Government plans to block internet pornography at source, amid concerns about the premature sexualisation of children, have prompted a fierce backlash from digital rights campaigners. The proposals have also highlighted how the debate
around children and sexual material is increasingly shaped by religious conservatives.
One of the organisations quoted extensively over the last few days is Safermedia, a pressure group campaigning to reduce the harmful effects of the media on our children, families and society .
Safermedia, formerly known as Mediamarch, supports the porn lock proposals and its spokespeople claim academic research substantiates their view that sexual imagery harms children's mental health. But their moral stance is an explicitly
Christian one – the group's co-founder Miranda Suit is an organiser for the Christian People's Alliance, and its website cites Saint Paul's epistles to the Philippians and the Ephesians as inspiration for the campaign.
The UK Government is push for ISPs to block internet pornography unless parents request it.
The biggest broadband providers, including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, are being called to a meeting next month by Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, and will be asked to change how pornography gets into homes.
Instead of using parental controls to stop access to pornography - so-called opting out - the tap will be turned off at source. Adults will then have to opt in.
It follows the success of an operation by most British internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent people inadvertently viewing child porn websites. Ministers want companies to use similar technology to shut out adult pornography from children.
TalkTalk is already introducing a new free service early next year called bright feed, which allows people to control the internet so that all devices are automatically covered without the need to set up individual controls.
Homeowners can either specify which adult sites they want to receive or put a cinema-style classification on their feed to restrict what is received according to age ranges, such as U, 12 or 18.
Vaizey said: This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children. I'm hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye
on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.
Claire Perry, the Tory MP for Devizes and a keen lobbyist for more restrictions, said: Unless we show leadership, the internet industry is not going to self-regulate. The minister has said he will get the ISPs together and say, 'Either you
clean out your stables or we are going to do it for you'. There is this very uneasy sense for parents of children that we do not have to tolerate this Wild West approach. We are not coming at this from an anti-porn perspective. We just want to
make sure our children aren't stumbling across things we don't want them to see.
Previously the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) has told MPs that such a blanket ban would be expensive and technically difficult to operate.
But Miranda Suit, co-founder of the political 'charity' Safermedia, which held a conference on internet porn at the Commons last month, said: Technically we know it can be done because the ISPs are already removing child porn after the
government put pressure on them. In the past, internet porn was regarded as a moral issue or a matter of taste. Now it has become a mental health issue because we now know the damage it is causing. We are seeing perverse sexual behavior among
children. Legislation is both justifiable and feasible.
On 22 November, Safermedia's Conference takes place on The Harm that Pornography Does. This has partly arisen out of research, done for the Home Office in February this year, in response to growing concern in the UK
about how the media is contributing to the increased sexualisation of our children.
The Home Office Report, Sexualisation of Young People Review , was carried out by London Metropolitan University psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who argues that the growing prevalence of sexualised images in
magazines, television, mobile phones and computer games is having a damaging effect on children and young people.
Offsite Update: The need for [charity prohibited] Regulatory Reform
Pippa began by saying that pornography has become such a problem in so many areas of public life, such as rape and sexual violence, addiction, trafficking and prostitution, sexually transmitted disease etc., that it had
become a public health issue. She went on to say how the internet was key, it was a vital part of our economy now but that something needed to be done about the dark side and that was why we were calling for internet regulation. She discussed the
ease of accessibility, especially via mobile phones and how there was still a long way to go with the technical options for protection.
Miranda spoke of our aims to protect good mental and physical health, with a view also to reducing crime. Our new charitable Aims and Objectives are available on the Charity Commission website (Reg. No. 1138360). We also
have new leaflets available on request. We are committed to seeing media that encourages safe and healthy behaviour. Pornography is undermining this to such an extent that it requires urgent action by central Government. A sealed envelope was
handed to all delegates, containing explicit descriptions of mainstream internet pornography (taken from Pornland by Gail Dines), which is easily available at a few clicks of the mouse, by adults or children. It is far more perverse and
potentially harmful than typical pornography of previous decades, as it involves extreme degradation and physical discomfort, pain and violence against women. Arguments about freedom of speech and artistic expression are therefore very
outdated regarding pornography.
The report also has a post conference note:
The Conference has come at a time when there is growing concern about internet pornography, and we are delighted that Claire Perry MP was so concerned that on the following evening she held an Adjournment Debate in
Parliament strongly urging that UK-based internet service providers (ISPs) should implement an opt-in age verification system to gain access to internet pornography (i.e. the default setting would filter out all porn, and users would have to
apply to ISPs to have porn restored).
The Minister Rt Hon Ed Vaisey MP was sympathetic to the problem of children accessing pornographic, and worse, material on the internet and will be holding a meeting with ISPs and interested parties and charities like ours,
so we hope to be involved.
Safermedia's Open Letter on this issue, which will be sent to a national newspaper in the near future, has gathered a number of prominent signatories. Post-publication it will be put on our website so that supporters can add
their own name to show the strength of public concern. One aim of our campaign is to seek a wide consensus among interested professionals from academia, the therapeutic community, education, charities, medicine, the police etc. in order to press for change
A new charity, SaferMedia, has been launched to combat the menace of the sexualisation of society.
Its demands for cleaning up the internet are likely to be fed into an official government review of sexualisation in childhood later this year.
Around 70 delegates from a range of concerned organisations met in the Grand Committee Room at Westminster for the launch on Monday. Speakers included Pamela Paul, author of Pornified, John Woods, a consultant
psychotherapist at the Portman Clinic and Nola Leach, chief executive of Christian charity CARE.
The message put forward was broadly unaminous. Pornography, speakers claimed, is harmful in and of itself. It harms relationships by leading men to objectify women, and by acting as a massive drain on time available for
commitment. It was the enemy of intimacy, creating unsustainable expectations of female sexuality. This was even before one took account of the effects of porn addiction.
A charitable Melon Farmers reader wrote with an impish suggestion:
I have in my hot sweaty hand one of their new leaflets and they are making the same mistake that many unpopular charities and organisations make in that they are offering to send out leaflets for their supporters to distribute ( as its
vital to reach as many people as possible ) and are only asking for a donation (which of course you are not obliged to give).... they also offer other ways for their supporters to help them such as writing to my MP, Hosting a talk
in my area and to pray for Safermedia (aaaaw bless them)
Perhaps the Safermedia leaflets could be put to better use by donating them to a real charity that collects wastepaper for a good cause.
Anyway.... the address to ask for leaflets is: Safermedia, PO Box 1046, Bromley BR1 9PF
Safermedia. previously Mediamarch have been given charity status. They proclaim:
We are pleased to announce that safermedia has now officially received a registered charitable status, a number(1138360) and a page on the Charity Commission website.
Since when did trying to get people locked up in prison for looking at sex become something charitable?
Letters: What's so charitable about inflicting censorship on those that don't want it?
2nd November 2010, thanks to Shaun
Shaun asked the Charity Commission: Why have these people being given charitable status? and suggesting that the decision should be urgently reviewed.
The Charity Commission replied:
Safermedia has been registered with us on the basis of the trusts stated within a Trust Deed dated 23 September 2010. when objects of organisations are stated in exclusively charitable format and it has charitable
activities, we can put it in our register.
This organisation met the criteria for registration. Our website includes details of the criteria used to determine registration as a charity. We could only review our decision if a full case was made as to how this
particular registration was actually contrary to the criteria.
Shaun was hardly impressed, and replied:
Thank you for your reply.
After reading it I am completely at a loss! I've got no idea what is truly charitable about wanting to demand the imposition of censorship on other freeborn (?) British people, especially when such demands (in my opinion)
seem to stem from forms of ignorance and religious hysteria regarding the effect of modern media in the UK rather than any proper unbiased rational research. I refer back to the activities of these people under their former name of these people
which is MediaMarch .
Perhaps you would be good enough to explain what exactly it is they do, which can at all be considered charitable? How do people at large benefit from their activities other than losing their legal right to decide what they
are free to view in the media ?
I must say, I strongly RESENT the fact that SaferMedia, can demand extra media restrictions be legally imposed ON ME and do that under the auspices of charitable status. This is NOT charity.
manifesto [under their former name MediaMarch] they cite public outcry! What public outcry I ask? The actual truth really is that many many people in fact DON'T want their so called standards to be
imposed on everyone else, and I REFUSE to accept that to demand such a thing is in anyway charitable.
Is it that the Charities Commission gives every group with an axe to grind with other areas of society, charitable status, so that they can have a cheaper platform upon which they can air their grievances and public demands
for legal change ?
Can I please have such a status, because I am sick to death of overly strict censorship compared with other countries in the EU, who have not found it necessary to impose present levels of censorship let alone those
demanded by SaferMedia?
Would that also be charitable? I would assert it would at least be MORE charitable as people would benefit though greater freedom.
It is also very questionable why you allowed such a status to these people, when you totally refused MediaWatch UK (formerly the National Viewers and Listeners Association ) a similar status only a few of years ago,
apparently after they tried to gain charitable status more than once. That organisation demands similar censorious action but is considerably more benign than is MediaMarch to my knowledge.
I would not have agreed with such a decision in the case of MediaWatch UK either, but at least I would be more assured that decisions made by the Charities Commission were consistent. They seem anything but this. Why one
and not the other ?
Update: Safermedia is a public benefit!
7th November 2010, thanks to Shaun
T he Charity Commission replied to further queries from Shaun:
The decision made to register Safermedia was analogous to the decision made regarding the Internet Content Rating Association as was made by the Charity Commissioners in 2002. Details of this Decision are available upon our
website, which sets out the reasoning for accepting this and similar organisations as being charitable.
We cannot comment on the decision made regarding Mediawatch UK as we only have a brief mention on our records of such an organisation which was created in 2001 but no actual registration case records remain, (if they were
ever submitted to us). We cannot therefore comment on any previous application for registration, if this was indeed ever made.
To be charitable an organisation must have aims which fall within the charitable purposes as set out in the Charities Act 2006 and be for the public benefit, which it demonstrates through its activities. Further information
is available upon our
website registration pages .
If you are not now satisfied with our response, you may be interested in the information contained on the following page in relation to our
complaints procedure .
Shaun asks the Charity Commission how exactly does the public benefit from the activities of SaferMedia?:
Thank you for your reply. However I remain far from satisfied with the situation or the replies, and I hope you will forgive me for that. Perhaps this further email will make my reasons for complaining so strongly much
clearer to you.
I fail to see how any comparison between the Internet Content Rating Association, (ICRA) and SaferMedia can begin to be made. Unlike SaferMedia, the ICRA does NOT seek to persuade lawmakers to legally restrict the media
choices which can be made by adults, only to empower them with greater control mechanisms over what material adults and/or their children might see online. It does not seek to influence what is, and is not legal for anyone to see. They do not
seek have anything restrictive imposed on anyone.
SaferMedia, on the other hand might initially seem to have similar aims but it has a very strong policy of demanding that lawmakers in this country impose increasing and draconian restrictions on the media choices of
adults, using the co-ercive mechanisms of CENSORSHIP and PROHIBITION, with the threat of imprisonment for transgression. I simply do not see how the two are at all similar, or how SaferMedia can be regarded as any kind of charity. They are of
course perfectly entitled to their opinions on what should be allowed and the expression of those, which I would strongly regard as *political* rather than at all charitable. As a freeborn British individual I object most strongly to the threat
of their interference with our freedoms in this way. The viewing of contentious material, by adults, in any free country should and indeed MUST be regarded as a decision they can make for themselves not one to be imposed on everyone by legal
coercion and prohibition.
Had SaferMedia expressed aims similar to IRCA then I would have no problem with their charitable status. For example if SaferMedia sought the availability of improved parental control mechanisms on modern media such as DVD
and BluRay, and on modern broadcasting systems such as Sky, Freeview, FreeSat and cable, I would have no objection. But that *isn't* their remit. Indeed, were they to support such technical advances, it would detract from their aim of censorship
by giving lawmakers a good reason NOT to impose the restrictions they seek! Their remit is to persuade lawmakers to legally restrict visual material available to ADULTS via CENSORSHIP and PROHIBITION. Could you at least answer why that alone is
regarded as at all charitable ? Especially given that this seems to be the sole extent of their activities! Some quite recent research shows that such restriction causes MORE harm rather than less. If that is true, (and the evidence is quite
strong that it is) then how does the public benefit from the activities of SaferMedia ? Why should such campaigning as this be able to benefit from charitable status, and tax free donations, at the expense of the tax payer, which I am one ?
That other similar charity, the Internet Watch Foundation, which provides lists of illegal websites to ISPs also does not seek to influence what is to be classed as illegal, and restricts access to child abuse images
already illegal and clearly proven to be harmful. It too makes no statement about what else should be restricted. In any case such a thing really is a matter for politicians not for charities. An opinion of course can be expressed, but is the
expression of such opinion and the demand they be legally imposed on others, at all charitable in the absence of other beneficial activities carried out ? Somehow I do not think so and I do not find that answer from the web links you have
Update: The Safermedia campaign for stronger obscenity laws is political not charitable
Organisations with a political purpose: In order to be a charity, an organisation must have purposes which are charitable and for the public benefit.
>>> An organisation with a political purpose, such as promoting a change in the law, legally cannot be a charity. This applies even if the organisation has other purposes which are charitable. This would
involve looking at 'political' questions, which neither we nor the courts are in a position to answer. Constitutionally, it is not possible for the Charity Commission or the Courts to make decisions about whether a change in the law or
Government policy would be for the public benefit. However, organisations which are established to ensure that the law is observed, for example respecting certain fundamental human rights, will not automatically fall within this definition. This
is a complex area and we will explore with charities established for the advancement of human rights, the boundaries of this particular charitable purpose in relation to campaigning and political activity.
Isn't demanding a change in the law, *exactly* what SaferMedia are ALL about? If so, the guidance clearly states they are not a charity.
From SaferMedia's Manifesto page on their web site:
We therefore call on concerned members of the public, of all faiths or of no faith, young or old, of all cultures, to join together and to provoke the political will of Parliament to strengthen Britain's obscenity laws.
Perhaps other readers might wish to make the same complaint as I have, citing the above Charity Commission criteria and SaferMedia's manifesto which appear to be in clear conflict with that criteria.
Have the Charity Commission been conned I wonder?
Update: Charity status to be reviewed
12th November 2010, thanks to Shaun
Shaun received the short note from the Charity Commission
In light of the further information which you have provided, I have referred this matter to our final Decision Coordinator to consider whether we should consider a Decision Review.
It seems that "SaferMedia" have got wind of my complaint to the Charities Commission, as their "manifesto" page has been re-written. At the same time as the Charities Commission have just informed me they are taking a look
whether they need to review their decision. The page now seems more benign, but does a leopard change their spots ?
There is an ever increasing range of films, videos, TV and radio programmes, plays, computer games, books, magazines, music, adverts and internet web sites which masquerade as realistic , harmless or entertaining
. Yet they feature brutal violence, explicit sexual activity - including perversion - nudity and all kinds of bad language. Incredibly, nearly all of this is condoned by the regulatory bodies; films and videos are merely classified,
broadcasting licences are readily granted to TV channels despite programme content, and the other material is published or shown with impunity.
Time for Grass Roots Action
Whilst there is still time, ordinary citizens of this democratic nation must demand that the media be reclaimed for our children and our society. Despite the numerous public bodies that have spoken out over past years, the
situation continues to deteriorate. We therefore call on concerned members of the public, of all faiths or of no faith, young or old, of all cultures, to join together and to provoke the political will of Parliament to strengthen Britain's
obscenity laws. Let the government and all political parties be absolutely clear that we will not sit idly by while our children, our families, our society and our cultures are corrupted and stolen from us. Verbal and written representations at
all levels will continue to be made by mediamarch. However, this situation is now so grave that we all have no alternative but to heighten the level of public protest at every possible opportunity.
The protection of good mental and physical health, in particular of children and young people, by working in accordance with Christian values to minimise the availability of potentially harmful media content displaying
violence, pornography and explicit sex, bad language and anti-social behaviour and the portrayal of drugs, and with a view to the reduction of crime by;
C) monitoring media content for compliance with established national guidelines and standards required by the law and seeking strengthening of these guidelines and standards as necessary in the light of academic research.
Update: Charity status being reviewed
27th November 2010, thanks to Shaun
Shaun had an email back to say that the Charities Commission apparently ARE looking into the activities of SaferMedia and considering their status. IE it's moved up another level.
safermedia (formerly known as mediamarch) is a voluntary group seeking to reduce the harmful effects of the media on our children, families and society. Our dream is to see the media influencing people positively to create
a safer and happier society for everyone