LOS ANGELES—You have to admit, the fact that Google Chrome now has an extension designed to circumvent the new British porn filters is ironic in the extreme when one considers that Google was one of the "tech giants" called on the carpet a few months ago by Prime Minster David Cameron about their allegedly limp efforts to combat kiddie porn on the internet. Now, in the British government's singular achievement for 2013—the imposition of countrywide porn filters that extend into people's homes—perhaps the biggest tech giant of them all is indirectly undercutting that very achievement. Merry Christmas, Mr. Cameron!
Google did not create the "Go Away Cameron" Chrome extension, of course. A Singapore-based fellow who goes by @nubela can take credit for that. But the open-source technology in Chrome didn't impede the effort, and probably helped. "I built this Chrome extension to bypass UK's censorship," wrote the creator of his work-around. "It is the easiest way to access blocked sites. Simply install the GAC Chrome extension, login, and the blocked sites are immediately bypassed." Easier than watching free porn on your favorite "streaming" site!
It's not like the filters were humming along perfectly before Go Away Cameron upended them. According to TechRadar.com, "Reports say hardcore porn sites are slipping through the cracks, while legitimate sex education sites are being blocked."
As predictable as all of this was, one can't help but worry how Cameron, other ISP porn filter supporters and the British public in general will react to the rather swift erosion of their plan to place a condom on the nation's web access. Normally, when such an excessively vaunted campaign hits the skids, the government doubles down on its efforts. With filters, which are notoriously inexact at their best, methods to make them more effective often result in more false positives, while efforts to decrease false positives inevitably result in less stringent filtering, resulting in a pendulum swing of control that leaves no one happy and no one truly protected.
This is the ISP filter game at its essence: a dashing of expectation when reality inevitably sets in. Hopefully, as the dust clears, frustrated Brits will not conclude that their only recourse is to stop playing nice and take the hard step of requiring all porn sites to resettle in an online ghetto designed to further restrict or control access to them. Instead, as so many have suggested, the better way will be for the government to chill out, back off and allow parents to be parents by making these decisions completely and freely for themselves.