Radio 4 recently reported an interesting story about new Internet billing software which disables your machine by issuing so many pop-up reminders about your outstanding payments that your computer becomes unusable. It’s currently being tried by the developers, MBS, and is used mostly on, unsurprisingly, porn sites. From what I can gather – I don’t remember all the details – it asks you to check a box indicating that you would like a free trial period on the site, but in doing so, you agree to the terms and conditions that you will receive the pop-ups. Of course, that clause is on page 20 of the terms and conditions which no one ever reads anyway. And these pop-ups aren’t those we were all too familiar with in the pre-Firefox days, either; they’re the type, apparently, that you can’t close and that are so memory intensive, your computer can’t function. Until you agree to pay, that is. My thoughts on this are predictable – that such things really should be more closely regulated – but they are not the point of this post.
The point is this: one lady interviewed by Radio 4 was complaining about this software because it had disabled her husband’s computer. She and he were obviously very upset by what had happened, but I was both embarrassed and amused by the way she told her story. Her husband had had a five minute moment of madness, apparently, when he decided that he would like to seek out some pictures of ‘nude women’ on the internet. He went to this site in what really must have been a moment of madness (she repeated), and checked the text box agreeing to the terms and conditions. She just doesn’t know what he was thinking! (I do!) He was plagued by pop-ups and eventually had to come clean to both his wife and his employer (he was using his work computer). Bless!
Now seriously! In what world does Mrs. Moment of Madness think that this is the first time that Mr. Moment of Madness has looked at porn. It’s not! It’s the first time he’s been ‘caught’ by you, but it is not the first time he’s accessed porn. I would stake my life, and yours, on this. It was so obvious from her voice that she absolutely wanted to believe what she was saying, and that she wanted the listener to believe it too, but her doubt was evident. She’s hurt, angry and probably a little humiliated at what she’s discovered, and I’m sure that she wants to believe her husband was possessed by something shocking at the time, but we all know that’s not true. I feel bad for her, but she’s not fooling anyone, including herself.
The moral of the tale: Middle England ain’t ready for porn. And it certainly ain’t ready for an MBS billing system. (Oh, and always read the terms and conditions!)
I do hope that Mr. and Mrs. Moment of Madness get through this, but I dare say he’s in the spare room for now. Possibly along with his laptop.