Tuesday, April 24, 2012

British internet censorship proposals hit a rock

Ministers are ready to reject tough proposals to protect children from online pornography, claiming strict curbs would breach web users’ civil liberties.

Campaigning MPs and child protection charities want a default block on access to pornographic websites for everyone, with adults having to apply specifically to view them.

They demanded the ‘opt-in’ measure last week after it emerged that children were becoming addicted to sexual content on the web even before reaching their teens.

But, despite previous pledges to get tough on the issue, ministers are instead leaning towards a less stringent option under which internet providers would merely give users the opportunity to filter out pornography more easily.

Under these proposals, subscribers would be asked a ‘yes or no’ question about whether they wish to continue being able to access adult material, enabling parents to block access for their children. The question will be asked on only one occasion.

But MPs and charities say this will not adequately safeguard children because it will rely on their parents being responsible and proactive enough to ask for access to be blocked.

In addition, it could be children who see the question first and answer it, not the parents – defeating the object.

They say that only by ensuring children have as little chance as possible of seeing online porn – by blocking access as standard – can they be adequately protected.

Campaigners had hoped for tougher action in the light of previous statements by David Cameron and his ministers. The Prime Minister has spoken of his desire to protect children from online porn, and last autumn, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to change the law if internet providers did not take action.

Tory MP Claire Perry, who last week led calls for the Government to take stronger action, said she was holding meetings this week to lobby ministers about including an ‘opt-in’ proposal in a forthcoming green paper consultation.

She said it would be ‘really disappointing’ if the idea was excluded from the paper, adding: ‘If there’s no age check there then we’re not solving the problem. I understand the ideological objections but I don’t think that’s a fact-based argument to make. I just think our kids deserve more than empty phrases like “civil liberties”.’

Ministers want this to be extended retrospectively, with existing users asked too – and insist they will consider legislating if ISPs fail to take action.

A DCMS source said that it would not be right on civil liberties grounds to block all access and force everyone to opt in if they wish to access adult material.

‘You should have to make that choice yourself,’ the source said. ‘At the moment, ISPs have said that they will offer the filter to newcomers, but we want to see it extended to everyone.’

But Miss Perry said: ‘We are calling for a formal analysis of the opt-in proposal. We looked at all the facts – does it cost more, does it slow down internet speeds, and we could find no evidence that it would.

‘We will be lobbying hard over the next few weeks to see if we can’t get an official consultation on an opt-out. This is a government that really takes child protection very seriously. It is about how much further we should go.’

She said of the proposals for a ‘yes or no’ question: ‘We know that children are often the internet-savvy ones in a household.

‘What we would like is for people to have to prove they are over 18 to lift the age content bar – like they do with mobile phone providers.’

Fiona Mactaggart, a Labour member of the group which wrote the report, said: ‘The Government is failing to lead on this. It says it wants to protect children but it needs to put those actions into words.

‘The problem with opt-out systems is that they tend to be very complex and take ages to do, meaning parents might not bother and think, “I don’t need to do it now”. And maybe they don’t need to, because their children are too young – but what happens when they grow up and start finding these sites?

‘The answer is to introduce an opt-in system, and I am fairly confident that the profits that ISPs make from porn sites will mean they will make opting in much easier than they are currently making opting out.’

John Brown, of children’s charity the NSPCC, said: ‘We would take the view that child safety should take precedence over civil liberties arguments.

‘We are in a Wild West period with the internet, and we believe that an opt-in system would not constrain civil liberties because over-18s would still be able to access this content.’

But Nick Pickles, from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘It’s good that ministers recognise that parents are responsible for bringing up children, not the Government.

‘Claire Perry’s proposals would have meant unprecedented interference in what people do in their own homes and how they bring up their children.’

Last night, a spokesman for the Department for Culture Media and Sport said: ‘It is vital we do all we can to protect children from inappropriate material online. We are very clear that more must be done to protect children from harmful content.’


A temporary retreat for Britain's safety police

The economy remains in tatters and a cataclysmic crisis looms in the eurozone. But, in recent days and weeks, we have started to see a fight-back against the regimented forces of joylessness which have dominated our big occasions for too long.

The number of street parties planned to mark the Diamond Jubilee — 6,500 and rising — is already more than 1,000 up on last year’s Royal Wedding, and there are several weeks to go.

According to the Local Government Association, Coventry is the top street party city outside London (with 58 parties), while the leading counties are Hertfordshire and Nottinghamshire (well over 100 each).

It is not just down to deep affection for the Queen and a resurgent interest in royalty after last year’s Royal Wedding. There is also a sense that its time to reclaim our enjoyment from the killjoys.

We are fed up with being bossed around, with being told what we cannot do. Officialdom has not relinquished its control but there has been a softening of the grip.

North Yorkshire County Council, for example, has waived the cost of road closures for Jubilee street parties. In the London Borough of Hackney, any party for fewer than 200 people needs no licence at all.

There are still plenty of footling directives, of course. Jobsworths in Hampshire, Essex and elsewhere are still insisting that street bunting requires planning permission.

Nonetheless, the box-tickers are  in retreat.

There was another small but significant example of that this month involving the pageant on the Thames. The skippers of many boats were dismayed that strict limits had been imposed on their passenger numbers in the name of health and safety.

In the case of some of the Dunkirk Little Ships, the figures were comical. Boats which had carried hundreds at a time to safety under repeated attack from German artillery and the Luftwaffe in 1940, were being restricted to half a dozen souls on board in 2012.

Apparently, they might capsize and there just wouldn’t be enough rescue boats to cope.

Just two years ago, most of these boats had cheerfully sailed back over the Channel — the busiest sea-lane in the world — for a 70th anniversary reunion at Dunkirk with a full complement. Now, for a short inland voyage, at a stately speed of 4mph, they were to be reduced to a skeleton crew by the authorities.

But the members of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, as one might expect, put up a fight on behalf of the skippers, arguing that if anyone did get into any trouble, there would be no shortage of vessels to provide immediate assistance. They’ve done it before, after all.

Then an amazing thing happened: an outbreak of common sense. The Thames authorities, the pageant organisers and the skippers sat round a table, talked it through. To their credit, the river authorities were prepared to listen to people who knew what they were doing. The skippers, in turn, acknowledged that packing the Thames with 1,000 boats is not without exceptional risks.

The result: an easing of the restrictions. The skippers sailed away in high spirits.

There was a similar result last month for the team who want to salute the Queen in a waka, a Maori war canoe. Initially, the fluorescent bib brigade sucked on their pencils and shook their heads. This mighty dugout with its strapping Kiwi crew might be fine in a Pacific swell but it would be too risky to chance an afternoon on the Thames.

Once again, though, the pageant organisers sat down with the authorities and the ban was reversed. Good sense had prevailed.

What it boils down to — Hallelujah! — is an acknowledgement of the human dimension in great events. Just because a few people behave like idiots, we don’t all have to be treated as such. Amazingly enough, a crowd has a great capacity to police itself.


Australian child abuse inquiry:  Beware of what you wish for

The result will be a coverup

Dr Jeremy Sammut

In an Australian first, the Victorian government announced this week that a parliamentary inquiry will be conducted into the handling of child sexual abuse cases by the Catholic and other churches.

It is impossible not to sympathise with victims who feel they will finally get the chance to hold their abusers to account. Giving people the chance to tell their stories can have a cleansing effect.

Child abuse often occurs when those in positions of authority remain silent or fail to listen to children who complain about it. Ending the silence provides an opportunity to learn lessons and make sure the same mistakes are never repeated.

Premier Ted Baillieu expressed this sentiment when he said, `We regard child abuse as abhorrent and we will endeavour to do whatever we can to prevent it from happening.'

But having worked in this field for a number of years, I am increasingly sceptical about our willingness to openly address very contentious issues that are highly relevant to the welfare of children.

Some big silences remain in the debate about child protection. Contemporary society would prefer not to talk about key problems, such as the fact that single-mother households are over-represented in cases of child abuse and neglect.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, `a relatively high proportion of substantiations [of reported child abuse and neglect] involved children living in lone mother families'. The Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates that child abuse in such households is `about two and half times higher than would be expected given the number of children living in such families.'

This problem was created by the Whitlam government when it introduced the single mothers pension in 1973. This made it possible for women who did not work and did not have bread-winning husbands to raise children at taxpayers' expense. What has ensued is the rise of a dysfunctional underclass of welfare-dependent single mothers with a complex range of personal and social problems, including substance abuse, domestic violence, and an inability to properly parent children.

A Senate committee recently recommended that the federal government issue an apology for the pre-1970s policy of forcing unwed mothers to give up their babies for adoption. We also need to admit that efforts to right perceived wrongs, starting with the creation of the single mothers pension, have precipitated a social disaster.

But we are reluctant to admit this because telling the truth about `diverse' family structures is not politically correct. We are culturally deaf, as it were, to the fact that all `families' are patently not equal when it comes to securing the welfare of children.


A Picture of Life in Gaza

Following the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli security forces in 2005, no one can claim that the Gaza Strip is "occupied territory."  This still hasn't stopped the usual critics from making other accusations about the misery of the people there, such as charging that the Palestinians are "under siege" from Israel and starving as a consequence.

In fact, the only siege that the people of Gaza are under is what they bring on themselves.  Their government uses donated humanitarian aid to smuggle rockets which are then fired into Israeli population centers.  When this fails to provoke Israel into conflict, Palestinian terrorists cross the border and attempt to kidnap or kill Israelis in their own land.

Likewise, there is absolutely no starvation in Gaza.  The Palestinians receive enormous amounts of free assistance from the rest of the world and are so well-fed that the territories are actually the eighth most obese "country" in the world according to the World Health Organization

When it comes to Gaza and the life of Palestinian "refugees", the gap between myth and fact is so dramatic that perception almost stands reality on its head.  Health and quality of life in the territories vastly exceed the average in most parts of the world - and not just where people are in more obvious need, such as Africa, but even in developed countries like China and areas of South America.

The poverty rate in Gaza is 16% - roughly equal to Spain, Germany and California.  The rate of poverty is actually higher in Greece, most of the EU, and even parts of the United States, such as Washington D.C.  As researcher Daniel Greenfield has pointed out, at 24%, even the poverty rate in Israel is actually 50% higher than in Gaza!

Gazans receive more free food aid per month per capita than anyone else in the world, including those living in famine-stricken regions. The average Somali, for example, receives seven times less in aid.  The average Zimbabwean, with a life expectancy of 46, also receives about seven times less in food aid than the average resident of Gaza - who has a life expectancy of 73 (even higher than in Russia, Malaysia and neighboring Egypt).

It seems that while Palestinians shows one side to gullible visitors and the international media, Western taxpayers are actually subsidizing something entirely different.

SOURCE (See the original for lots of pix)


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site  here.


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