Friday 31 May 2013

Porn is harmful and must be blocked

At the end of last week a report was issued by the office of the Children’s Commissioner for England.  It presented evidence which showed that significant numbers of children have access to sexually explicit images online and those exposed to such pornography were more likely to develop sexually risky behaviour.  The report called for urgent action to ‘develop children’s resilience to pornography’. 

But children are not the only ones to be effected by pornography. 

This week’s news has included details from the trials of the men found guilty of murdering Tia Sharp and April Jones.  It has emerged that in both cases the men who murdered these girls had been viewing online pornography.  This must serve as a stark reminder that online pornography impacts not only those who see it but wider society too. 

Although ISPs and Google respond very quickly to remove images of child abuse the degrading and violent material that is routinely available online is just as damaging.  Speaking about the killers of Tia and April, John Carr, of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, said: ‘we cannot blame the internet for these people but it has opened pathways that lead them on to violent pornography’. 

This is why Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill, which calls for a default block on online pornography, is so necessary.

If you have not already done so please do take a moment to have your say.  Peers should be in doubt about the strength of public feeling on this issue.  Our website is quick and simple to use;
  • it is free to use – no hunting around for a stamp
  • it includes tips on who to write to and what to say
  • emails sent using the site will go straight into the personal inbox of the Peer you contact
Thank you to everyone who has already used the site to express their support for Baroness Howe’s Bill.  We would be really grateful if you would spread the word about this resource: could you include a link on your Facebook page, tweet it, email your friends…

Thursday 23 May 2013

Parents want more information

How do you make a choice about what to watch on television?

Many of us make our choices using a newspaper or TV listings guide – the three highest circulation guides sell a combined total in excess of 3.5 million copies every week.  However the electronic programme guides (EPGs) from digital providers such as Freeview and Sky are increasingly important as the number of channels available grows.

A member of Mediawatch-UK recently pointed out that Sky’s EPG details for films do not always include the film’s BBFC rating.  Some broadcasters – including Channel 4 and More 4 – always include the information but other broadcasters – including the BBC – do not.

We wrote to Sky to ask them if they would consider updating their listings with BBFC classifications on all films but they told us that the information they use is provided at the discretion of broadcasters and is not controlled by Sky.  Presently there is no mandatory requirement to include BBFC ratings on films shown on non-dedicated movie channels.

Parents are continually told that it is up to them to protect their children from potentially harmful media but it is important that broadcasters provide them with the tools they need to do the job properly. 

We have now written to Ofcom requesting a change so that BBFC ratings, where available, are included in electronic listings guides.  There is a large difference between films rated U, PG and 12 and yet all can be shown pre-watershed.  Parents need to be able to make informed choices about what is suitable viewing for their children and BBFC ratings are an important factor in making that choice.

We await Ofcom’s response with interest.

Monday 20 May 2013

Have your say in protecting children online

At the end of last year David Cameron said he would like to ensure that all households with children would have to install web filters.  This is a great step in the right direction but it falls some way short of blocking harmful material as a default unless users opt in to access it.

This ‘default-on’ option would not offer the same degree of protection as the ‘opt-in’ option. 
  • It is a promise that has yet to be delivered
  • It will only apply to large ISPs and not smaller ones
  • It is a voluntary arrangement and will have no statutory backing
  • Will not protect the most vulnerable
Last Tuesday The Online Safety Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords.  It has been introduced with the aim of reducing children and young people’s access to inappropriate, potentially harmful, material online.

The Bill has been introduced by Baroness Howe.  Should it become law, it would require:
  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone operators (MPOs) to provide an internet service without access to pornography as a default - with adult subscribers able to opt-in to receive such material.
  • Electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering internet content at the time of purchase.
  • ISPs/MPOs to make available information about online safety - which would be broader than just filtering information - as part of their on-going relationship with subscribers.

If you agree that these measures would offer children the best protection from harmful online content: have your say!

The Bill had its First Reading on 14th May; the next step will be a Second Reading debate which should take place later this year. has been updated to you to contact members of the House of Lords to urge them to support the Bill and press for an early Second Reading.  The website is a one-stop-shop which includes facts about the issues, links to key resources and tips on how to write to Peers.

With your help we can give this Bill the momentum it needs on its journey through the House of Lords.  This is an opportunity for everyone to have their say; it is an important first step towards seeing online pornography ‘switched off’.

Please help up spread the word.  Do consider emailing this to your friends and contacts and linking to us via Facebook and Twitter.