Lynne Featherstone, the international development minister, said she would sign a petition to ban Page 3 because it had a deleterious effect on women.
The petition, set up by Lucy Holmes and entitled Take the bare boobs out of The Sun , had more than 30,000 signatures last night.
Admitting she would be called mean and sour-faced by some people, Featherstone said:
There is a real argument about what is OK in the public space. If you are on the Tube you may find Page 3 is facing you and your young daughter and you may not want that to be a role model for her.
There is an army on the other side hurtling abuse. It's not simply about equal pay. It's about the constant drip, drip of women being sexualised in the public space [which] has a great bearing on attitudes and domestic violence.
When you know that one in four women experience domestic violence in their life, two women are killed each week by their partner or husband, there is a very long way to go. While a lot of blokes say 'You are mean, sour-faced, whatever -- it's harmless',
actually it's not harmless at all.
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecution has made a statement after deciding to pursue a case involving insulting tweets. Starmer said:
On 30 July 2012 Daniel Thomas, a semi-professional footballer, posted a homophobic message on the social networking site, Twitter. This related to the Olympic divers Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield. This became available to his followers. Someone else
distributed it more widely and it made its way into some media outlets. Mr Thomas was arrested and interviewed. The matter was then referred to CPS Wales to consider whether Mr Thomas should be charged with a criminal offence.
The Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to send a communication using a public electronic communications network if that communication is grossly offensive. It is now established that posting comments via Twitter constitutes sending a message by
means of a public electronic communications network. It is also clear that the offence is committed once the message is sent, irrespective of whether it is received by any intended recipient or anyone else. The question in this case is therefore whether
the message posted by Mr Thomas is so grossly offensive as to be criminal and, if so, whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.
There is no doubt that the message posted by Mr Thomas was offensive and would be regarded as such by reasonable members of society. But the question for the CPS is not whether it was offensive, but whether it was so grossly offensive that criminal
charges should be brought. The distinction is an important one and not easily made. Context and circumstances are highly relevant and as the European Court of Human Rights observed in the case of Handyside v UK (1976), the right to freedom of expression
includes the right to say things or express opinions ...that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population.
The context and circumstances in this case include the following facts and matters:
(a) However misguided, Mr Thomas intended the message to be humorous.
(b) However naive, Mr Thomas did not intend the message to go beyond his followers, who were mainly friends and family.
(c) Mr Thomas took reasonably swift action to remove the message.
(d) Mr Thomas has expressed remorse and was, for a period, suspended by his football club.
(e) Neither Mr Daley nor Mr Waterfield were the intended recipients of the message and neither knew of its existence until it was brought to their attention following reports in the media.
This was, in essence, a one-off offensive Twitter message, intended for family and friends, which made its way into the public domain. It was not intended to reach Mr Daley or Mr Waterfield, it was not part of a campaign, it was not intended to incite
others and Mr Thomas removed it reasonably swiftly and has expressed remorse. Against that background, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wales, Jim Brisbane, has concluded that on a full analysis of the context and circumstances in which this single message
was sent, it was not so grossly offensive that criminal charges need to be brought.
Before reaching a final decision in this case, Mr Daley and Mr Waterfield were consulted by the CPS and both indicated that they did not think this case needed a prosecution.
This case is one of a growing number involving the use of social media that the CPS has had to consider. There are likely to be many more. The recent increase in the use of social media has been profound. It is estimated that on Twitter alone there are
340 million messages sent daily. And the context in which this interactive social media dialogue takes place is quite different to the context in which other communications take place. Access to social media is ubiquitous and instantaneous. Banter, jokes
and offensive comment are commonplace and often spontaneous. Communications intended for a few may reach millions.
Against that background, the CPS has the task of balancing the fundamental right of free speech and the need to prosecute serious wrongdoing on a case by case basis. That often involves very difficult judgment calls and, in the largely unchartered
territory of social media, the CPS is proceeding on a case by case basis. In some cases it is clear that a criminal prosecution is the appropriate response to conduct which is complained about, for example where there is a sustained campaign of
harassment of an individual, where court orders are flouted or where grossly offensive or threatening remarks are made and maintained. But in many other cases a criminal prosecution will not be the appropriate response. If the fundamental right to free
speech is to be respected, the threshold for criminal prosecution has to be a high one and a prosecution has to be required in the public interest.
To ensure that CPS decision-making in these difficult cases is clear and consistent, I intend to issue guidelines on social media cases for prosecutors. These will assist them in deciding whether criminal charges should be brought in the cases that arise
for their consideration. In the first instance, the CPS will draft interim guidelines. There will then be a wide public consultation before final guidelines are published. As part of that process, I intend to hold a series of roundtable meetings with
campaigners, media lawyers, academics, social media experts and law enforcement bodies to ensure that the guidelines are as fully informed as possible.
But this is not just a matter for prosecutors. Social media is a new and emerging phenomenon raising difficult issues of principle, which have to be confronted not only by prosecutors but also by others including the police, the courts and service
providers. The fact that offensive remarks may not warrant a full criminal prosecution does not necessarily mean that no action should be taken. In my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social
Less than a quarter of parents are in favour of default online content blocking, a new survey has found.
Only one-fifth of UK parents believe default filtering of harmful content is the best system for protecting youngsters online, according to TalkTalk. YouGov, working on behalf of the ISP, found 78% of adults with children in their household are opposed
to this solution, which would automatically block adult related material.
Instead, 37% of respondents favour giving broadband customers an active choice, in which they are asked when they sign up for an account whether or not they want content to be blocked. A further 30% insisted that websites should only be blocked if they
ask for it.
In March, TalkTalk introduced an active choice system for broadband subscribers. Known as HomeSafe, the network-level parental controls allow customers to choose the type of content their kids can view while browsing the web. So far, the system
has been activated by about one in three new customers - roughly equivalent to the number of households with dependent children.
Dido Harding, chief executive of TalkTalk, said: We believe that giving customers an active choice about using controls like HomeSafe is the most effective way to engage them in internet safety.
Telcos face being regulated by the government if they fail to block websites offering advice on suicide, the health minister Norman Lamb has warned. He said that one of the areas of concern was the lack of awareness about websites offering guidance on
This week, the government has launched a campaign in England to help prevent people from committing suicide, especially those considered to be in at-risk groups. The Department of Health said that it wanted to work:
with the media, and with the internet industry through members of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) to help parents ensure their children are not accessing harmful suicide-related websites, and to increase the availability and take-up of
effective parental controls to reduce access to harmful websites.
The Sunday Times reported that Lamb had bluntly noted ahead of today's strategy that regulation would follow if internet service providers did not step in to offer protection. He said:
These horrific suicide websites are just one example of the dangerous and disturbing online content which, without proper controls, our children can access almost at any time.
The Register contacted broadband industry lobby group ISPA, which said:
A previous government review found that the law on encouraging suicide was fit for purpose for the digital age. ISPs will remove content they host that is illegal once notified, but are not always best placed to judge on whether content is illegal or
The Home Office will, from 1 October, begin the process of correcting an anomaly in the criminal records system which has for decades seen gay men unfairly stigmatised.
Anyone with a historic conviction, caution, warning or reprimand for consensual gay sex, that meets the conditions laid down in the new Protection of Freedoms Act, will be encouraged to come forward and apply to have these records deleted or disregarded.
Until now, people wishing to volunteer or work in roles that require criminal records checks have been discouraged from doing so, for fear of having to disclose offences which have long since been decriminalised.
These changes mean that, after a successful application, this information no longer needs to be disclosed on a criminal records certificate and those individuals who may have been inhibited from volunteering or seeking new work will now find that
The change was made under the Protection of Freedoms Act, which received royal assent on 1 May 2012. The Home Office is working closely with the Courts and Tribunals Service, and the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Ministry of Defence to run
the application process. A dedicated team of caseworkers will consider each case and make recommendations to the Home Secretary who will have the final decision.
Successful applicants will have their records updated so the offence will no longer appear on a criminal records certificate or be referred to in any future court proceedings.
From 1st October anyone with a historic conviction for certain decriminalised consensual sex offences can apply to have these records deleted.
Until now, people wishing to work in roles that require background checks have been discouraged from doing so for fear of having to disclose offences which have long since been decriminalised.
The change was made in the Protection of Freedoms Act, which received royal assent on 1 May 2012.
You can apply on the Home Website by filling out the following online form.
The Home Office will then work with the Courts, Tribunals Service and Association of Chief Police Officers. A dedicated team of caseworkers will consider each case and make recommendations to the Home Secretary who will have the final decision.
Successful applicants will have their records updated so the offence will no longer appear on a criminal records certificate or be referred to in any future court proceedings.
Parents should take responsibility for stopping their children seeing internet pornography, the new Culture Secretary has said.
Maria Miller said the Government was considering calls to make internet companies block access to online pornography. But the Conservative MP insisted that parents had the first and foremost responsibility for monitoring their children's use of
Miller added that the Government could play a role in advising parents on how to block damaging material on home computers. In an interview Maria Miller, a mother of three, said:
I think responsibility is very strongly with parents to make sure that they really understand how their children are using the internet . . . to make sure they are safe.
I think probably the awareness of those sorts of pieces of software you can buy or indeed what you can do is not as high as it needs to be
In this week's government reshuffle Maria Miller took over the job of Culture Secretary from Jeremy Hunt. Her role in charge of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport more or less makes her the government's chief censor, (Except where police state
censors dictate via the Home Office and Dept of Justice).
Maria Miller seems to have brought with her a whole load of attitude problems and gay rights groups have been first to criticise.
Making her first public appearance in her new Cabinet role, Ms Miller defended her record, which has included voting in favour of lowering the abortion time limit and the notion that a child needs parents of both sexes. She explained:
I have worked for many years in the area of disability and also of women's equality and I am absolutely committed to making Britain a more equal society,
Perhaps looking at voting records isn't the best way to assess what people think about in this world and perhaps actually talking to them is a better way of doing it.
The one sided consultation into whether UK internet users should have to opt-in in order to access adult content has now closed. The response forms provided by the government were only relevant to parents and ISPs. Presumably the government didn't want
to hear any negative comments from anyone else caught up censorship scheme.
Over 2,000 responses had been submitted by the eve of the deadline, the Department for Education told the BBC.
Proposals for an opt-in system are supported by several MPs, but fiercely opposed by internet rights campaigners. Internet service providers (ISPs) have also voiced concerns, favouring instead an active choice system. This method, already in place
at several ISPs, prompts a new customer to choose if they want anything vaguely adult to be blocked out by their provider.
The findings of the consultation are due to be published later in the year.
A nutter petition signed by about 110,000 people demanding internet companies block access to hardcore pornography as a default setting to protect children is being handed to the Government. Strangely such a system has never been on the table. The
current ISP systems block a much wider range of material: hardcore, softcore, and even just textual information about adult topics.
Peers, MPs and church figures are among those who have signed the Safetynet petition demanding ISPs be made to compulsorily block access to pornography on computers, mobile phones and tablets, organiser Premier Christian Media (PCM) said.
The petition, written as a letter to Jeremy Hunt, the previous Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, claims one in three 10-year-olds has "stumbled upon pornography online" and that youths aged 12 to 17 are the largest consumers of internet porn.
MP Claire Perry told the BBC:
We quite happily accept watersheds on TV and we are happy to accept adult films sitting behind PIN systems on satellite channels.
Somehow when it comes to the internet, all bets are off and the onus is entirely on the consumer. Continue reading the main story Porn plans
However, the petition has been criticised by some campaigners for citing surveys with small sample sizes. In particular, a statistic claiming that one in three under-10s had been exposed to pornography online was taken from an issue of Psychologies
Magazine in 2010. The magazine had surveyed a group of 14-16 year olds at one North London school, asking them if they had seen porn before the age of 10.
Any organisation that quotes statistics based on a once in a life time occurrence and then presents them as if this was regular usage is certainly telling porkies.
Ms Perry distanced herself from the bollox statistics presented with the petition. That is their number, she told the BBC, referring to campaign organisers Safermedia, which was a small scale anecdotal study.
Re: Department for Education consultation on parental internet controls
We write to you as the consultation on parental controls closes. In recent years there have been two comprehensive reviews into the issue of child safety online, the Byron Review and the Bailey Review. They considered a wealth of academic expertise,
parental concerns and technical input and both arrived at the same conclusion -- parents are the best people to decide what their children can see.
To ignore these in-depth and comprehensive reviews and instead adopt a system of default blocking would be a short sighted and dangerous step, while doing little to empower parents or children. As Ofcom recognised, blocking is trivial to
circumvent and it is likely a default blocking system would lull parents into a false sense of security. A more complex, connected world needs parents to engage more with their children on issues of safety, privacy and personal development -- default
blocking undermines this dialogue.
Government agreed that industry would have until October 2012 to implement the Active Choice model, one that puts parents in control of whether filters are applied to their home Internet connection or the devices their children use to go online and
allows them to choose which solution best suits them. Last year the Foreign Secretary said It is important to distinguish between government encouraging people to make more use of existing protections as a matter of choice, and the government deciding
what people can and cannot do online. We hope that the Government stands firm to this and continues to support the Active Choice system as the best option for children, parents, the economy and civil liberties.
Recent research by the Open Rights Group and the LSE Media Policy Project into default adult content filters used by UK mobile broadband providers has highlighted significant issues, such as the mistaken blocking of perfectly innocent websites that had
nothing to do with adult content. The over-blocking of legitimate sites undermines the UK's attractiveness as a place for digital businesses to grow and erodes all citizens' choice while doing little to empower parents or ensure that children stay safe
We do not believe that default filtering across the UK, mandated by Government, should be the way forward. Instead the emphasis should now be on improving parental control filters, so that parents have the right tools to protect their children from harm
and can teach them how to be safe as they start to explore the world for themselves.
Nick Pickles, Director, Big Brother Watch
Agnes Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19
Mike O'Connor CBE, Chief Executive, Consumer Focus
Jeff Lynn, Chairman, The Coalition For A Digital Economy
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship
Dominique Lazanski. Head of Digital Policy, Taxpayers Alliance
Professor Ross Anderson, Chair, Foundation for Information Policy Research
Strangely no comment of the expensive fees involved and the impact it will have on many small market videos. Perhaps the government should pick up the tab so that they can be better places to make a judgement about the benefits of imposing yet more
expense on British industry that's already heading towards bankruptcy.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will this week close a three-month consultation that most observers believe will end a loophole which means DVDs with titles like The Bitch of Buchenwald and Britain's Bloodiest Serial
Killers can claim exemption from BBFC censorship.
As things stand, most sport, documentary and music videos can claim an exemption from classification. The BBFC's head of policy, David Austin said:
The great majority of exempt video works are fine. They are not going to harm anyone, but there are a significant number of titles that are potentially harmful to children.
We know from our postbag that parents are concerned about exempt videos. Usually they write and say, 'Why did you give this video an E classification?' The answer is we didn't as it never came to us -- it would not have gone to anyone.
The BBFC estimates that around 200 videos might be caught by a change in the law.
Austin showed the Guardian examples of videos that have claimed exemption but would have been classified. One of the more shocking is a documentary about the American heavy metal band Slipknot . It shows one fan who has carved the word Slipknot in
to her forearm and another who has done the same in her belly, to which someone is seen pointing in admiration.
A music video by the Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth, which was rated X in Germany but is unrated in the UK, shows topless women being crucified with blood running down their breasts. A Robbie Williams video for the song Come Undone, contained on an
exempt compilation, In and Out of Consciousness, shows drug taking and Williams cavorting in bed with two naked women.
Other potentially problematic DVDs include wildly violent cage fighting DVDs and ones that instruct in krav maga, the combat techniques developed by the Israeli army.
All the signs are that the government will change a law that was made in 1984, when no one could have foreseen a problem with music or instructional videos. The BBFC, together with other regulatory bodies, is calling for exceptions to the exemptions that
would cover material that is violent, sexual, discriminatory, has repeated strong language or contains imitable behaviour such as drug use.
A DCMS spokesperson said: DCMS launched a consultation in May on the exemptions from age rating that currently apply to music, sports, religious and educational videos. The government will publish its response in the autumn.
Protesters gathered outside Parliament on Thursday to demand greater protection for free speech by reforming Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
Section 5 of the Act outlaws insulting words or behaviour , but what exactly constitutes insulting is unclear and has resulted in many controversial police arrests. In 2008 a sixteen-year old boy was arrested for peacefully holding a
placard that read Scientology is a dangerous cult .
Earlier this year human rights campaigners, MPs, faith groups and secularists joined forces to launch the Reform Section 5 campaign. The campaign has since won cross-party support in Parliament, and Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has
also called for change.
The Government is considering amending the Act, and set up a consultation on whether Section 5 should be amended or not. It closed in January, and seven months later the Government has yet to publish the results.
Campaigners have accused the Government of dragging its feet and say Thursday's protest outside Parliament shows that the issue hasn't gone away.
Speaking outside Parliament, Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell said:
Most MPs back reform, as does the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald QC. The government's delay and hesitation is unjustified. The criminalisation of mere insults under Section 5 is a threat to free speech. There are other laws to
deal adequately with harassment, threats and serious abuse.
Peter Tatchell was joined outside the Houses of Parliament this morning by The Christian Institute's Simon Calvert and Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society.
With less than a week to go before the close of the adult content filtering consultation, Open Rights Group is urging people to let the Department for Education know that default blocking would be disastrous.
Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:
We know filters always block the wrong sites. Casual mentions of sex get sites blocked. Health education sites are blocked. Even chat sites, bars and clubs are considered reasonable to block for children.
So you don't want to induce adults to live with this sort of filtering. But that is what the Daily Mail and Premier Christian Media have convinced the Department of Education to do.
We need an outbreak of common sense to stop this, before we find the Daily Mail's Nanny State becomes a reality.
The government's Communications Data Bill will effectively create a giant centralised database of
everyone in the UK's web activities, MPs and peers have heard.
The bill would force telecoms companies to store details of internet use and communications for a year and also to implement a query interface so that the data can be used as if it were part of a massive centralised database.
Home Secretary Theresa May claimed that the data will not be held on a single government database. But security experts told the cross-party committee examining the bill it would operate in a similar way.
The communications bill was published in draft form earlier this year and is being examined in detail by a committee of MPs and peers before it begins its passage into law.
Civil liberties groups giving evidence to the committee suggested the query system could be used to mount fishing expeditions rather than targeted surveillance - something the Home Office has explicitly claimed will not happen.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said:
The filtering provisions are so broadly worded and so poorly drafted that it could allow mining of all the data collected, without any requirement for personal information, which is the very definition of a fishing trip.
Internet freedom campaigner Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group, said officials would be able to build up a complex map of individuals' communications by examining records of their mobile phone, their normal phone, their work email, their
Facebook account and so on .
The campaigners called on the committee to recommend scrapping the data communications bill, rather than making suggestions to improve it as they have been tasked to do by the government. 'Lack of trust'
The government has asked the Leveson inquiry to consider giving the new press regulation body responsibility for web TV services ranging
from Channel 4's catch-up service, 4oD, to adult content such as Playboy.
Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, has written to the inquiry into press ethics to suggest that the successor body to the Press Complaints Commission could become a one-stop shop for all news output by newspaper groups.
In his letter to Leveson, Hunt said he was keen that a regulatory framework be developed that would stand the test of time and avoid the risk of obsolescence .
He believes ATVOD should be folded into the new press regulatory body, arguing this would encourage newspapers to diversify into new types of audio-visual content because it would simplify regulatory requirements significantly .
He believes that the current situation acts as an inhibitor to newspapers which want to expand video production. A recent Ofcom test case involving Sun Video placed all newspaper content outside ATVOD regulation. Hunt claimed some newspapers have
curtailed their video production in order to remain free of the TV-on-demand regulator.
The Guardian article was amended on 7 July 2012 to explain that the new press regulator's powers would only apply to web TV news rather than to all content, and to clarify that ATVOD would not be replaced by the new regulatory body.
The public is being invited to submit evidence on the government's plans for a Snooper's Charter.
This comes as a parliamentary committee launches its inquiry on the draft Communications Data Bill. Conservative peer Lord Blencathra, David Maclean, chairs the joint committee of MPs and peers holding the inquiry and stressed a privacy-security
balance. He said:
Each and every one of us will be affected by the bill.
This committee wants to ensure that the draft bill will ensure a sufficient balance between an individuals' privacy and national security.
We intend very thoroughly to examine the government's proposals and hope to hear from interested bodies and organisations about exactly how the changes in technology and the way we use it should be reflected in legislation about
access to communication data.
Offsite: Snooped internet records will be made available to foreign police
Foreign police forces will be able to obtain details of the British public's internet use, emails and text messages.
In a controversial move, MPs were told that officials in Europe and the US will be able to take advantage of the Home Office's proposed snoopers charter.
The information could be used for pursuing UK citizens for crimes which allegedly took place while they were on holiday or over the internet.
In response to a parliamentary question, ministers said police and public authorities overseas would also be free to request access to the mountains of information which will be stored. British officials will then decide whether the data should
In theory, every nation is free to lodge a request, although Britain's long-standing partners in the EU, plus countries such as the US and Canada, are most likely to be successful.
The Department of Education has partly resumed its public consultation after recently being taken
offline for privacy failures.
The online response form is still removed though. Data provided by users of this service was erroneously made available to other users of the service.
The government is to consider putting extra pressure on computer users to filter out pornography when setting up internet accounts. The latest system, called active choice-plus , is aimed at reaching a compromise. It
would automatically block adult content, but would set users a loaded question, along the lines of whether they want to change this to gain access to sites promoting pornography, violence and other adult-only themes.
Ministers are suggesting that people should automatically be barred from accessing unsuitable adult material unless they actually choose to view it. It is one of several suggestions being put out for an e-consultation on
how to shield children from pornography.
The discussion paper asks for views on three broad options for the best approach to keeping children safe online. It is an e-consultation where responses can be made online. The paper's introduction reads:
Tim Loughton, Minister for Children and Families, and Lynne Featherstone, Minister for Equalities and Criminal Information are joint chairs of the executive board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS). They are
writing to members of UKCCIS to seek their views and advice on parental controls. The request is to members of UKCCIS and other organisations and individuals, especially parents, who might want to respond.
The questionnaire consults on the merits of three proposed solutions .
Active Choice : customers are presented with an unavoidable choice or series of choices through which they consciously choose whether or not they want filters and blocks installed on their internet service or internet-enabled
Opt-in : where the internet service is provided with filters already in place to block access to certain websites (e.g. legal pornography), and the customer has to tell their ISP they wish to opt in to these
sites if they want to access them.
Active choice plus : A system that combines features of both systems, where customers are presented with a list of online content that will be blocked automatically unless they choose to unblock them.
The UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said the government will seek to remove two crucial sections of the Digital Economy Act that
would have allowed it to impose Web site blocking at the ISP level.
According to DCMS, the department in charge of the Digital Economy Act (2010), the government will seek to repeal sections 17 and 18 of the law.
The two sections are arguably the most controversial elements of the act. Section 17 allows the government to seek a court order against any location on the Internet deemed to facilitate or actively infringe copyright, while section 18
sets out the approvals process the government must go through to get such orders granted.
The decision to seek the repeal of the two sections follows a report in May 2011 by Ofcom, the U.K.'s communications regulator, which concluded that the measures would not work in practice. We do not think that sections 17 and 18 of the Act
would meet the requirements of the copyright owners, the report said.
It said using the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 through the courts was a faster and more efficient way to get sites blocked. The government said a few months later that it would not bring forward the site-blocking provisions.
Britain is, once again, looking at the possibility of applying pressure on internet users to filter out pornography, a policy loved by politicians and disliked by internet providers that, like a cat with a hairball, comes up every few months.