Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

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 on doing.


  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 year.

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 we have:

  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 to possess.

  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 Human Rights.

What should not be done but is probably already being planned

  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 the Government.

  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 today.

  27.  Using common sense.

  28.  Following the principle of evidence based regulation.

  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 press.

January 2008

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 31 July 2008