Why Online Pornography is Being Blocked in the UK—and Why It Should Be in the U.S. Too
The Story: Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, the prime minister has announced.
The Background: According to the BBC, Prime Minister Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography is "corroding childhood." The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers. Cameron also called for some "horrific" internet search terms to be "blacklisted," meaning they would automatically bring up no results on websites such as Google or Bing.
He told the BBC he expected a "row" with service providers who, he said in his speech, were "not doing enough to take responsibility" despite having a "moral duty" to do so. He warned he could have to "force action" by changing the law and that, if there were "technical obstacles," firms should use their "greatest brains" to overcome them.
Why It Matters: Imagine that as part of their mail delivery service, the USPS delivered to your mailbox an unlimited supply of free drugs, ranging from oxycodone to heroin. You could take the drugs out or leave them untouched, but they would always be there for you or any other member of your family. While you can't opt out of the service, people who don't want access to the drugs could attach a lock that prevents them and their family from picking up the narcotics when they collect their electric bill and postcards. But the postal service would always ensure that, without the postal customer taking preventive measures, the drugs were always ready and waiting for them.
Now imagine that a politician proposes a change to the law. Rather than automatically being delivered to their mailbox, people who wanted the drugs would simply need to tell the post office that they want to opt in to the service. Most citizens would not only consider this a reasonable proposal, but would wonder what sort of degenerate society allowed the current drugs-delivered-to-every-home system in the first place. You would find relatively few Americans—and few American Christians—who would oppose such a regulation.
Indeed, such a regulation already exists in America to prevent unsolicited pornography from being put into your mailbox. Title 18, Sec. 1461 of the U.S. Code currently prohibits the mailing of "every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile" material. So why would so many Americans—and many American Christians—oppose a similar regulation that prevented Internet service providers from being required to add "family-friendly filters" to restrict obscene material?
American Christians on both the left and the right are frequently criticized for allowing their political beliefs to be shaped more by the culture than by the Word of God. Too often such complaints are overstated since the principle underlying their political position can be rooted, however obliquely, in Scripture. But the support for unlimited access to pornography, distributed freely in every home with an Internet connection, is not a cause that any Christian should tolerate, much less support.
Complaints that we must not favor any type of censorship are also both inadequate and ahistorical. The founding fathers—the men who actually wrote the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech—would have considered it the height of idiocy to think they ever intended the Constitution to protect pornography. But even if unrestricted access to smut was a government-given right, it would be trumped by the moral duty of every decent human being to protect the innocence of children.
Christians in America often look on with pity and disdain at the secularizing influences that are destroying the cultural legacy of the United Kingdom. But this news should cause us to check our pride and sense of moral superiority. Even in a nation growing increasingly hostile to religion and Christian virtue, they have the moral sense to support commonsensical regulations against obscenity. Why then can't we in the United States do the same?