The Online Safety Bill had its first reading in the house of lords on Tuesday 14 May 2013. It is described as a bill to make provision about the promotion of online safety; to require internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide a service that excludes adult content; to require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering content; and for parents to be educated about online safety.
This is another example of good intentions poorly implemented. The education of parents about online safety is a good thing and something we fully support, forcing ISPs and mobile phone operators to 'exclude' content we do not support, we have already blogged about this general topic but we want to look in more detail about the specifics of blocking adult content.
Years ago, kids would all go around to a friends house, if that friends dad (or older brother) had porn mags so they could all look at them. The law stated that only someone over 18 could buy these magazines, but there is no way to apply law on who looks at it. So lets roll forward 20 years. We are going to create a law which blocks people accessing adult content unless they opt-in. Now people will opt-in that is a guarantee, so now kids will go around to their friends houses, if that friends dad (or older brother) has opted in to adult content, so that they can all sit around and look at it.
So what has changed? well nothing, you legislate to stop the access to adult content, and the kids who want to see it simply work around the law and still access it. This is the same situation as 20 years ago with top-shelf magazines.
When will people realise that this issue isn’t about access. It is about education, educate young people (and older people) about sex, sexuality, self harm and all the topics that are an issue, give them a support structure that works. By trying to hide something and telling people you cannot access it, all that will do is make them want to access it even if the content is of no interest.
Society has changed a lot over recent years, there are a lot of young people with children, a lot of these young parents are not equipped with the skills needed to be parents, so we should help them and their children by educating them, not dissolving their responsibility as parents and legislating around their inabilities.
As the world becomes more and more digital we have to find better ways to resolve issues that just trying to block access to everything. Today’s youth are digital natives, they grew up in a digital world, with computers, mobile phones etc, what we have to do is educate them to the dangers that are there which they do not see, but we cannot do that simply by telling them not to look and blocking them from seeing something.