Internet sites could be given cinema-style age ratings as part of a Government crackdown on freedom online to be launched in the New Year, the Culture Secretary says.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham says he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama's incoming American administration to draw up new international
rules for English language websites.
The Cabinet minister describes the internet as quite a dangerous place and says he wants ISPs to offer parents child-safe web services.
Giving film-style ratings to individual websites is one of the options being considered, he confirms. When asked directly whether age ratings could be introduced, Burnham replies: Yes, that would be an option. This is an area that is really
now coming into full focus.
ISPs, such as BT, Tiscali, AOL or Sky could also be forced to offer internet services where the only websites accessible are those deemed suitable for children.
Burnham said: If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn't reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It's true across the board
in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is [also] an emerging issue.
There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; [...BUT...] it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it
involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.
Burnham reveals that he is currently considering a range of new safeguards. Initially, as with copyright violations, these could be policed by internet providers. However, new laws may be threatened if the initial approach is not successful: I
think there is definitely a case for clearer standards online. More ability for parents to understand if their child is on a site, what standards it is operating to. What are the protections that are in place?
He points to the success of the 9pm television watershed at protecting children. The minister also backs a new age classification system on video games to stop children buying certain products.
Burnham also wants new industry-wide take down times. This means that if websites such as YouTube or Facebook are alerted to offensive or harmful content they will have to remove it within a specified time once it is brought to their
He also says that the Government is considering changing libel laws to give people access to cheap low-cost legal recourse if they are defamed online. The legal proposals are being drawn up by the Ministry of Justice.
Burnham admits that his plans may be interpreted by some as heavy-handed ...BUT... says the new standards drive is utterly crucial . Mr Burnham also believes that the inauguration of Barack Obama, the President-Elect,
presents an opportunity to implement the major changes necessary for the web: The more we seek international solutions to this stuff – the UK and the US working together – the more that an international norm will set an industry norm.
Rules that allow jobcentres to advertise sex related opportunities are being reviewed by the Government, Commons Leader Harriet Hatemen said today.
Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell is looking into guidelines that allowed more than 350 sex industry jobs to be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices across the country last year.
Shadow Commons leader Theresa May said jobs included topless semi-nude bar staff and nude cleaners.
During exchanges on future Commons business, May told MPs of Harman's quest to stop local newspapers advertising the sex trade.
She told Harman: Pity you can't persuade the Work and Pensions Secretary to join your campaign. A new report shows that Jobcentre Plus advertised 351 vacancies in the adult entertainment industry last year, including adverts for topless
semi-nude bar staff and nude cleaners.
Two jobseekers complained - they were asked to perform sexual services after contacting an employer about a vacancy advertised at Jobcentre Plus.
May demanded an end to this hypocrisy within Government.
Harman, who is also Women's Minister, said: I absolutely agree with you that there is no way that job centres should be used as a place for advertising jobs for sexual services, for lap dancing, for sex encounter establishments. I raised this
with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions - he is reviewing the situation. We don't want any of those sorts of jobs in our jobcentres.
Jack Straw plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act amidst claims that it has become a charter for criminals.
The Injustice Secretary wants to reflect complaints that the act protects rights but says nothing about responsibilities.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, he says he is frustrated by the way the legislation he introduced ten years ago has sometimes been interpreted by the courts. He blames nervous judges for refusing to deport extremists and
terrorist suspects despite assurances by ministers that their removal is in the national interest.
In a move which will alarm the civil liberties lobby, Straw reveals that he is studying whether the act can be tightened and has taken legal advice.
In due course I could envisage that there could be additions made to to work in the issues of responsibilities, he says.
He tells the Mail that he wants to rebalance the rights set out in the Human Rights Act by adding explicit responsibilities , specifically to obey the law and to be loyal to the country.
He is also looking at ways of promoting social rights such as access to health care, as well as social responsibilities such staying healthy or the education of children.
In addition to banning free drinks for women, and big glasses in pubs, the government has made it known that Wednesday's Queen's Speech contains notice of legislation to prevent criminals profiting from their crimes by writing memoirs. Sounds
well and good. Lot of cobblers, though.
This is not to say that I'm in favour of criminals making money from their memoirs. There is a moral or ethical problem here, clearly. On the one hand, it is bordering on the absurd to imagine that the prospect of a book deal will incentivise
people to commit crimes: if you're doing the sort of crime that would really command a big advance – a kill-hack-and-eat job, say – you're unlikely to be the sort of person for whom the book deal is the big thing.
On the other hand, nevertheless, it's not nice to think of vicious killers ending up on the chat-show circuit. Try the thought experiment. Harold Shipman: I Did It My Way. Dahmer: The Cookbook. Manson: My Family And Other Animals. You think:
disgusting, yuk, why in any civilised society would these beasts be heard from again?
You think: O J Simpson (obviously, he didn't do it, but profiting from the titillating speculation that he might have done it is unattractive, no?); you think "Mad" Frankie Fraser; you think Ronnie Biggs. No need for books from them,
Then you think: Jeffrey Archer, Nick Leeson, Howard Marks, Jonathan Aitken. You say: "hmmm." Then again, you think: conscientious objectors, metric martyrs, foxhunting men, repentant members of the Weather Underground or former
Islamists like Ed Husain. You say: "hmmmm" with even more "m"s. And then again, you think, Jean Genet. You think William Burroughs. Perhaps if you have that cast of mind, you think Aung San Suu Kyi or Nelson Mandela.
You think... well, you end up thinking that this is a law – or a provision in law – designed to sound good and serious, but whose implementation is so impossible, whose ambition so fuzzy, as to be no more than a calculatedly fatuous electoral
Filtering technology will allow parents, schools, businesses and web users to further restrict access to websites said to be advocating or promoting terrorism.
Following joint work between the internet industry and government, web users now have the opportunity to download software allowing them to restrict access to websites that may encourage the endorsement or participation in acts of terrorism.
The software can be downloaded voluntarily and is available to parents, schools, colleges and businesses.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said, Stopping people becoming or supporting terrorists is the major long-term challenge we face. I want to give parents and guardians the power to decide what content is downloaded on their computers at home, which
is why we have worked hard to develop these tools with various software companies.
Politicians are ready to introduce league tables naming the speed with which internet service providers take down supposedly 'offensive' material.
The culture minister, Barbara Follett, and her Tory shadow, Ed Vaizey, have backed the idea that web providers must be embarrassed into dealing with violent, sexually explicit web content.
Follett said she wants to see the pre-screening of material on sites such as YouTube, as occurs at present on MySpace. She claimed there was growing chaos out there on the internet, and order needed to be brought.
She has also admitted barriers aimed at preventing children from accessing over-age material on the internet are not just porous but leak like a sieve. "People can get straight through it, or straight by it."
Follett warned: We must teach children of the dangers of the internet. It is sad to make children more scared than interested, but fortunately the internet is so interesting that children tend to overcome their fear.
Discussing the internet and video games at a Westminster debate and facing suggestions that the industry is lax about controlling content, Follett said: We agree information about take-down times and levels of search need to be much clearer.
Asked if she supported league tables of take-down times by internet service providers, she said name and shame can sometimes can work very well indeed.
Follett said: Many people have said that the internet is like the wild west in the gold rush and that sooner or later it will be regulated. What we need is for it to be regulated sooner rather than later.
She added: We must ensure that search engines have a clear link to child safety information and safe search settings on the front page of their website. She also said she saw some value in some form of age identity card for the
internet. It is useful when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes and it is certainly useful when it comes to buying video games and other material on the internet.
The proposal for a take-down league table is backed by Vaizey. He said: The government is in a position to put out the information, and it is up to the internet service providers to react to it. If they are happy to be 55th in a league
table of take-down times so be it.
Overall, Follett's remarks suggest she will be more interventionist than some other ministers, although she has stressed she favours the internet and largely thinks self-regulation is best option. She also insisted there was not yet compellingly
persuasive evidence of a link between watching violent video games and subsequent acts of violence.
Seven D-notices were sent to all UK newspaper editors by the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC) in 2007 and a further five so far this year, Defence Minister Kevan Jones revealed in a written parliamentary reply published.
This compares with just two being issued in each of the previous three years from 2003, one in 2002, three in 2001, two in 2000, three in 1999 and none in either 1998 or 1997.
The D-Notice system, which is a virtual blanket publication ban, is a voluntary code that began back in 1912 to provide guidance to the British media on the publication or broadcasting of national security information.
The committee, a joint government-media body, says the objective is to prevent inadvertent public disclosure of information that would compromise UK military and intelligence operations and methods, or put at risk the safety of those involved
in such operations, or lead to attacks that would damage the critical national infrastructure and/or endanger lives.
No details are given of the latest bans. Some journalists have argued that the bans often include subjects that are merely unflattering to government, rather than a matter of national defence and thus are a form of soft censorship.
A forum of independent experts has been appointed to guide the work of The Digital Britain Report and develop a comprehensive plan to further our digital economy and society.
Among the members of the Steering Board, who will provide input into the Digital Britain Report are the authors of recent and related reviews, including Dr. Tanya Byron, Francesco Caio, Barry Cox, Chairman of the Digital Radio Working Group,
Andrew Gowers and Robin Foster from the Convergence Think Tank. Along with other members of the Steering Board, they will provide sponsorship and expertise in their particular areas of focus and will advise on the overall strategy and direction
of The Report.
Stephen Carter, the Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting said: Fully embracing a digital future is a must for any successful knowledge economy. The Steering Board will serve and advise The Digital Britain Report in its ambition and its practical recommendations.
The expert advisers and their primary area of focus are:
The UK has a very real problem with websites that incite terrorism, and if we are not careful the government's preferred cure could be as bad as the disease itself. Faced with the impossibility of policing material that originates from abroad,
the home secretary is now planning to appoint herself the UK's first official censor.
In 2006, the government passed a law banning the display of material that "directly or indirectly" encouraged terrorism.
I also know, or hope I know, that the decision to close a site will not be left in the hands of humble beat officers, who have after all, previously arrested wearers of anti-Blair t-shirts for "offensiveness". That said, I'm not sure I
trust more senior policemen either. After all, it was an officer with the met's obscene publications unit who leant on satirical site
thinkofthechildren on the grounds it "could" incite violence. There's a weasel word, if ever there was one: so many things "could" glorify terrorism.
Sadly, this only catches UK-hosted websites, which are a small proportion of the whole: the most prolific inciters of terrorism lie well beyond the reach of the most dedicated UK copper. This is a biased law, but it's also a figleaf: a symptom of
government pretending that something can be done.
Yet government now wishes to do more. Recently, the home office informed me that the government has been working … to develop filtering software [to protect] against illegal material that promotes or encourages terrorism
Herein lies the real risk from terrorism. It's all very well arguing that terrorism sites are pernicious, evil, etc. But what the home office is doing is equally dangerous. Substituting police opinion for due process may be operationally
efficient: but it is an erosion of legality.
Replacing a properly enacted power to block banned sites with a filtering process that will permit the home secretary to censor by executive fiat strikes at the core of civil liberties in this country..
Gordon Brown and David Cameron weighed in to the row over a series of offensive telephone calls made by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand to the veteran actor Andrew Sachs on their Radio 2 show as the media regulator Ofcom launched a major
investigation into the incident.
As the number of complaints about the incident topped 10,000, Ofcom announced its inquiry and Cameron andBrown joined other MPs in condemning the broadcaster's actions.
Brown described the prank calls as inappropriate and unacceptable , while Cameron called on the BBC to be transparent about how the programme came to be broadcast, given that it was pre-recorded.
After receiving a rash of complaints about their comments, Ofcom took the decision to launch an inquiry. In a statement, it said: All UK broadcasters must adhere to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code which sets standards for the content of television
and radio broadcasting. It also deals with issues such as fairness and privacy.
Ross and Brand have since issued personal apologies to Sachs, with Ross delivering flowers and a letter to the actor's door. The BBC has also apologised over the matter, and is launching an internal inquiry. Tim Davie, director of audio and music
at the BBC, said: We're going to have a full investigation, look at the facts and take the appropriate action. In an interview with the BBC, he admitted the programme was unacceptable and said clear editorial guidelines needed to be
followed, but added that apportioning blame prematurely would be the wrong thing to do. Asked if anyone would take the rap, Davie said the most important thing was to conduct a fair, balanced report and then take action.
Cameron said the BBC had some very straightforward questions to answer. The main question is why did they allow this programme to be broadcast, given that it was pre-recorded? he said.
The subject of the prank calls had arisen earlier yesterday during a debate in the House of Commons, in which the Justice minister David Hanson told MPs that the broadcast was not appropriate . Later, the Tory MP Nadine Dorries called on
the BBC to sack both broadcasters.
It was also claimed that should Sachs wish to take the matter further, Brand and Ross could possibly be prosecuted on the grounds of harassment.
The Metropolitan Police said it had received complaints about the comments, but would not confirm how many had been made. This will be looked at and a decision taken, but there is no police investigation at this time, a police spokesman
Sachs last night appeared to play down the saga. Jonathan Ross has personally delivered a letter of apology and some flowers. He made no excuses and was very frank and open. He's in a lot of trouble and I don't want to pile any more on him. My
granddaughter hasn't heard from either Ross or Brand and I do think they owe her an apology.
There is a long tradition of the military suppressing news that it considers detrimental to national security by slapping a D-notice on it.
But when the D-notice committee decided that the time was ripe to publish its own official history, nobody imagined that it would fall victim to its own system. The history of the D-notice committee has, in effect, had a D-notice slapped on it by
the D-notice committee.
Secrecy and the Media , written by Rear-Admiral Nick Wilkinson, who was secretary of the committee from 1999 to 2004, should have been hitting all good bookshops this month, according to the academic publisher Routledge's website.
The book will now be published in May, but without its final five chapters. These cover the Blair years, charting the winding-down of the Irish terrorist campaigns and the War on Terror.
The censored chapters will eventually be published in a later edition of the book after a change of administration.
The Times has learnt that the manuscript was cleared for publication by all the relevant government departments – MI5, SIS, GCHQ and the Foreign, Home and Cabinet offices, as well as the Treasury Solicitor and the Attorney-General. However, when
it arrived at the Ministry of Defence it was passed not to the department's security and legal experts but to the current D-notice secretary, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance.
He advised that the book be withdrawn altogether for reasons of style and structure, and that a new official history should be commissioned, to be written instead by a trained historian , a source has told The Times. He said: It's poorly presented history. It's very thorough, but it's just difficult to read.
The air vice-marshal's view was endorsed by the MoD
Answering questions from the floor at the Royal Television Society conference in London last month, Minister for Truth Andy Burnham said: The time has come for perhaps a different approach to the internet. I want to even up that see-saw, even
up the regulation [imbalance] between the old and the new."
The idea that the internet was beyond legal reach and a space where governments can't go was no longer the case.
In his final annual lecture for Ofcom last week Lord Currie expressed a belief that tighter regulation was coming. He said: Ask most legislators today and, where they think about it, they will say that period [of forbearance] is coming to an
Stephen Carter, the prime minister's strategy chief, has been appointed as a junior minister of communications, technology and broadcasting as part a cabinet reshuffle.
Carter, a former chief executive of TV censor Ofcom, has also been given a peerage in order to take up his new role in the House of Lords.
Carter Said: Given the global financial challenges, the communications sector has never been more important to our economy. This role is an opportunity to make a contribution to the growth of this key sector, and I look forward to
working closely with Peter Mandelson and Andy Burnham.
His remit will be split between the department for culture, media and sport under secretary of state Andy Burnham, and Peter Mandelson at the department for business, enterprise and regulatory reform.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the United Kingdom government department for communities and local government since May 2006. The department originated in 2001 as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
They have produced an interesting document entitled: Guidance for local authorities on community cohesion contingency planning and tension monitoring
And its shows that councils have been working with local newspapers to censor stories that may inflame local tensions.
The document gives the following examples:
Working with the media
The council has close links to the editor of the Evening Gazette, the main local newspaper, who also sits on the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP). This helps to ensure that press and media related issues are considered in
cohesion contingency planning.
Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council
Tameside holds regular meetings with local newspaper editors to gather information and stop sensationalist reporting which might otherwise start or add to rising tensions, e.g. in response to a Kick Racism out of Football campaign, an extremist
political group wanted to picket a local football stadium. A local newspaper was going to print the story on its front page – an action that was likely to bring unwanted publicity to the picket and fuel rising community tensions. The intervention
of the Community Cohesion Partnership prevented the story from being run and in the event no-one turned out for the picket.
Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Council
The Berwick Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) is working with the local press/media to vet stories involving migrant workers from eastern Europe and Portugal employed in the food processing and agricultural sectors to prevent
If the music industry had spent more time thinking of ways to deliver great music to its customers over the internet and less lobbying politicians and suing potential customers it would probably be thriving by now.
Book publishers, less certain of their own importance, are taking notice of the exciting experiments at Faber & Faber and Penguin instead of looking for protectionist legislation to keep the new media world at bay.
And for a while it looked like television was keen to embrace the possibilities for online delivery and greater engagement that the network offered.
Yet now it seems that Culture Secretary Andy Burnham thinks television in the UK is so special that it needs to be kept safe from attack by the nasty people of the online world.
Apparently it is time to "even up" regulation between the internet and television because those producing online material get an easy ride.
As we reported, Monday saw the launch of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS). This is one of the chief results of the Byron Review (pdf), and unites the great and the good of the internet world, under the guidance of Gordon Brown,
in an effort to make the internet fit for our children.
One way in which it will do that is by preventing children from accessing "inappropriate content". In its first release, the Council declared that it would "establish voluntary codes of practice for user-generated content sites,
making such sites commit to take down inappropriate content within a given time".
Although the release may appear consistent with the principles contained in the Byron Review, it is actually a serious extension of it. Preventing children from accessing content that is inappropriate to them has been subtly upgraded to a
requirement that user-generated sites take down "inappropriate content".
In June, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee delivered its report on what it considered to be harmful content on the internet. Recommendations from that report are due to be released to Parliament next week. Those interested in
the future shape of the internet in the UK would do well to keep an ear open for any further casual remarks by Mr Burnham.
Video-sharing websites - such as YouTube - could be forced to carry cinema-style guidance ratings, it has emerged.
Ministers are planning to introduce tough new rules to make websites carry age certificates and warning signs on films featuring sex, violence or strong language.
Minister of Nasty Cultures, Andy Burnham, said that tougher content guidance would help parents monitor their children's internet use.
Burnham said he wanted online content to meet the same standards required for television and the cinema. At the moment, there is no overall regulation of the internet. He said video clips may soon have to carry ratings such as the 'U', 'PG', '12'
and '18' ones used by cinemas.
Burnham pointed to the example of the BBC iplayer which carries content warnings on programmes screened after the 9pm watershed and allows parents to turn on a parental guidance lock to stop youngsters accessing inappropriate material.
He said: With the 9pm watershed, parents had complete clarity about the content. But with the internet, parents are ensure about what is appropriate and what isn't. We have to start talking more seriously about standards and regulation
on the internet.
I don't think it is impossible that before you download something there is a symbol or wording which tells you what's in that content. If you have a clip that is downloaded a million times then that is akin to broadcasting.
It doesn't seem over-burdensome for these to be regulated.
His comments were backed by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who said she had been 'shocked' at some of the material viewed by her sons. She added: I do think it's important that parents of young children are clear, just as they are when going
to see a film at the cinema, about what's appropriate and what isn't appropriate.