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Child protection begins at home‎
24 Jun 2011
BY JO GLANVILLE

The pressure is mounting on ISPs to come up with a means of making the internet safe for children. At a meeting in Westminster this week, hosted by Claire Perry MP, the pro-blocking camp was out in force. Culture minister Ed Vaizey told the meeting that he didn’t care how it was done, he just wanted it done. He warned the ISPs that Parliament was itching for regulation and that they had to get ahead of the curve. He was quick to add that it’s not a free speech issue — no one was proposing that adults would be stopped from accessing content, it was just a matter of giving parents the tools they need.

However as Claire Perry and Justine Roberts of Mumsnet made clear when they spoke, the tools are already in existence, it’s just that neither of them are savvy enough to install them. Surely, I asked at the meeting, the government would do better to invest its resources in educating parents like Perry and Roberts rather than demanding that ISPs filter the internet?

But that’s not what anyone wanted to hear. They didn’t even want to listen to the spokesman from the Met’s child abuse investigation command, who pointed out that teenagers would find their way around any filter that Talktalk, BT or anyone else may come up with. The hysteria around child protection is such that even when a leading authority, an expert on child protection, tells them that the tools won’t work, they still insist that they’re necessary. It’s all they’ve got.

One member of the audience even suggested that viewing pornography changes the shape of the brain. One person after another trembled at the thought of the pornography that was “out there”. There was no discussion about the definition of pornography, or acknowledgement of the fact that judging what is pornography is a highly subjective task. Would Justine Roberts and Claire Perry consider Lady Chatterley’s Lover pornography, I asked at the meeting? Or Nabokov’s Lolita? Both now literary classics of the 20th century but considered filth in their day (Lolita was described as “sheer unrestrained pornography” when first published). Neither Perry nor Roberts like being described as censors (the mantra of the day was: “this isn’t about freedom of expression, it’s about choice”), but they, along with Ed Vaizey, need to acknowledge that this is very much a free speech issue. Research in the US, by the brilliant Seth Finkelstein, demonstrated many years ago that you can’t block porn without interfering with the right to free speech.

Jo Glanville

8 responses to “Child protection begins at home‎”

  1. Have you ever thought about writing an ebook or guest authoring on other
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    and would really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my subscribers would appreciate your work.
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  2. Have you ever thought about writing an ebook or guest authoring on other
    websites? I have a blog based upon on the same ideas you discuss
    and would really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my subscribers would appreciate your work.
    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me
    an e-mail.

  3. Tim Almond says:

    Let me get this straight…

    A member of parliament worth £65K/year and a former City analyst who runs a £3m website don’t know how to do anything as simple as setting up parental controls on Windows?

  4. Tim Almond says:

    Let me get this straight…

    A member of parliament worth £65K/year and a former City analyst who runs a £3m website don’t know how to do anything as simple as setting up parental controls on Windows?