Online Porn Filters ‘Entirely Ineffective,’ Oxford Research Says

CYBERSPACE—The internet has become the place where most porn fans look to find their favorite material, but it is also a place where the merely curious, including curious kids, can find explicit adult content with relative ease. As a result, a whole mini-industry has arisen to help parents and school officials to “filter” porn sites, to keep them away from their kids. But according to new research, those efforts are a nearly complete waste of time.

The study, published earlier this month by the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, was conducted by scientists Andrew K. Przybylski and Victoria Nash at the Oxford University Internet Institute, and looked at self-reported data collected from about 19,000 boys and girls—with the numbers divided almost equally between the two, and also divided equally between kids who had porn filters on their computers, and kids who surfed the internet with no porn filters.

According to a Fast Company summary of the Oxford study, the researchers found that the kids who used the internet with porn filters in place saw roughly the same quantity of online porn as those who went online filter-free.

The Oxford study also looked at previous studies on the effectiveness of online porn filtering—with similar results.

“Given these substantial costs and limitations, it is noteworthy that there is little consistent evidence that filtering is effective at shielding young people from online sexual material,” the researchers wrote. “The evidence base supporting the widespread use of Internet filtering is currently weak.”

That the research comes out of the United Kingdom seems fitting because the U.K.  currently looking to implement legislation that amounts to a nationwide porn filter. The U.K.’s new “age verification” law was set to take effect in April. But in May the government there said that the law would be delayed until “the end of the year,” though no specific date was given.

The resources that go into creating porn filters, which can be considerable, would be better spent on “develop(ing) the resilience of teenagers to such experiences.”

“We hope this leads to a re-think in effectiveness targets for new technologies, before they are rolled out to the population,” study co-author Nash said, according to IFL Science. “From a policy perspective, we need to focus on evidence-based interventions to protect c******n. While Internet filtering may seem to be an intuitively good solution, it’s disappointing that the evidence does not back that up.”

The research, of course, is also important for United States lawmakers, with at least four states having officially declared porn a “public health crisis,” which may be a pretext for legislation regulating access to online porn.

South Carolina and Rhode Island have also proposed legislation to require all computers to come with porn-blocking software pre-installed though Rhode Island has since backed off.

Photo by Gflores / Wikimedia Commons 

Written by: Michael French

Originally published on: https://avn.com/business/articles/technology/online-porn-filters-entirely-ineffective-oxford-research-says-786984.html

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