Melon Farmers Original Version

UK Government Watch

2011: Oct-Dec

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24th December   

Update: Tory Taliban...

David Cameron goes to war against anything remotely sexy
Link Here
Full story: Reg Bailey Report...Mothers Union boss pens governement report

Businesses have been warned that they face new rules to tackle what the Prime Minister has described as the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.

The Prime Minister will hold meetings early in the new year with retailers and advertisers to put a spotlight on their conduct, whatever that means. If voluntary codes of conduct fail to do enough to protect children, ministers are threatening to legislate and impose new laws.

In a letter to business leaders inviting them to meet the Prime Minister, Sarah Teather, the children's minister, warned that companies must demonstrate the real difference they are making for families . She said: The Prime Minister and I will expect to see concrete progress and for this to feel real and meaningful to parents and children.

The letter, seen by The Daily Telegraph, sets out a detailed list of reforms that ministers want to see introduced over the next 10 months, including:

  • Children under the age of 16 must not be used as brand ambassadors or in peer to peer marketing campaigns. A voluntary ban is already under way but Teather said: The industry needs to do further work to ensure that this is strongly enforced.
  • A nationwide ban on outdoor advertising that uses sexualised images . A voluntary ban already exists on advertising near schools but ministers want firms to go further. Teather suggested a ban on outdoor advertisements using sexualised images could be required. She said: Children go to more places than just their school and see advertising everywhere they go. If an advertisement is not acceptable close to a school, is it acceptable anywhere?
  • So-called lads' magazines and newspapers with sexualised images on their covers must not be in easy view of children in shops. A code of practice already exists for newsagents and retailers. However, application of the code is very patchy and there are many shops, including many well-known high street names where these magazines and newspapers are very clearly visible to children, Teather said: There is no reason these magazines could not be sold bagged or shelved behind modesty boards provided by publishers and wholesalers and we expect to see a great deal of progress on this issue.
  • Age ratings for music videos could be introduced as a result of a Department for Culture, Media and Sport consultation. [This may be interesting, the government may find that most of the supposedly child devasting Rihanna videos may turn out to be no more than 12 rated, with even the most sexy being 15 rated rather than the assumed 18].


9th December   

Crossing Safety...

Government announce doubling of penalties for transphobic hate crimes
Link Here

The announcement of a national initiative to protect the transgender community and build on existing rights - combined with greater penalties for transphobic hate crimes - is likely to be broadly welcomed: but the real proof will be in what is eventually delivered.

That is the verdict of Jane Fae, writer and sexual rights activist, commenting on the launch of new Home Office commitments in Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action .

Jane said:

This document both recognises the disadvantage that members of the trans community live and work under, and sets out a series of steps that should, in time, go a long way to rectifying those.

The Home Office -- and in particular, Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, MP - are to be congratulated on advancing such a wide-ranging initiative. Nonetheless, trans men and women will be watching carefully.

The past record of governments, both Labour and Conservative, has been patchy, with much promised -- and the execution not quite matching up to that promise.

This time, it is likely the community will be looking to hold government to those promises.

Jane also welcomed moves by the Ministry of Justice to double the penalty for transpghobic hate crimes. She said:

Members of the trans community are frequently targets of vicious and violent hate crimes. This move sends a clear message to would-be perpetrators.


2nd December   

Out of Context...

Journalists warned not to assume that reporting parliamentary proceedings is protected by the 1840 Parliamentary Papers Act
Link Here

The Government's chief legal officer has warned the Press against reporting speeches in Parliament out of context .

Journalists could face jail or fines if their accounts of what MPs say in the Commons are not considered fair and accurate, Attorney General Dominic Grieve suggested.

Grieve's caution to the Press is the first time in more than 170 years that the free reporting and discussion of debates in the House of Commons and Lords has come under threat from a Government.

The right of the public to know what is said in Parliament was enshrined in the 1840 Parliamentary Papers Act. This gives legal privileges to the parliamentary report, Hansard. The privilege has always been assumed to extend to newspapers and broadcasters who report Parliament, but no test case has even been heard by the courts.

The Attorney General's intervention follows a row earlier this year over privacy injunctions and the way MPs and peers used parliamentary legal privilege to name individuals who had been promised by the courts that their sexual adventures would remain secret. A report on privacy by senior judges then suggested that there was no firm legal protection for the reporting of Parliament and that journalists who stepped out of line might face punishment.

Grieve added: This question has yet to be authoritatively decided but will shortly be considered further by Parliament. But in the interim -- writer beware!


20th November   

Offsite: Scotland's Football Problem...

Scotland: football hate law confused and unneccessary
Link Here

Scottish football seems to be embroiled in an endless battle to overcome the sectarian undertones that stain it. Although it has been claimed that the propensity of sectarian discrimination is a myth unsupported by evidence, the popular perception is that a problem exists and that more action is required to eradicate it.

...Read the full article


15th November   


Consultation on Stalking
Link Here

The Home Office has started a consultation on amending laws applying to stalking. There is particular emphasis on ensuring that laws stay up to date with cyberstalking as communication technologies evolve.

Hopefully not so relevant to Melon Farming causes, but widely defined laws targeted at stalking could well intrude on censorship issues. Particularly those drawing the lines of acceptable levels of insults, trolling etc.


10th November   

Offsite: Foreign Office of Communications...

Scotland seeks greater influence over broadcasting policy
Link Here

Fiona Hyslop the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs at the Scottish Parliament was interviewed on ATV Today about broadcasting in the country.

ATV Today: What powers does the Scottish Government have over media organisations that are based and / or broadcast in Scotland?

Fiona Hyslop: Powers over Broadcasting are almost entirely reserved to the UK Parliament and Government. The Scottish Government is seeking greater influence over broadcasting policy and has made a submission to the UK Government in an attempt to have this recognised in the Scotland Bill.

ATV Today: Would you ever consider trying to implement a regulatory body to control the media and get rid of the existing governance from OFCOM and the PCC?

Fiona Hyslop: There is significant difference between regulation and 'control'. We would ensure that appropriate regulation is in place for the media sector in an independent Scotland, as it is in other European nations such as Ireland, Finland and Denmark.

...Read the full interview


29th October   

Update: Opting Out of ISP Level Website Blocking...

ISPs clarify that their approach to website blocking is to ensure that parents are well informed about free blocking software that may be used on home computers
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The UK's four major Internet Service Providers have published a Code of Practice, putting the decision on what to block in parents' hands. Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk and Sky, said they believed parents are best-placed to decide whether to turn controls on, and to decide what types of content and applications to block, rather than having those decisions made for them by internet firms.

The Code commits them to educating parents about content controls but does not require them to provide ISP level blocking. Instead the code commits its signatory ISPs to teaching parents about the availability of parental controls, providing tools free of charge to filter access to the internet at the point of purchase and reminding customers of the blocking tools at their disposal at least once a year.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said he was pleased to see the industry taking action to help parents protect their children online . He said:

The new code of conduct is a real, practical step to ensure households make a choice about parental controls when opening a new internet account.

The Children's Minister Tim Loughton added:

Parents are quite rightly concerned about their children accessing harmful or inappropriate content online. But many parents don't always know how to activate parental controls at home. That's why it's important they are asked to make a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want parental controls switched on or off.


18th October   

Update: Blocking Practicality...

Commentators point out the impracticalities of ISP level 'one size fits all' website blocking
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Adult content filters can't replace good parenting

See  article from by Corry Doctrow

The government's proposed web controls are too simplistic when it comes to understanding and filtering adult material

Last week's announcement of a national scheme to block adult content at the point of subscription (as the BBC's website had it) was a moment of mass credulity on the part of the nation's media, and an example of how complex technical questions and hot-button save-the-children political pandering are a marriage made in hell when it comes to critical analysis in the press.

Under No 10's proposal, the UK's major ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, will invite new subscribers to opt in or out of an adult content filter. But for all the splashy reporting on this that dominated the news cycle, no one seemed to be asking exactly what adult content is, and how the filters' operators will be able to find and block it.

Adult content covers a lot of ground. While the media of the day kept mentioning pornography in this context, existing adult filters often block gambling sites and dating sites (both subjects that are generally considered adult but aren't anything like pornography), while others block information about reproductive health and counselling services aimed at GBLT teens (gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender).

Then there's the problem of sites that have a wide variety of content, such as the venerable LiveJournal, which contains millions of personal and shared diaries. Some of these have material that children, especially small children, shouldn't see, but others don't. Is LiveJournal an adult site? It is, at least according to some filters.

...Read the full article

Britain's broadband censors: a bunch of students

See  article from by Nicole Kobie

McAfee creates blacklists of online content, categorising sites in order to let ISPs block them. BT and Sky use McAfee's lists for their parental controls, which a new Government-sponsored code of conduct requires them to offer to all customers.

The overall process is mostly automated, with McAfee's system looking for keywords on a site to classify it. Toralv Dirro, a security strategist at McAfee's Avert labs told PC Pro. If there's any doubt, we do have a team of people that take a look at a website and correct a classification if it's necessary. The team responsible for covering McAfee's customers worldwide is made up of between five to ten people. I think it's a fairly popular job for students, Dirro said.

However, he admits the very sites the small team is asked to judge are those that are the most subjective. Drawing the line between erotic and hardcore pornography is probably the most difficult, he said. Another thing is websites that go into extreme left or right side [politically], but still do news or something like that.

Dirro admitted there can be difficulties when a mainstream site features material that could be deemed pornographic to some people. Maybe they had pornographic or erotic stuff on their site, which for example could happen with a newspaper site, if they have the 'Page 3' picture of a woman on the front page. Normally, the entire site would be banned, not only the offending page. However larger sites such as The Sun have markers to prevent them from being slotted into a category and subsequently blocked.

There's no way you can obtain the complete list from us, Dirro said, adding McAfee would never publish the full list for intellectual property reasons. If you published that list, anyone could just take it and use it and create their own products.

If a site has been wrongly categorised, which Dirro admitted does happen, the site owner can open a ticket with support to get it changed. If McAfee refuses to change it, there's not really much that a site can do, Dirro admitted.

...Read the full article

EFF Criticises UK Government over Gambling Filter Plans

From by Mark Bennett

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is criticising the UK government for its plans on internet filtering. In conjunction with the Christian organization Mothers' Union, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has enacted a plan with four of Britain's major ISPs, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin, and Sky, to block access to pornography, gambling, self-harm, and other blacklisted websites.

The EFF claims that the plan lacks transparency. The blocked categories are vague in nature, and the list's origins unknown. Not only do the categories contain legal content in some cases, but there is significant room for overblocking.

The EFF also suggests opt-in services create privacy concerns. Users who choose to opt out of the bad content filter are then on one list. The plan does not in include privacy protections for the people who choose to opt out. The list could potentially be made public, shaming users who would prefer their Internet with its pornography, gambling, and self-harm websites intact.


12th October   

Update: Filtering Out Spin...

ISPs don't seem to talking from the same hymn sheet as David Cameron re website blocking
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

As widely reported yesterday the four biggest ISPs said they have come up with a code of practice re website blocking and parental controls.

However this does not quite mean that ISPs are automatically blocking pornographic sites, and customers who wish to see such content do not have to ask their provider for permission to do so.

In fact what the ISPs said is something a little different. For example BT said in a statement:

The ISPs have committed to improve the way they communicate to customers, enabling parents to make simple and well-informed choices about installing and activating parental controls and other measures to protect children online. The four ISPs are working with parents' groups and children's charities on this important initiative and will continue to do so.

The ISPs are offering a wider range of services, not just the automatic blocking facility that has caught the attention.

All four ISPs already offer controls, and some of their users already have the feature turned on. The only change is that new customers can no longer sidestep the activation decision. A spokesperson for TalkTalk said: This is called 'active choice' rather than an opt-in or opt-out.  

In the cases of BT, Sky and Virgin Media, the parental control software is PC-based rather than network-based, and comes on the CD new customers need to set up their connection. BT said it plans to remind existing customers that they can activate the parental controls if they wish. This will be PC software provided by the security company McAfee.

TalkTalk goes a step further, in that it uses a network-level blocking system called HomeSafe, which has already raised the ire of anti-censorship campaigners. HomeSafe has blocked one million websites since its introduction in May, TalkTalk said in a statement, adding it hopes to see other ISPs follow its lead with network-level measures.

However, a spokesman for BT said the company is not convinced these screen material as effectively as PC-based controls, at this time . They could prove irritating and end up being unused, because they are inflexible and do not offer the versatility of PC-based controls, the spokesman told ZDNet UK.


11th October   

Update: ParentPort...

UK government to solve all society's ills with internet blocking and a website for parental complaints
Link Here
Full story: Reg Bailey Report...Mothers Union boss pens governement report

The government has set up a website for parents, guardians and carers to either complain about something they see as inappropriate for children, or else just to pass on their opinions.

The website points out that it is only for parents, guardians and carers, so it will inevitably be one sided ,and now doubt pander to those who shout loudest about the easiest offence.

Complaints to ParentPort will be allocated to the appropriate censors who are taking part, namely:

  • ASA
  • BBC Trust
  • BBFC
  • Ofcom
  • Press Complaints Commission
  • VSC

David Cameron in a press release said:

Parents will be able to report products, television programmes or other services which promote images of a sexual or risque nature to young children to a new whistleblowing website

The move also comes as the four big ISPs reveal that they will in future offer customers an active choice, at the point of purchase, of blocking adult content.  Subscribers to BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin who do not opt in will have no access to internet porn. There is no mention of the specifications of what will be blocked yet.

Advertising near schools will also be more restricted. Billboards which show sexy images will be banned from close proximity to schools.

There will also be attempt to stop brand ambassadors with ministers saying that they are determined to try and halt the way social media can get to young impressionable children. Apparently some big companies, in the wake of crackdowns on traditional advertising of certain products to children, have turned to paying children small sums to promote sugary soft drinks and other products through social networking sites and playground chat.

And if this is not enough, as it surely won't be,  Cameron is expected to warn that he is prepared to act if companies do not do more to halt the sexualisation of children.


2nd October   

Update: Talk of Selfish!...

Theresa May would like to drop human rights because one of them causes her problems
Link Here
Full story: Human Rights Act...Government for curtailing human rights

Home Secretary Theresa May has used an interview with The Sunday Telegraph to warn that the Human Rights Act is hampering the Home Office's struggle to deport dangerous foreign criminals and terrorist suspects. She said:

I'd personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have had some problems with it,

I see it, here in the Home Office, particularly, the sort of problems we have in being unable to deport people who perhaps are terrorist suspects. Obviously we've seen it with some foreign criminals who are in the UK." The Coalition has set up a commission of human rights experts to report on the possibility of bringing in a British Bill of Rights to replace the Act by the end of next year.

The Home Secretary's words will be cheered by many Conservatives. However, they are likely to be greeted with dismay by leading Liberal Democrats, some of whom have signalled the future of the Coalition would be under threat if any serious action was taken against the Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.

At last month's Liberal Democrat conference, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, was loudly cheered by his party's activists as he declared: Let me say something really clear about the Human Rights Act. In fact I'll do it in words of one syllable: It is here to stay.

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