Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Dr Peter Dawe OBE

1. The Flavoured Internet Foundation

Internet damage limitation. Dr. P Dawe OBE, Founder Internet Watch Foundation, 2013.

2. Introduction

Once again there is a public furore about Internet content. However, this time the debate is messy and ill-disciplined, as many voices are speaking about many issues: Child protection, legality of content, censorship, financial predation, bullying to name just a few.

Policy makers are in an impossible position! Caught between protection and censorship with the added problems due to the global nature of the Internet.

3. This paper outlines a means of mitigating the problems based on the genesis of The Internet Watch Foundation by the person who lead the founding of IWF.

4. A Solution

It is our view that the problem is not a legislative problem, but a market problem. Previously, there has been a diversity of media channels with each channel being moderated by an “editor”.

The Internet needs to offer the public a choice of “flavours” of Internet, similar to how people choose their newspaper, TV channel or indeed their preferred supermarket.

5. Why is there Market Failure in Selective Internet?

Currently providing a moderated view (Fenced Garden) of the Internet isn’t economically viable.

The Internet is so large as to be difficult, nay impossible, to comprehensively categorise all content.

The choice of “flavour” is also difficult as each person has their own set of prejudices, in many dimensions. Eg Extent of naked flesh, Violence, Religion.

Service providers are, understandably, reluctant to be seen as the arbiters of taste and legality.

The threat of a defamation action when a content provider is censored on the basis of an algorithm, particularly if the censorship is due to “business morality”.

Computer applications to implement filtering have been proprietary and not comprehensive in their use of available tools.

Multiple legislative jurisdictions have to be considered.

6. Several attempts have been made to provide the public with filtered content, however typically these are from a singular view-point (eg Western liberal Christian tradition), which means the cost of creating the filter list has to be spread over a small user base.

7. Creating a Viable Marketplace

There is a need for an open architecture for classification.

The problem is too big for a individual players.

Web authors do not want to negotiate with individual classification services and editors.

New applications can be implemented using existing infra-structure.

Editors want to be able to choose their own filtering thresholds and classes.

8. Tactical Implementation Steps

Political encouragement to entrepreneurs to implement diverse Internet “flavoured” services.

Extension of the legal protection, enjoyed by newspaper editors against civil claims from content owners, to filtering services.

A legal requirement on Internet service providers to be network neutral in regard to providers of Flavoured Internet.

The implementation of a series of demonstration technologies and services.

9. Leadership not Committee

The genesis of Internet Watch Foundation should be seen as a model for deployment. Internet Watch was founded, NOT BY CONSENSUS, but designed and implemented through the maverick leadership of Mr Peter Dawe. The players (Service providers, Government, Police, Politicians and the Press) are individually impotent. Each has conflicting objectives, all consider the other players as responsible, irresponsible, ignorant, idealistic, imposing impossible costs, ducking their responsibility etc.

10. However, with a more sophisticated set of players, it is less likely that a maverick leader will not be able to overcome the likely barriers alone. Political endorsement of this initiative, for a finite period (two years), would encourage many of the other players to also support the initiative. Thus allowing the model design to be finalised, proof of concept completed and for the model to be promoted to all players world-wide.

11. Note: Other initiatives, such as consensus building committees, can still be undertaken in parallel with this proposal.

12. Funding

For an effective team to complete the design, prove concept and importantly to sell the model internationally, we estimate that a budget over the two years of £500,000 would suffice. A requirement of the design is that it is ultimately self-funding in operation. (Internet Watch cost under £50,000 to set up, and was completed in less than 12 months, a voluntary levy on the industry has funded it since.)

13. The Dawe Charitable Trust believe it can catalyse the actions needed for this global initiative, recruiting support from the industry, government, religious, freedom-of-speech and other groups.

14. Dawe Charitable Trust already has an experienced core team committed to working on the initiative.

15. The Dawe Charitable Trust is seed-funding this initiative (£50,000), and the team will seek to design and implement a model regardless. However adoption of the above recommendation will both speed the initiative and improve the likelihood of global success.

September 2013

Prepared 18th March 2014