Ill-conceived conference motion on "Protecting Children from Online Pornography"

Kids heart OLPC (no matter what the critics say)I am working my way through the Glasgow conference agenda, and have got to motion F7 – Protecting children from online pornography.

Over on Liberal Democrat Voice, @snagglepus aks: “”Surely, opting in or out could be set up as a simple passworded thing which each machine owner just does or doesn’t do?””

Effectively that already exists. There are already a whole range of ways to filter content on a machine. Netnanny being one of the simplest. Google locked safesearch is another. See here.

By the way, most pornographic websites have “I am over 18” entry buttons, or require membership via credit card or use an age verification system.

In short, there are already a whole phalanx of measures to prevent under-aged surfers accessing pornography and other sites. Simple parenting being amongst those measures.

Most of all, the motion gives some people a warm fuzzy feeling while actually doing precious little to solve the problem it intends to solve. Any teenager wanting to circumvent an ISP filter could, I suspect, do it easily. Using a proxy site can circumvent many such filters currently.

By the way, it really is cloud-cuckoo land stuff to imagine that ISPs can magically filter all “nasty” content. False positives and misblocks are very likely.

There’s also the “thin end of the wedge” feel about this motion. It is a casserole of mixed up cause and effect with a soupcon of non-sequiturs and wishful thinking. We should also consider the likely impact on the internet economy of effectively blocking off part of the legitimate audience of legal websites.

Instead of this misguided motion, we should be focussing, as mentioned, in fairness, in the motion, on better parenting and, not mentioned in the motion, more resources for the police and CEOPS in fighting online abuse, grooming etc.

The motion is on page 36 here and reproduced below:

17.00 Policy motion
Chair: Aide:
Geoff Payne (Vice Chair, Federal Conference Committee) Cllr Louise Bloom
Protecting Children from Online Pornography
10 conference representatives
Mover: Baroness Benjamin Summation: Julie Pörksen
Conference welcomes the fact that:

The internet has the power to transform our society by empowering citizens, improving and extending services, and enabling innovation.
It is vital both for our economy and our society that we teach children how to use the internet from an early age.
Liberal Democrats have a long tradition of protecting free speech and the right for adults to make informed choices about their own internet habits.
However, conference believes that:
i) It is the role of government to protect those too young to make an informed choice from potentially

damaging experiences wherever possible.

The long term effects on young minds of early exposure to often violent and abusive sexual material is highly damaging to impressionable young people and may significantly alter their attitudes to sex and violence.
The growing danger of children accessing online pornography is of increasing concern to parents, teachers and children’s organisations.
In addition to the problems posed by pornographic material, there are also significant concerns about other adult material such as suicide and eating disorder sites that often actively target young people.
Conference notes:

That the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has recently found an increase in the number of cases of children sexually assaulting other children.
The increasing number of cases of children being bullied or coerced into performing pornographic acts by their peers.
That the National Association of Head Teachers has found that nine out of ten parents want a default setting on computers and smartphones to block online pornography.
Conference therefore calls on the Government to:
Work with the software industry to introduce opt-in filters to explicit material on all new internet- enabled electronic devices.
Ensure that those adults wishing to view pornographic material should be required to opt in to websites containing such material by providing verifiable proof of age.
Work with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) providers to police actively their platforms and filter out explicit material which is currently easily accessible to children.
Support parents to take a more active role in how their children use the internet and to understand the risks involved.
Ensure that teaching about the dangers of the internet and the distorted view of sex provided by pornography forms part of sex education teaching.


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