Friday 21 March 2014

MPs call for more protection for children online

Last year Mediawatch was pleased to be able to provide written evidence to the Culture Media & Sport Select Committee into online safety.  On Wednesday the Committee published its report and called for stronger action to be taken to protect children from online bullying and pornography.

The Committee found that more needed to be done to protect children online particularly with regard to content that is legal but still harmful to children yet which is freely available to them.   

John Whittingdale MP, the Committee Chair said: “those who profit from the internet must demonstrate the utmost commitment to protecting children and should be prosecuted and penalised if they don't.”

The report said protections like those in place in the "real world", such as putting pornographic magazines on the top shelf of the newsagent and stopping children entering sex shops, had to be provided online and at the moment too little is being done in this regard.  MPs proposed that sites that are "particularly harmful" and “make no serious attempt to hinder access by children” should be blocked altogether.

The Committee said that adult sites could restrict access by children in a number of ways:
  • a robust age verification process should be in place 
  • requiring payment by a credit card linked to an adult;
  • shielding the content behind a warning page; 
  • attaching metadata to the website to make it easier for filters to operate and for search engines not to return the material when operating in a safe search mode.
Falling short of our recommendation for statutory backing for the current voluntary protections put in place by ISPs, the report said that Ofcom should do more in terms of monitoring internet content and advising the public on online safety.

The Committee had been particularly keen to look at ways of preventing abusive or threatening comments on social media.  Having heard the evidence the report criticised the age verification processes used by Twitter and Facebook, saying these were "at best flimsy" and led to younger children accessing their sites.
The recommendation was made that social media providers should offer a range of prominently displayed options for, and routes to, reporting harmful content and communications.  Much of the abuse and bullying that takes place online is covered by existing laws and some of the worst online bullies and trolls are being brought to book in the courts, but the report called for clarified and guidance to be updated for the online space.

Although it fell short of recommending statutory backing for the voluntary measures developed to protect children online, this report is to be welcomed.  The internet has revolutionised life for our children and it behoves us all to ensure that they can use it safely.

Thursday 13 March 2014

The wit and wisdom of Mary Whitehouse

Many members have been in touch about our Mary Whitehouse quote project which we are running during this, our anniversary year.

It’s ironic that much of what we know about her views has come to us filtered by the media itself so, since 1st January we have been tweeting a quote from her writing every other day.  We have also updated a dedicated Facebook page and website.

It’s been fascinating to hear Mary in her own words and I thought that, if you’ve not been following the initiative, you would be interested to see some of the material posted so far.

  • “If society accepts the free distribution and display of pornography then inevitably it will fall into the hands of children.” 1967
  • “We have created a candy-floss society in which the young can find little of hard substance on which to cut teeth of conviction.” 1967
  •  “The creative growth of a society, and its stability, depend on the willingness of the individual to accept responsibility for his behaviour.” 1971
  •  “The new libertarians are, in fact, the new tyrants.  They launch an assault upon the senses and freedom of the individual which is the essence of the worst kind of dictatorship.” 1971
  •  “A simple choice: between genuine freedom and total licence, between cultural responsibility and cultural anarchy.” 1982
  •  “No other age has exploited violent crime, as ours does, by constantly exploiting it as entertainment.” 1985
  •  “Because it is such a powerful and all-pervasive medium, TV is bound to play a key role in creating the quality of life we all experience.” 1985
  •  “We trivialise the argument about what is and what is not acceptable in public and private attitudes and behaviour if we reduce the issue to personal taste.” 1993
  •  “Broadcasters should not take their decisions in a social vacuum.” 1993
  •  “Today our society ruthlessly exploits the minds and emotions of young people for financial and political capital.” 1993
  •  “We shall raise a generation which either grasps at sex as a physical lust or treats it simply as a passing fancy, no more.” 1993

If you are a Facebook user please like the page and invite your contacts to like it too and if you are a tweeter please re-tweet us.  We hope to get as many people engaged and following this as possible.  This initiative will continue throughout 2014 and we plan to use it as a basis for a major media initiative later in the year.  

Twitter: @mrsmwhitehouse

If you have not already done so please do consider contacting your MP about the Pornification of a Generation Conference which is taking place in Parliament.  You can do this simply and easily using our campaign website  Thank you to all those who have already taken the time to do this; as a result of your emails several MPs have been in touch for further details having overlooked their invitations first time around.

Friday 7 March 2014

The Pornification of a Generation

Those under 30 make up almost one fifth of the population yet, despite their childhood and teenage years being only recently behind them, their voices are often unheard in debates about pornography and our culture.

These young people have a unique insight into the challenges presented by a society in which technology enables everyone to be fully connected, but also makes the most extreme material imaginable instantly available at their fingertips.

We are delighted to be working with a number of like minded organisations to give this under-represented group a voice.  Together we have organised a unique event to take place in Parliament on 7th April which will connect young people with legislators and other opinion formers to discuss the impact of pornography on their generation.

The Pornification of a Generation – the Under 30s Perspective will be chaired by Rachel Gardener, the President of the Girl’s Brigade and all the speakers will be under 30, with the youngest being just 17.  They will share their experiences, concerns and insights on the reality of growing up exposed to, arguably, more explicit imagery than any previous generation in history.

The speakers come from all walks of life and include a psychotherapist, an educator and youth worker who will be giving their professional views and we also have some very brave individuals talking about how they became addicted to pornography and the effect it has had on them.

Not only will this be a chance for politicians to hear authentic voices from the sharp end, we also aim to empower a rising generation to continue the fight.

All 650 MPs have been invited to attend and we hope that they will take up this unique opportunity.  If you think your MP should be there please contact them and encourage them to attend using our campaign website which has been updated for this event.