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May 18, 2016

Queen's Speech Recommends Crackdown on Porn Access in U.K.

LONDON—The Colonies broke away from the British Empire and its monarchy about 240 years ago, and that's an action that continues to justify itself even to the current day. The most recent reason? This year's Queen's Speech, which 90-year-old Queen Elizabeth II delivered just before the opening of Parliament this month, in which she recommended that "extremist speech" be censored, and that online sexually explicit websites be required to confirm the ages of their viewers rather than simply allowing them to click a button that says "I'm over 18." Of course, the objectives stated in the Queen's Speech are mainly guidelines as to what the monarch would like to see enacted, and it will be up to Parliament's two houses—the House of Lords, made up of religious leaders and titled peers, and the democratically elected House of Commons—to hammer out the details. News site The Mirror suggested that the new laws might require site owners to require age verification by collecting users' credit card numbers (even if the site is free) or "checking people's details against the electoral roll," aka "voter ID," which has worked so well in the U.S. And if they don't vote and don't have a credit card, they'll be out of luck. The Daily Star website added that possibly, would-be porn users could get age-verified by their mobile phone provider, or the Department for Work and Pensions. (As of this writing, the Star's online poll shows 85 percent of respondents against the new rules.) But that's not the half of it: According to The Mirror, "Officials hope they will be able to persuade firms by cutting off funds from the UK when they have premium sections on their website. The government could contact credit card providers and tell them to shut off payments to rogue sites [i.e., sites that don't check the ages of credit card users] in accordance with UK law." The new law is supposed to apply to all "premium" (porn) sites, both foreign and domestic, that can be accessed in the UK, but as Andrew Griffin noted in The Independent, "Authorities have previously said that the blocks won’t apply just to sites that exist to distribute pornography, but to any that include pornographic material and would get an 18 rating if they were classified formally." The excuse/reason for the proposed law is the usual one: We Have To Protect The Kids! Griffin reported that, "A study last year found, for instance, that one in five children between 11 and 17 had seen adult images that had shocked or upset them," while The Star reported that "Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC [National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children], said the issue was 'a matter of urgency' and that children who had ready access to adult content could develop a 'warped' view of sexual relationships." On the other hand, prominent UK porn defense attorney Myles Jackman called the proposal for what it is: "This is cutting-edge censorship. We are now becoming the world leaders in censorship. And we are being watched very closely from abroad." Jerry Barnett, who hosts the Sex and Censorship Blog, added, "This is the state, yet again, intervening in people’s private lives for no reason other than good old British prurience and control-freakery." And speaking of "control-freakery," the Queen has also proposed a "Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill" which would supposedly "prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms and promote community integration," as well as tag "hate preachers" with "civil order regimes" (court orders) allegedly to "stamp our their 'brainwashing' of youngsters." City/town councils which fail to act against such unapproved speakers could find themselves directed to do so by government "ministers," and those who broadcast similar thoughts from abroad could find themselves cut off by telecommunications industry regulator Ofcom. One of the problems is, however, that the Queen's idea of "extreme speech" seems to be much broader than simply preventing people from trying to convince Brits to join some radical jihad. "The current definition of extremism as 'the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs' is drafted so widely that it will not only catch terrorist sympathisers but perhaps even those who oppose the government, believe the monarchy should be abolished or disagree with same-sex marriage...," opined Liberal Democratic Parliamentary Minister Alistair Carmichael. "Utilising this definition en masse would put the police and judges in a difficult position—it would only be a matter of time before the powers are used in a way they were never intended for. ... The right to offend and to say things that others might be disgusted by or with which they would disagree must not be stifled by State." Again, the Queen's Speech is just a guideline which Parliament will have to reduce to legal language—but her words should serve as a warning to Brits who believe in the principles of civil rights first set forth in the document that established their parliamentary system: the Magna Carta of 1215 A.D.

 
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