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Monday 22 July 2013

Mail Seeks To Ban Itself

The legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has a righteous obsession with pornography: it is, for him, an evil from which those Daily Mail readers with whom he has his regular conversations should be protected, for their own good, you understand. So his paper has today lauded Young Dave, who is supposedly going to get his jolly good chaps to do something about it.
Net porn block on EVERY home: Victory for the Mail as PM pledges 'opt in' rule for all web users” is the triumphant headline. Seasoned and obedient Dacre attack doggie James Chapman explains “David Cameron will announce the move today among a series of measures cracking down on against the tide of web sleaze”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here.

One, unlike child porn – which the Mail was screaming about recently, although as this is illegal anyway, firms like Google actively block it and report sites that host it to law enforcement authorities – the grown up form is legal. So there is bound to be an issue with the implicit right of those so inclined to view the stuff should they wish to. But the Mail can turn this to its advantage.

The headlines would be suitably apocalyptic: “Strasbourg Forces Porn In To YOUR Home”. Yes, the Mail would immediately turn any challenge to its authoritarian crusade into another attack on the ECHR, whose judges are of course “unelected”, rather like Daily Mail editors who can’t take the hint and retire gracefully after occupying the top job for 20-odd years.

But the real problem for the Mail is that anything “cracking down” on “web sleaze” is going to hit uncomfortably close to home. Mail Online’ssidebar of shame” today includes several photos of a one year old child in a leopard print string bikini, a feature on porn star Farrah Abraham giving the full title of her sex tape (including photos of her four year old child), and Minnie Driver with yet more little children.

This does not sit comfortably with Chapman’s copy, which talks of child killers having allegedly viewed images of children, and porn, before committing their crimes. True, what appears on Mail Online is very much soft core, but Dacre, along with his hacks and pundits, is forever arguing that the soft stuff leads inexorably to the hard stuff, just as they do with currently illegal drugs.

So is the Mail going to filter the skimpily clothed models, the upskirt shots, the raunchy concert performances that would bring instant condemnation if the BBC screened them, and all the instances of children and under-age models out – by default? And if not, why not? If they want everyone else to be “cracking down” on “web sleaze”, they should be prepared to set an example.

But they won’t, because they’re a bunch of hypocrites. No change there, then.


Anonymous said...

"includes several photos of a one year old child in a leopard print string bikini"
Be fair. The Mail has refrained from calling the child "all grown up".

Torontoboy45 said...

some of the comments under the online version are a joy to behold, proving that you can't fool all of the people all of the time - not even daily mail readers.

Anonymous said...

I spoke too soon. "Bouncing baby: Little Penelope celebrated her first birthday earlier this month and is growing up fast"

SteveB said...

Of course this is just a stunt by Dave to please the likes of the Mail (and others who still think Humbers are pretty cool cars). Automated filtering has a very limited scope and is massively prone to cock ups (some will now stop this page!). In the late 90s the email system we had at work had an American standard moral guardian built in - the trouble I had sending emails about a customer in Scunthorpe, it would have been quicker to post the bloody things. Anyway, Dave has already fallen foul of this, apparently the filters already running on some mobile systems blocked the BBC news page about his big idea - because it contained the phrase "child pornography".

But whilst we can laugh at his struggling there is a more serious issue. His efforts are directed at people viewing the images. But the real problem is the abuse itself and nanny state (weren't the Tories against that..) filters don't stop the abuse. Even if they work they merely create an impression it isn't there, they draw a virtual veil over the problem.

He's also announced that CEOPS will get more powers. That would be useful, but last year CEOPS only had the resources to investigate about 5% of the cases that it already had powers for - so without a 20 fold increase in resources they will be swamped.

Personally I'd like a filter that blocks any page containing the phrase "David Cameron announces...". Luckily we now have a royal baby story to knock his publicity stunt so far back it'll be in the classified ads.