scouring the internet for a browser / media player that doesnt check this new DRM thing?

    Errm im guessing most teenagers will do the second option, then download some malware infested piece of tat that promises free pr0n for all. Its on a family computer and now mum and dads bank details and passwords have been sent to an internet nasty person.

    Well done govt, you delayed my kid looking at porn for 20 mins and all it cost me was every drop of my personal information and the time and effort of recovering my machine after ransomware.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Mind of a teenager

      When the original policy was being developed, government minister for online safety Margot James made the following statement, ripe in its potential for misinterpretation:

      Too many young people and children are coming across porn by accident.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mind of a teenager

        That's where the argument falls over, go on Reddit and select "all" you'll hit pron within a page or two and this proposed content block isn't going to touch the likes of Reddit, Twitter and Facebook. If this really was about protecting children they wouldn't be excluded but here we are.

      2. Alumoi

        Re: Mind of a teenager

        Too many young people and children are coming across porn by accident.

        Like entering their parents bedroom unannounced. Or watching politicos on TV.

      3. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Mind of a teenager

        Too many young people and children are coming across porn by accident.

        Excluding reddit how do you accidentally stumble over porn on the net? I've sat with my younger relatives whilst they're browsing the net on numerous occasions. Not once have they ever stumbled upon anything remotely dodgy. Whilst searching for work related stuff I've never found anything dodgy in my searches.

        Unless it was a typo and should have been a U not an O. In that case I don't think it's an accident.

        1. grrrrrrrr

          Re: Mind of a teenager

          Not necessarily porn, but there's still is a lot of highly dodgy content that kids can inadvertently stumble upon. For example, adult or far-right content on youtube featuring, e.g. Peppa Pig. Even if it's just a parody intended for adults, or something more sinister, young kids won't be sophisticated enough to tell the difference. I came across this once when my friends 7 year old kids in Germany was searching youtube for some Mario stuff, and we had to take the computer off them when it started serving up a load of Mario nazi stuff.

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: Mind of a teenager

            Yep I agree there's things far worse than porn that can harm the minds of children out there. Those wouldn't be covered by this 'solution' either and not what the minister was getting irked by. Why we're supposed to get all hot and bothered about smut when extremist material is out there and arguably much more damaging is beyond me. If we're supposed to be thinking of the children I'd much rather they were looking at a pair of knockers or a giant pole than something suggesting that racial or religious purity.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mind of a teenager

        When the original policy was being developed, government minister for online safety Margot James made the following statement, ripe in its potential for misinterpretation:

        Too many young people and children are coming across porn by accident.

        So teach them the proper use of tissues?

      5. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: Mind of a teenager

        trust me any 14yr old boy doesnt come accross this "By Accident"

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Mind of a teenager

      If you let a 14 year old have administrative / software installation rights on your home PC (or even personal laptop), it's already game over.

      How do you think schools cope? They stop kids being able to install or run stuff. It's all there, built-into the OS.

      So now you have to ask Dad for his password to install the DRM-disrepecting browser, or you have to circumvent Windows security. Neither are impossible, but neither are easy either.

      Honestly, you're far more at risk of your kid accidentally installing a spyware webcam app that puts them at serious risk, than them downloading a bit of Page 3. Why you'd think that access enough to do the first is somehow necessary for a kid, I can't fathom.

      Sure, "most people" won't. And that's on them.

      1. cbars Silver badge

        Re: Mind of a teenager

        No. It isn't on "most people" to fully understand their computers. Just as I don't really understand my car, I just drive it.

        The government should not create risks for citizens, it should reduce them up to whatever freedom is desired by the populace. If the government passed a law to say that brake pads should be made of gold ( or whatever ), and then my brake pads got predictably nicked - I'd be worse off for lots of reasons, and I don't have the wherewithal to work out how to secure my brake pads. Its not on me, its on that stupid brake pad law.

        Young people are pretty good at these computer things, and if you want to know how to get admin rights on a machine you have physical access to, its just a search away...

        1. LDS Silver badge
          Devil

          "Just as I don't really understand my car, I just drive it."

          Still, people are usually asked to prove they can drive a car and understand enough of it and the driving rules before being allowed to drive one. Funnily, it doesn't happen with computers.

          Nobody is asked to be able to build a computer or repair it, but they should be expected to know how to "drive" it, including some security stuff. Or you mean driver should be exempt, for example to know how to properly park on a slope? Or when tires should be replaced?

          1. cbars Silver badge

            Re: "Just as I don't really understand my car, I just drive it."

            Kitchen tap, fridge, self service checkout, electric toothbrush, light bulb, cordless drill, those little labels on apples.....

            Car was easier, but anything will do ;)

            (Can't restrain myself.... the way you hold your iPhone!)

        2. Kernel

          Re: Mind of a teenager

          "Young people are pretty good at these computer things, and if you want to know how to get admin rights on a machine you have physical access to, its just a search away..."

          Too true - six or seven weeks ago I spent several hours on a Zoom call, guiding my grandson through the process of installing VirtualBox and a Win10 VM on his laptop (natively Linux Mint).

          Four weeks later he accused me of slowing his laptop down - although my son said that might have been due to the other 10 VMs (various Linux and Unix flavours, I understand) the grandson had installed subsequently, thus consuming most of the free disk space.

          The wee chappie turned seven about two weeks ago - his current focus is on trying out different OS's on his RPi 4.

          The weird thing is that neither my son nor daughter-in-law regard computers as anything more than a tool which can be used but doesn't have to be understood to work - I blame his school.

        3. hoola Bronze badge

          Re: Mind of a teenager

          Loads of applications now run in the user profile anyway so don't need admin rights to be installed. This is one of the bigger issues and there is very little you can do about it. At my son's 6th form it ran from year 7 (I think) but the Internet access was filtered at the lowest level for everyone. This effectively made it useless for the older kids as legitimate content was blocked. They started using VPNs on phones so a cat & mouse game then ensued as the techies tried to block them on the WiFi. The only plus is that a combination of location and a building with a lot of metal in it meant that mobile data did not work.

          This is a classic case of excessive restriction actually making the situation worse.

      2. John Jennings Bronze badge

        Re: Mind of a teenager

        Having worked in building a solution for safe internet access in schools for years, I can assure you that they don't even need Admin access to access all the 8008's they want.

        I have seen kids take a python teaching IDE, and build a viewer app from Open source resources, and get access to all sorts of tat from that.

        They then share it with their mates, and a thousand copies and tweaked versions pop up on school computers in a couple of weeks.

        1. Glen 1 Silver badge

          Re: Mind of a teenager

          That's the spirit! They'll go far that one!

      3. DrewWyatt

        Re: Mind of a teenager

        When I was much younger, at the tail end of the 90's, I was working on a help desk. During the night shift we had an amusing little game. Open up your search engine du jour, turn off safe search and enter any two random words. The person who had an "adult" result highest in the rankings won. I think the record was held by "Lawnmower table" or some such nonsense.

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Mind of a teenager

      "Whats the next thing i do? Give up on looking at b00bs or start scouring the internet for a browser / media player that doesnt check this new DRM thing?"

      Unfortunately, as a teenager, you wanted to be cool and have the same phone your mates had. So you're stuck with an iPhone. And Apple won't let you install other media players.

      1. Don Dumb
        FAIL

        Oh really?

        @Brewster's Angle Grinder

        "And Apple won't let you install other media players."

        Did your teenage kid tell you that to keep you from suspecting? - VLC Disagrees

        https://apps.apple.com/us/app/vlc-for-mobile/id650377962

  6. Phones Sheridan
    Paris Hilton

    Playground swapping

    This would just force kids to go back to the playground disk-swapping of the 90s, or even a resurgence of the skin-mags. Kids that want porn will find a way even if it's searching through the bins of news-agents for the coverless throw-aways. I know I did!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Playground swapping

      Hope not I remember swapping Amiga disks back in the day and getting one with Madge and Harold from Neighbours. Scarred me for life.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waste of time

    This is a waste of time, since nothing will ever satisfy the "won't somebody think of the children" mob. It's the very existence of smutty material that bothers them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Waste of time

      Of course you can "think of the children"! You put them all in an asylum from birth, where you teach them the values and virtues of this wonderful country. Then, by the time they are ripe, you have a conform class of new citizens, ready for consumption.

      1. sev.monster

        Re: Waste of time

        Jesus how depressingly accurate.

  8. Steve K Silver badge

    Is it just me...

    Is it just me, but in this context "HeadCode" fnar, fnar..

    1. status203

      Re: Is it just me...

      "Do you have a reum?"

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "There's one seemingly obvious flaw"

    Only one? For a start there's the other half of the system, the player or whatever it is that has to handle the material. That has to look at the the field and then do what it's configured to do - which it might not - and it has to be configured appropriately to the audience and who does that?

    Then there's the notion that this is an international standard so how do you get different countries to agree on how a particular file should be rated? Or do different countries get to rate material to their own needs and how do you then enforce the distribution of files according to country (although big media marketing would love to have misdistribution enforced by criminal sanctions)?

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    This looks interesting

    It seems like a very good compromise, but I have no idea of the tech stuff behind it or how it could be subverted. On the face of it, it does seem good.

    I guess I'll wait for UK Gov's reaction. If they don't like it, it's likely that it is because they can't use it to further the surveillance state they are desperately trying to push forth - which would mean that it is indeed a good solution.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This looks interesting

      I guess I'll wait for UK Gov's reaction.

      "Yes, excellent idea, we're doing it. It'll be world-beating!"

      "Erm, maybe not, no we're not doing it."

      "Well, actually, we could do it, shall we have a review?"

      "Yes, we are going to do it, but not till next month."

      "Ah, slight problem, um no, we're going back to doing what we were going to do originally..."

  11. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    OK, seen a lot of the normal "why should I be incovenianced by a porn ban, I don't have kids" type of comments, so here is my tuppence worth.

    Before I start, I am definitely not anti porn.

    But, I have concerns on it being so freely available. Yes, when I was younger, I read porn, along with my mates. We had to build up the courage to go into a shop and buy a top shelf mag from the frankly terrifying woman in our local newsagent. That was for softcore porn. I don't think it's had any real effect on me, but it was just pictures of women's bits. Nothing hardcore, and not really much more pornographic than page 3.

    Now, kids can go to thousands of sites, and stream videos of acts ranging from softcore posing, through hardcore (consensual intercourse) to rape and abuse (I've never seen it myself, but I have it on good authority there are these videos on the internet). They can view it *anywhere* and with limited or no checking. I don't count the "age verification" pages on some sites as adequate checking - anyone can answer yes,

    I have serious concerns on the long term effect on society of these videos being freely available.

    Now, you can argue I am wrong. I might be, and hope I am. These videos might have no effect on society. I doubt that, and it seems we may already being seeing evidence they are having an effect.

    I don't agree with the ban as implemented by Theresa May. I don't think that was enforceable, but personally I don't see why we should be risking potential problems in society because a few people don't want to prove they are adults, so I have no objection as such to some sort of verification system.

    1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Meh

      I have serious concerns on the long term effect on society of these videos being freely available.

      Pornography has been freely available online for more than 25 years now, so we are in the long term and whatever harms there are should be evident.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "so we are in the long term and whatever harms there are should be evident."

        That looks like a bad argument though, because in the last couple of decades everything has gone to shit. The following might be caused by pornography then:

        Neo-nazis.

        Trump, Brexit, Bolsonaro/AMLO/Kirchner.

        The crack-down in Hong Kong.

        Civil war in Syria

        and so on.

        1. cmdrwhitewolf

          Well, the (actual degree'd!) anthropologist in me want calls B.S. on that theory without much hesitation. Because for one thing, you mention things happening in other countries like U.S., Hon Kong & Syria who don't really share much in the way of their complex culture. Assuming that *every* culture would react the same way is a broad brush as best. And the other thing is that is dismisses several items of evidence. Like, for example, several people's stated reasoning for voting for Trump - Several trump supporters state that they wanted someone who wasn't a politician - LOL. Though I personally think it was a lot more levers than that, 1) you have the declining education created by the GOP in the Red states feeding their political will with people who are practically trained to listen to con men and agree with what they are told, 2) You have rampant political corruption in the vein of gerrymandering, voter suppression, purging of the voter registrations, and creation of obstacles to voting (being against Mail in voting for example). And that's just the short list for this one complex issue. And the others have short lists of their own that don't intersect with that.

          1. DavCrav Silver badge
            Joke

            Evidently I forgot the icon.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Too easy now

        But its so much easier now.

        25 years ago, while some was available on the web, the free stuff came from places like IRC, FTP and newsgroup sites. This forced people how learn about such places and how they worked. And getting video over a 28.8k dialup connection was a long process (so most of what you got was stills). Plus with no previews it was hard to filter.

        Now you just go to (porn streaming site of your choice), enter a search term, and there it is. Nothing learned. No effort expended.

      3. iowe_iowe

        errr - I can vouch that pornography has been freely available since the days of token ring networks and BBS - so 80's

        1. DJO Silver badge

          I've seen daguerreotypes that suggest porn has been around a little bit longer than that.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Yep, it really didn't take long from the first availability of photography to nude pictures being taken. Not much more than a few months I believe - although my memory of the museum of photography isn't exact.

            1. DJO Silver badge

              "High art" has always shown a lot more flesh than is strictly naturalistic, sculptors in antiquity knew a bit about "anatomical accuracy" too and while the gods would have modest robes, the goddesses always seem to have some degree of wardrobe malfunction, odd that.

              Art historians can get a bit snooty about calling art porn, but in it's day some of it certainly was and was sold as such.

      4. EnviableOne Silver badge

        if anything, it could actually be causing a considerable effect, looking at more digitally forward nations

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/young-people-japan-stopped-having-sex

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Software babysitting your child's Internet access is not parenting.

      I can't convince my ex-wife to let my 11-year-old have a smartphone on their home Wifi (no SIM) enough so she can chat to her friends on a social network, while the ex- and her family are in the room. And the kid is THE MOST sensible kid I've ever seen (not parental bias, she just is).

      If software lockouts are necessary, it's actually encouraging lazy parenting and blame-shifting ("Well, Apple should never have allowed that webpage to work on their iPad!" is a literal word-for-word phrase I've heard from a parent in the school I work in, when their child managed to get on a website at home, on their personal iPad, on their home Internet... no supervision, they just expected "Apple" to sort it out so it wasn't possible).

      So I disagree with the concept of net-nanny software. I think parents should have supervision. In fact, I think "parental control software" should be a remote view of whatever their child's smartphone is showing currently, with a log of programs run, keys typed, etc. Otherwise, it's useless. And I think Internet access for vulnerable groups should be done in an open and supervised session, much like they're made to in school.

      It's like expecting nightclubs to offer a safe-bus for kids under 12 to get home at midnight from the town centre, when what should be happening is the damn kids shouldn't be out at those hours, in those places, at all. Sure, we're "helping" and "doing the right thing" in getting them home safe, but it just shouldn't be an issue at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We require licenses to watch television, drive cars, and teach kids in school, but not to shit out one of the little buggers and "raise" it. Consider that for a moment and you'll begin to understand why there are so many shite parents (and as a direct result, shite kids).

        The worst part is there is no humane way to solve the problem: preventing people from fucking and impregnating is repression, stopping unwanted or unsustainable pregnancies is murder, taking kids from shitty parents is immoral.

        Now every significant world power is overpopulated, rife with social unrest, filled to the brim with stupidity and ignorance, and nothing can really be done about it.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          "Now every significant world power is overpopulated,"

          Japan.

          1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

            If you think that's a counter-example, you don't know Japan, at all.

            1. Denarius Silver badge

              population bust

              OK, Singapore. And for fun, DRC noting problems with age demographics from 2050 if not earlier thanks to 1 child policy, hence now 2 is OK.

              1. Lunatic Looking For Asylum

                Re: population bust

                DRC ?

                Democratic Republic of the Congo ?

            2. DavCrav Silver badge

              "If you think that's a counter-example, you don't know Japan, at all."

              My point was that the Japanese government is trying desperately to improve the birth rate. They are so desperate they are even trying to encourage gaijin to come.

          2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
            Stop

            every significant world power is overpopulated

            "Now every significant world power is overpopulated,"

            Don't you need a very large population to be a significant world power? That is why China, India and the United States are significant world powers and Greenland is not.

            "Overpopulated" is also dubious. Perhaps you are just visualising the busy cities. But the United States population density is just 87 people per square mile. It is just that people like to bunch together in cities near the coast, leaving the boondocks empty. Wyoming has a population density of 6 people per square mile.

        2. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge
          Go

          licensed sex/reproduction

          There may be a precedent (not that I am advocating adopting such a strategy). It used to be, at one time, the case that you had to gain consent from the monarch to have children. When couples were given permission to procreate they would put a sign outside their door saying Fornicating Under Consent of King.

          It is probably an urban (historical) myth but I like it.

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: licensed sex/reproduction

            "It is probably an urban (historical) myth but I like it."

            Definitely an urban myth, I'm afraid. It likely came from the same place as ficken, the German version.

            It's also kind of obviously an urban myth. For one very obvious reason, most peasants couldn't read, and by the time the population was literate it was far too large for this. And in general, if this were true, the king would have spent most of his time, as it were, giving fucking permission.

        3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          If you've ever seen the extreme hoops that people have to go through to adopt a child and to give them a loving home, compared to the absolute ease at which a shit person made the child in the first place... it's mind boggling.

  12. anatguy

    Just Like the Late 90's

    The late 90's are back again. Maybe he could use RDF as a format to describe meta data describing the nature of the content? Or even take advantage of the <meta> HTML tag to describe the type of content on a web page. Its not like all of this hasn't been tried before.

  13. ITS Retired

    Maybe what we really need is a plan to ban prudes. Then a lot of these problem would just go away.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Is there enough rope in the world?

  14. andy 103 Silver badge
    FAIL

    the content is labelled by the creator

    If our proposal is accepted, the content is labelled by the creator so it's easy to filter out inappropriate content from young children, using the lightweight filter.

    Right so - just off the top of my head - several problems.

    1. The content creator actually labels their content? To be fair this article acknowledges that might not happen. If this is the case how do consumers choose to set up devices which use a mixture of content that has these headers, and ones that don't? It seems all or nothing.

    2. Who regulates how content creators use this? Can a smut company put material out there and simply label it as "safe" to gain viewers? Who enforces that and what are the penalties if they don't comply with the spirit of using it correctly? If they get "banned" from using it then surely we're back to square one?

    3. "using the lightweight filter" - it's not that lightweight because the playback devices also then have to implement controls to toggle using it. Presumably behind some other layer of security that has nothing to do with this proposal.

    4. As with DVD / Bluray, if you can play it back, you can distribute it. This problem has existed for years. Play the recording back using 1 authorised device, record it on another (smart phone camera will do, nobody cares about it being *that* HD). Distribute the decrypted content as much as you want on one of the many apps people of a young age use, i.e. Snapchat, Messenger, etc. Or if you want to go old-skool, a USB flash drive, or god forbid optical disk.

  15. JulieM Silver badge
    Boffin

    Even easier

    I have an even simpler idea:

    Just ban minors from the Internet altogether.

    If there was no expectation for the Internet to be family-friendly in the first place, there would not be any reason to complain about adult content.

  16. Long John Silver
    Pirate

    Perhaps success depends upon what one seeks to achieve?

    Drawing on discussion here it is evident that any particular 'unsuitable media filter' (UMF) technology is unlikely to fit all circumstances: these including age of child, locations/means of their access to the Internet, and range of 'content' deemed 'unsuitable'. Taking the last criterion, the less stringent it is perhaps the greater the prospect of success.

    For instance curiosity about and desire to view naked bodies may be hard-wired into children and attempting wholly to thwart it a fool's errand. Maybe some societies have become so uptight and prudish about simple nudity that they fail to draw a line between it and a spectrum of sexual activities ranging from simply procreative/pleasurable through to bizarre and abusive indulgences straddling the line of present day legality. The degree to which children are at risk of emotional damage and of accepting attitudes the mass of the population regards as abhorrent, these arising from either exposure to 'content' they actively seek out or to that to which they inadvertently are exposed, seems likely to depend on a child's age/maturity. Once of school age children cease at all times to be under tight parental control.

    A pragmatic response is not to wrap all matters nudity/sexual in one bundle and attempt to forbid access. Similar consideration applies to ideas beyond context of 'sex' which are deemed subversive (e.g. ideologies). Thus enable ready availability of text and images deemed not unsuitable for a particular child's maturity. In other words, from approved sources. Take away implication of 'smut' by openly including 'acceptable' imagery at appropriate points in the formal curriculum and in less formal discussions with teachers wherein it is attempted to place strands of the curriculum and current affairs in context. Younger children could receive protection from exposure to grossly unsuitable materials if the kind of filtering mentioned in this article is implemented.

    Older children naturally seek to kick over the traces. Rather than attempting to ban access to everything beyond the most innocent it must suffice to impede access to that deemed by reasonable consensus as disturbing or depraved. Twofold measures ought suffice. Make available selected more explicit 'content' in context of 'sex education' films and of 'raunchy' cinema of the sixties and seventies geared towards the 'mackintosh brigade'. By present day standards "The sweet sins of sexy Susan", "Sexy Susan sins again", "Confessions of a riding mistress" and the contemporaneous German origin "Schulmädchen Reports" must be innocent indeed. The titles are seared in my memory because at one time I used to drive every day past a slightly disreputable cinema upon which the titles were blazoned. I reckoned them as being slightly more risqué versions of the popular "Carry On" series.

    A universal adult verification scheme is unnecessary for present legal 'porn' sites. Just demand that each such register with a body supervised by the Home Office, offer proof of having implemented its own watertight arrangements, and institute means whereby non-compliant sites can be quickly blocked with minimal fuss. Admittedly, site blocking is not wholly effective, as the Premier League and the rentier film and recorded music industries know well, yet it offers a tangible obstacle.

  17. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Go

    I'm all for it

    Make all porn have a .porn file extension and all .porn files include an embedded flag which labels it porn, and preferably a ranking which shows how worth watching it is. Make it illegal for content providers not to comply, make it illegal for browsers not to implement filtering.

    Will it work? Will it fuck.

    But it's something which can be done, which won't impact on anyone who actually wants to watch porn, so let's all get behind it being done, demand the government implement it, rather than tell them it won't work.

  18. JohnG Silver badge

    I cannot see anything of this nature working. While some porn providers may operate within the law (of the jurisdiction in which they are located), it is a fairly shady industry and many website operators are likely to have no interest in marking all of their media, especially if they happen to be located outside the UK.

    This idea also fails to address the problem of social media/media sharing/messaging sites/apps being used to transmit porn, not least by teenagers themselves.

    I reckon the only effective method is to constrain use on the user devices. The snag is, many of the parental control apps/features are not that difficult to defeat. It doesn't help that many ISPs still insist that customers use the ISP-supplied broadband routers, which typically have limited parental control features.

  19. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Trivia

    Maybe for a really clever age verification system. have it ask for random obscure trivia from 25 years ago. If it isn't the latest and greatest thing, they wouldn't know or care (how many kids these days even remember "Gangam Style"?). Find trivia that would require a Wikipedia search (or even better, TVTropes); they'll get so caught up in hyperlink-jumping ( https://xkcd.com/609/ ) that they'll never get time to actually view the pr0n.

  20. tonyyaman

    porn

    hi am 63 and i don't want porn or other such crap i use porn blockers any way to stop such filth is a good way let it happen the more the better the government ordered I S P to block movies then why not do the same for porn and filth block it all

    1. Lunatic Looking For Asylum

      Re: porn

      One person's filth is another's erotic art.

      Once government start banning or controlling this, they won't stop. Eventually, you would only end up with government filtered content because the governments would be under so much pressure for the next moral issue to hit society. Ban junk food sites, ban you tube because there's some scary stuff on there about sharpening pencils with a craft knife...

      In essence, the proposal won't work. How do you know it's porn firstly ? The originator has to classify it. What if they don't ? Do you say only streams with a classification are allowed ? You will really throw the baby out with the bath water then.

  21. TsVk!

    Well it's good for little ones

    Teenagers are smart enough and savvy enough they will find porn when they want. There's no stopping that.

    This tech could stop little kids who are just after Thomas the Tank Engine and My Little Pony vids ending up watching casting couch vids by accident. I agree the onus is on parents to monitor their kids internet use, but no sane or sober parent is going to sit with their kids and watch that stuff the whole time they are watching it.

    So, maybe? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  22. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Want porn? Get an email address.

    You could also get a web site, build it with Wordpress and have a "contact" page. Endless mail from girls that are dying to have it off with me. D!ck pills. Online pharmacies of all sorts. etc etc blah blah blah

    For this system to work, both ends of the chain have to be set up for it. If a purveyor of naughty content sets up in country that's isn't policing CDNs, they aren't going to put the headers in their wares and make the bulk of their money serving up ads and malware. All they have to do for advertising is buy a list of .edu email addresses that have been harvested from poorly secured school databases, let's say high schools, and the pebbles start the avalanche.

    I agree with others that state that parents need to monitor their kid's internet use and have talks with them about all sorts of things. It's dangerous to just hand them a £500 mobile with an unlimited account and tell them to have fun. Would they give them an Oyster card and a map of London because they are bored some weekend? That could be a helluva adventure for an 11 yo that fancies themselves all grown up.

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