Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-45)|
26 FEBRUARY 2008
Q40 Paul Farrelly: You are evading
the question. The question is quite clear.
Professor Livingstone: Then I
may need to ask you to repeat it. I did not grasp it.
Mr Carrick-Davies: I would like
to hear the question again, please. I do not think it is unreasonable,
just to be clear.
Q41 Paul Farrelly: If the purpose,
by custom and practice, what is going on on the ground, of taking
mobile phone pictures of an offence such as what has been called
"happy slapping" is actually to then upload them on
to places like YouTube, where people can watch them, so they can
watch them, in that instance, if content providers like that continue
to show that sort of content, like the person taking the photograph,
because of the purpose of the whole activity as demonstrated by
what happens, should the law be clarified that actually, if they
continue to show that, they should potentially run the very clear
risk of being convicted of aiding and abetting an offence?
Mr Carrick-Davies: Mr Farrelly,
that is a straight question. My straight answer is "yes"
but it is a challenge because we need to rehearse the arguments
carefully. With respect, none of us are legal professionals. The
issue of media law is incredibly complex. You have to think about
the rights of the vendor as somebody who provides this content.
Do they have content status or vendor liability? These are difficult
things to work out but that is a very good question for this Committee
to look at. We have precedent now where a court case has been
held and aiding and abetting has been proven. That could be one
of the very simple actions that will actually stop a lot of this
content being put together.
Q42 Paul Farrelly: Was that clear
enough for you, Professor Livingstone?
Professor Livingstone: Yes, it
was. I think, with the caveat that I am not an expert in media
law, I would probably say yes, except that I am just worried about
the balance between, as it were, criminalising the user who is
uploading rather than the person who is providing the site. If
I think about the different area of music copyright, we have effectively
criminalised half our young people in this country because they
are using software and facilities which have been made available
by the market. I do not know that that is a constructive way to
go. I think we are teaching a lot of children to ignore the law.
Q43 Adam Price: I think one of you
said there is no silver bullet but the Australians think they
may have found it in their so-called Cleanfeed system, which will
block all access to certain categories of extremely harmful material.
The Howard government promised to do it seven years ago; they
did not succeed. It became a big issue in the Australian election
campaign and the Labour government are going to introduce the
system. Should we be doing that here as well?
Mr Carr: I am very happy to tell
you that the Australians copied it from us. BTbless them;
they did not have to do itdeveloped this thing called "Cleanfeed".
I think in your next session you have Peter Robbins, the Chief
Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, appearing before you.
I do not want to steal his thunder but it was the IWF who pioneered
this policy. They maintain a list of the illegal websites, they
hand it to internet service providers. BT was the first one to
do it and that is why 95% of domestic internet users in the UK
can no longer get access to that kind of material. Many other
countries are beginning to copy it, including the Australians.
It certainly has wider applicability but it only deals with illegal
content. It is absolutely limited to illegal content and, in this
particular case, it is only dealing with child sex abuse images.
Q44 Adam Price: In Australia it has
given rise to a wider discussion, including legal challenges.
I understand that the Australiansand I am familiar with
your workare looking at maybe widening it to other categories
of material which is seen as harmful and unnecessary and illegal.
That is the question I am asking.
Mr Carr: I think you are legally
obliged to provide a filtering package. Every Australian internet
service provider is by law required to offer free to every Australian
family a filtering package. I am not sure what the rate of take-up
is but it is an interesting experiment.
Q45 Janet Anderson: Could I ask you,
Professor Livingstone, about media literacy? I think you say in
your evidence that you are not sure about how effective this is.
What is the importance of the role of media literacy? Microsoft
have called for a government-funded public information campaign.
Would you support that?
Professor Livingstone: Yes, I
would support all information provided to parents and childrenindeed,
to everybodyabout the possibilities and the risks posed
by all media, particularly the new media that people are unfamiliar
with. I think media literacy is a crucial part of the broader
picture. I think people are motivated to try to understand the
media that they are using and that their children are using and
they would like to understand it better and be more sophisticated
users, though they have constraints in how far they can do that.
What I put in the evidence was a note of caution thatironically,
in a wayjust as there are questions about the evidence
for harm, so too are there questions about the evidence that media
literacy works. In other words, I do not think we yet have a body
of evidence that shows that if you provide or increase the level
of media literacy among some compared to others, that those people
then encounter fewer risks or are better able to address the risks
that they do encounter. That is the follow-up point I really wanted
to make. So people learn more about the media but very often,
when people know more about something, they use it in an even
more complicated way. So media literacy might be the springboard
to taking yet further sophisticated risks and encountering other
kinds of harm. What I saw in the UK Children Go Online project
was an association between those children who did go online and
gained more benefits, they thereby learned more about the internet,
they were more media-literate but they were the ones who were
getting into more of the risks, and it is often the na-ve,
cautious one who knows less that is also safer. This is a paradox
that I think we will really struggle to address. One thing I would
urge is that, if we do have a big public-funded campaign, we do
not evaluate it in terms of asking whether people got the message
of the campaign but we evaluate it more ambitiously in terms of
whether people then encountered fewer risks or whether they were
better prepared to deal with the risks that they did meet. That
is the question that does not get asked.
Mr Carr: There was some work done
in the University of Central Lancashire in Preston a few years
ago. They interviewed a whole range of different children and
found some of the children who were doing very risky things on
the internet were absolutely 100% aware of all the dangers and
all of the risk and it did not have any impact at all on their
behaviour. There are obviously some children who are disposed
to risky behaviour, perhaps those who come from more vulnerable
backgrounds or whatever. They are the ones we really need to find
a better way of targeting.
Mr Carrick-Davies: Could I make
a real plea to the Committee that, as you look at the whole issue
of media literacy, you understand what is happening within the
curriculum taught in schools? Universal access to the internet
takes place in schools; most schools have 100% connectivity. It
is now finally embedded on the QCA, the Qualifications Curriculum
Authority key stage three. That is 12, 13, 14-year-olds and upwards.
Why is not the content of e-literacy with a reference to safe
and responsible use embedded at the age of seven, eight or nine,
when children are just beginning to use this technology and we
have greater opportunities to influence behaviour? We would argue
that we need to do that in tandem with three other things: first
of all, the empowerment, training and support for teachers coming
into the profession. They do not understand how the swimming pool
works; they have never dived into it. This needs to be hands-on
experience and extensive work with the TDA, Becta, and Microsoft
in doing a resource called Know It All for Teachers, where we
have actually helped them to understand the online safety issues.
That is to be welcomed but more needs to be done. Secondly, if
you think about where teachers derive their continuing professional
development, we need to find ways to actually empower some of
the teachers who have never used these social networking services,
do not know a thing about the technology, because it is so much
a part of children's lives. The whole point of schools is to prepare
children for life outside the school gates, so we need to ensure
that children look at this. If I argue that the Government believes
healthy eating and obesity and school meals should be on the agenda,
what are we saying about the reality of children's lives online,
and we do not touch it? To quote somebody from Becta who said
it a few years ago, it is almost as if we said, as we did in the
Sixties, "We have a no-smoking policy therefore we don't
talk about smoking." You may not be able to access that very
rich, interactive, potentially harmful and dangerous content in
schools but we need to prepare life for it. I would argue that
the biggest opportunity you have is to strengthen the curriculum
on media literacy and ensure that schools are playing their part.
This is my last point and then I will shut up. Parents do trust
schools. They do not trust, with respect, large companies that
look like they are trying to shift product. They also, with respect,
often do not trust big government. What they will trust is the
relationship they already have with their child's school, with
their social worker, with a health worker. This is the challenge,
if you like. We need to combine strategic initiatives with random
acts of education, where children and young people are talking
to their parents and understanding that we have a duty of care
and if we can engender that culture to get children and parents
to talk together, get schools to address this issue because it
is so relevant to children's lives, then I believe this Committee
will make a profound impact in this area.
Janet Anderson: Thank you very much.
Chairman: Can I thank the three of you