Ben Laurie blathering

Technical Safeguards: 1 Parenting: 0

As we all know, removing access to all undesirable content on the Internet without also removing access to some perfectly innocent (or even crucially helpful) content is impossible. And that’s even before you start worrying about what is meant by “undesirable” and who should decide.

None of this deters our fearless representatives in government, as this exchange shows:

Brian Iddon (Bolton South East, Labour) | Hansard source

May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to a substantial piece of work that Zentek Forensics in my constituency carried out? It showed that it is ever so easy to google one’s way around the firewalls that prevent children from accessing some very undesirable material. That is happening in schools, libraries and children’s bedrooms in the evenings at home. Will my right hon. Friend look at the providers of commercial filters and try to get them to strengthen their firewalls?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary) | Hansard source

I am happy to look at anything we can do to protect children from some of the dangers of the internet. I recognise, of course, that the internet plays an important role in the lives of children and young peopleā€”at their schools, in their social lives and in their ability to research. However, it is clearly unacceptable if we cannot put the technical safeguards in place. We have been considering how we can, for example, kitemark some of the products that are involved in filtering and monitoring software. Perhaps, as part of that activity, the company to which my hon. Friend referred could make some progress. However, we take the issue extremely seriously.

Ah, yes, it is “clearly unacceptable” to give children unfettered access to the ‘net. Heaven forfend that parents should actually have to educate them, provide them with any kind of moral compass or, indeed, indulge in parenting. A kitemark will solve all our problems.


  1. So, what about school facilities and such where, regardless of terms of use, parents will do their best to sue the pants off the district for having shoddy filtering or no filtering at all? While I agree that filtering wouldn’t be necessary if parents did their part, libraries and institutions need to protect themselves to a degree from frivolous lawsuits which will appear when there is no content filtering in place.

    However having the government interfere with this makes it less of a safeguard and more of a censor in public locations. Kind of disturbing, actually.

    Comment by Chris — 13 Jul 2007 @ 4:01

  2. Speaking as a parent, I would not sue the school for not filtering. In fact, I would be more inclined to take action if they did filter, since it would inevitably interfere with my children’s education.

    Comment by Ben — 13 Jul 2007 @ 11:31

  3. But, you are no normal parent.
    It does though seem unwise to blame parents for wanting to secure the safety of their children through filtering. Personally I blame the fear induced nanny state I now have to endure. At school we now have unfettered access to ‘facebook’, but I cannot wikipedia ‘starch’, I’m still pondering whether that’s a step forward, backwards or sideways.

    Comment by laura — 14 Jul 2007 @ 14:25

  4. Interestingly (or perhaps, uninterestingly) Mr. Seddon, the honourable member for Zentek, said exactly the same thing at a seminar on identity management that I was at this week.

    Comment by Dave Birch — 15 Jul 2007 @ 15:34

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