THE BLOG
23/07/2013 06:33 BST | Updated 23/07/2013 06:33 BST

The Internet and Porn: Can It Really Be Controlled?

PA

The porn industry is huge, and the online world has made it even easier to get your hands (or your eyes) on it, and if you want to indulge in it for free, you can do that too. It doesn't take a great deal of effort to get past the adult security measures. Simply clicking "Yes, I am over 18" is enough to get you past security and through the front gate. This is really worrying, especially when you consider that kids, who are soon going to be breaking up from school for their summer holidays in the next couple of weeks (if they haven't done so already), are going to spend a great deal of their time online, especially if the great weather we've been having comes to an inevitably rainy end any time soon.

I watched Channel 5's The Wright Stuff on the morning of Monday 22nd July, and I read all the news stories about David Cameron threatening to change the legislation on porn so that the search engines - Google, Bing, Yahoo and the others - will have to stamp down on pornography (and more specifically - child pornography and the more violent and explicit forms of the industry).

Cameron appeared on the BBC's Andrew Marr show at the weekend and was very damning of the search engines weak attempts to block indecent online material. He said:

"There's a triangle here: the people uploading the images, the people looking at the images. There are also the companies enabling it to happen."

"They're not doing nothing but we need them to do more."

The big argument that arises over the whole debate is that of free speech, but the PM was pretty clear that he felt that there is a difference between having the freedom to do what you want - within the law - and having the freedom to incite child abuse and - even worse - murder.

On the Wright Stuff, the debate was about legal porn, but still, it didn't take long before the subject of child porn came up as well. It seems like the two are almost always intricately linked, particularly by the media. Matthew Wright steers a caller who instantly starts talking about child pornography back on track, but it did make me think that because pornography is so often instantly labelled as "abuse" or "filth", it's always going to be difficult for politicians and the likes of Google and the other search engines to truly come to a point where everybody is happy.

Comedian Zoe Lyons talked about how pornography used to be magazine based, the kind that you would find under a bush when you were a kid. This made me chuckle, as I remembered that I used to walk home from primary school with a friend and he would show me a stash of four or five mags that were hidden under a hedge near his house. I think I was terrified as much as anything else, but in 1990, pornography was a hard copy industry that you had to purchase in magazine or video form. These days, a few clicks is all you need, and let's face it, children are far more adept with computers and the net than the majority of parents or adults.

There are a few things that can be done. First of all, you make all porn sites pay sites. But then you have the issue of pricing out adults who simply want to watch "regular" porn. Is that really fair? It's an interesting debate, especially when that brings up issue of parental controls and the moral issue of whether pornography should just be blocked altogether, something that Cameron is looking to impose on 19 million households in the UK.

Secondly, the search engines pay attention to the government's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and don't provide search results for their list of black-listed search terms. But again, you run the risk of ordinary sites being black-listed and shut out of search that might not even be related to pornography. There are plenty of innocent search terms that you could bring up potentially adult content. It doesn't take a genius to think of some Carry On style double-entendre for the majority of phrases. Especially if you're a buffoon like me.

There should be a degree of responsibility with the web hosting companies too. For example, Australian hosting company AussieHost.com have the following statement on their FAQ page, under the question:

Does AussieHost.com allow adult or pornographic sites on their servers?

Strictly no pornographic material is allowed on AussieHost.com servers. Asked why, my answer is I don´t want to look my children in the eye and tell them that Daddy makes money from porn.

It might not eradicate the issue completely, but this kind of stance by worldwide website providers would certainly cut down on the number of websites that host pornography or the disgusting and illegal side of the same industry. I've seen web hosting companies that happily sell the .xxx domain name as part of their services. You're not going to be hosting a writer's website or a cupcake business from an .xxx domain, are you? It all comes down to your own moral compass: Do you want to make your money by hosting a porn site?

Whether you're a child, adult, search engine or web hosting company - or you work in the online porn industry itself - there has to be a degree of responsibility involved across the board. Children should be able to learn about sex and relationships online, but through controlled educational content, not by pornography. And adults should be able to view pornography without being chastised for it. There has to be a middle ground somewhere, but it's going to take a long time to make all sides happy: The politicians, the porn industry, search engines, parents and consumers alike.