Many of you will have seen or heard about motion F17 – Protecting Children From Online Pornography. If you are here in Glasgow at Autumn Conference, you will have also heard about the campaign to stop this motion, either through a reference back or voting it down. This motion must not be allowed to pass, either as is or amended, and here we want to lay out five reasons why:
1. Impossible to Implement
The recommendations put forward in both in the motion and amendment, are simply unworkable. The Internet does not work in the same way as other broadcast media,. As an on-demand medium that exists outside the realms of governmental control, it is not within the reach of government to catalogue and categorise, as would be necessary to implement the filtering suggested.
2. Unintended consequences
There is no consideration for how such filtering processes can regularly block sites that they are supposed to allow, nor is there a guarantee that sites that are supposed to be blocked are done so. They are simply arbitrary algorithms, picking up on things such as keywords. There is also no consideration for that fact that if one person in a household deactivates filtering at an ISP level, then it is done so for everyone else.
3. Access to Information on sexuality, sexual health, gender, bullying and body confidence.
As mentioned above, filtering works in an arbitrary way. This means that access to educational information that is so vital to the development of everyone, and in particular young people of all ages, becomes restricted. From LGBT sites like Pink News blocked because of ‘alternative lifestyles’ through to suicide prevention sites blocked as ‘explicit’, sites which educate, inform and most of all save lives are denied to those who need them most.
This means that F17 actually ends up harming children, not protecting them, and as such is counter to our existing policy, Free To Be Young, as passed in by our party in Spring 2010
4. Incompatible with previous party policy.
Along with Free To Be Young (Policy Paper 96) from three years ago, the motion and more importantly the amendment are incompatible with the Liberal Democrats commitments to digital liberties. In particular, they go against what this conference passed in Autumn 2011, Preparing The Ground: Stimulating Growth in the Digital Economy (Policy Paper 101) and Spring 2012, Civil Liberties (Policy Motion), with particular reference to right to privacy. Ensuring service providers are not mandated by law to collect communications data by any method that would also provided access to content information unless specifically authorised by a warrant.
5. Fundamentally Illiberal
There is no other way of putting this. This motion and the subsequent amendment to it go against everything we as liberals stand for. It goes against the right to privacy, the right to have a private life, freedom of expression, to be free from government interference. It seeks to foster a state-sponsored view of mortality upon others, rather than letting individuals make their own choices and parents their own decisions.
Please do support the moves to stop this motion passing, either through a reference back so we can create a proper, well thought out and evidence-led motion or by simply voting against the motion and amendment. The debate takes place at 5pm tomorrow. Further discussion of this is taking place on Twitter using #talknottech
* James Shaddock and Alisdair McGregor are Liberal Democrat activists from Portsmouth and Nottingham.