Regulating the net

There’s been much in the papers recently about David Cameron’s ideas for “saving our children” from porn. This is not a new idea on his part, but he’s recently raised it again, presumably to distract people from the drubbing his party has just got in local elections.

The lastest idea is that all UK ISPs should be forced, by law, to adopt an “opt-in” policy for adult material. In other words, when you sign up with an ISP, you will have to explicitly say that you want to be able to view porn, otherwise it will be filtered out.

Now there are numerous technical arguments why this won’t work, and even if it did, why it shouldn’t be adopted. But aside from the practicality of the idea, there is another good reason against adopting such a law.

That reason is Market Forces.

This concept is central to many Conservative policies. It is at the core of how they are regulating (or not) the financial sector, the NHS, Education, and the provision of new homes. So why isn’t it good enough for this problem?

If Opt-In Porn is a good idea, all you need is one or more ISPs to adopt it voluntarily, and worried parents will flock to move their broadband connection to them. Those ISPs who prefer not to implement it can take their chances with the market. If the government wishes to promote awareness of such services, then no problem. People are given more choice, and there’s no need for new legistlation.

Problem sorted?