Memorandum submitted by Paul Tavener
This letter represents the views of a member
of the general public with an interest in media issues.
1. The problems faced in Britain today have
nothing to do with the internet. Continuing attempts by the Government
to curtail freedom, restrict, ban and generally act in loco parentis
for the entire adult population are counter productive and only
serve to diminish everyone.
2. What is needed in Government is common
sense not more regulation. If the Government believes that parental
common sense can be replaced in any significant way by further
regulation then they are sadly mistaken.
3. Children of irresponsible parents have
far more to fear than internet porn and social networking websites,
things like drugs, alcohol, abuse, neglect and exclusion from
society for instance. These are the things which need to be dealt
with not social networking websites.
4. The world has changed in the internet
age and it is time that the Government recognised this fact. The
way forward is by empowering and educating citizens not by ever
increasing mountains of legislation and regulation.
5. The benefits and opportunities offered
to consumers and the economy by technologies such as the Internet,
video games and mobile phones:
Are enormous. The Internet is the single most
important advance for free expression that has ever been made.
6. The potential risks to consumers, including
children and young people, from exposure to harmful content on
the Internet or in video games:
Are tiny by comparison and are out weighed by
other risks in the modern world, such as crossing the road, by
many orders of magnitude. The risks such as they are, are not
amenable to quick fix Government intervention.
7. The tools available to consumers and
industry to protect people from potentially harmful content on
the Internet and in video games.
The best tool available to consumers to protect
people from potentially harmful content on the internet and in
video games is common sense. Common sense, bolstered by filtering
software, BBFC rating on games and films and rudimentary knowledge
of what your children are in fact actually doing.
8. The effectiveness of the existing regulatory
regime in helping to manage the potential risks from harmful content
on the Internet and in video games.
The existing regulatory regime (Ofcom for UK
television services and the BBFC for some computer game and DVD
content) plays a small but important part in protecting children
from potentially harmful content; however it must be recognised
that the primary agent in protecting children from harm always
has been and always will be a child's parents or guardians.
9. The best way to protect children is to
inform and empower parents.
10. Whilst the Government is very keen to
be seen to be doing something the reality is that what really
needs to be done does not match what the Government is intent
11. Investment is needed in schools and
education particularly for the very young, much more time and
energy needs to be spent on rehabilitating drug addicts and alcoholics
as well as trying to help their families. More needs to be done
in helping prevent offenders from re-offending after release from
prison and investigating some of the more successful methods used
in other countries.
12. These are just a few of the real issues
that face society today. Whilst it may be uncomfortable reading
for a committee investigating problems of the internet, the Internet
is an irrelevance by comparison when these real issues cause misery
for millions and cost the nation untold billions of pounds every
One example of what is actually being done
The Government has decided to legislate against
"extreme pornography". The Criminal Justice and Immigration
Bill can only be described as a mixture of manipulative vested
interests and legislative incompetence. The problems with this
piece of legislation are so great it won't even apply in the Prime
Ministers own constituency due to the fact that the Scottish parliament
has sensibly thrown it out. Amongst a long litany of problems
13. The introduction of thought crimes,
where content will be deemed to be illegal or not based on what
the person in possession of it was thinking.
14. The introduction of crimes of context
where even material that has been classified by the BBFC can become
a crime to possess if an extract is taken out of context.
15. The criminalisation of much consensual
adult pornography by criminalising what merely "appears"
to be non-consensual, rather than what actually is non-consensual.
16. Impossible to enforce restrictions on
content that is legal to sell in other countries let alone legal
17. Dishonesty and abandonment of evidence
based regulation. After admitting the lack of evidence during
the public consultation the Government decided to go ahead with
the legislation anyway and then employed members of the anti pornography
lobby to generate some "evidence" later after castigation
in the press.
18. Worries from the Joint Parliamentary
Committee on Human Rights that the proposals will violate basic
What should not be done but is probably already
19. Expanding the role of the Internet Watch
foundation to include "extreme pornography" and turn
it into an unregulated national internet censor.
20. Expanding the list of websites filtered
by clean feed.
21. Introducing Government control of the
BBFC by way of appointments of key staff whilst maintaining the
stance that the BBFC is an independent regulator not involving
22. Introduction of BBFC certificates for
websites that will create a regulatory handicap for UK websites
whilst offering no protection from foreign content.
23. Employment of hundreds of new Police
officers to watch thousands of hours of pornography and decide
if it is extreme enough to prosecute.
24. Throwing a few honest citizens into
prison and wrecking their lives for possessing abhorrent images.
25. Investigating what other content can
be added to the list to protect the public from itself and generally
acting in loco parentis for the entire adult population.
What should be done instead but is probably not
even being considered
26. Addressing the real problems in society
27. Using common sense.
28. Following the principle of evidence
29. Empowering people to make their own
decisions and take responsibility for their own lives and those
of their children.
30. Making the internet watch foundation
more open and accountable.
31. Ignoring wild claims in the tabloid