Party in a pickle over porn. What were the Federal Conference Committee thinking? #talknottech #ldconf

I was pleased that the party was going to be discussing online pornography, its effect on children and what to do about it at its conference. Here was the chance to get some sensible, evidence based policy made on a subject that the Daily Mail could write rubbish about forever.

The motion, however, didn’t fill me with joy. It recognises that there is an issue with easy access to online pornography, but the approach it takes is a technological one. No doubt it’ll be presented as radical because it’s not going to force filters on everybody, as David Cameron wants, but wants an opt-in system instead. Wow!

And the bit that’s really important is tacked on at the end, almost as if it’s an afterthought. We need decent education, as Nick Clegg said himself last week, in every single school, that tackles these issues and helps children and young people build resilience against the hyper-sexualised environment in which they are growing up. That should be the centrepiece of what we’re doing. Filters are not going to help. I’ve written before about why I wouldn’t have them in this house. I simply will not trust any software or ISP to determine what I can or can’t watch. Especially when they block out that den of iniquity that is Mark Pack’s blog. And even if one house has filters, can you guarantee that your child won’t be viewing porn from someone else’s smartphone or home internet? Also, I want anyone in my house to be able to access websites on sexual health, or LGBT support which are often blocked by filters.

The most horrendous bit of the motion was the bit that required verifiable proof of age to visit a pornographic website. The thing is, a remote bit of software can analyse and verify information sent to it. What it can’t do is see who is inputting that information. So your 11 year old son could nick your passport and pass all your most personal information onto some dodgy pornster.

So I was almost pleased when James Shaddock and Alisdair McGregor put in what I thought was a very sensible amendment exploring this further. I felt it didn’t properly recognise how much damage exposure to porn could do, but it was much better than the motion. Crucially, it also had the backing of LGBT+ Lib Dems and Liberal Youth. It said:

ii) Human sexuality is a normal and healthy part of life and growing up which young people need
to be supported through, not simply protected from.
iii) Explicit material can be a vital part of self-exploration and help for young people on topics,
including sexuality, gender identity, abuse, eating disorders and suicide.
iv) Government proposals on internet traffic restrictions must be technologically feasible, reasonable
in extent, not unduly burdensome to internet service providers, and must respect civil liberties,
privacy and freedom of expression.
Delete lines 19-24 and replace with:
a) The connection between sexualisation of young people and access to pornography is a complex
one without clear correlation or causation. Issues and actions often attributed to the Internet have root causes in offline behaviour, with very little academic basis to support otherwise.
b) relying on ISP level technological filters to prevent young people accessing inappropriate material
will not be effective if an adult in the same household chooses to deactivate the filter
c) Automated filters are proven to be imperfect and are known to regularly categorise many legitimate websites providing advice for young people as inappropriate
Delete lines 26-27 and replace with:
1. Work with internet and mobile service providers to better promote their existing filtering methods while ensuring safeguards against misuse of access to information in line with our previous commitments.
Delete lines 28-31 and renumber clause 4 (lines 32-33) as clause 2 accordingly.
Delete lines 34-35 and replace with:
3. Ensure that teaching about the dangers of the internet and the different views of sex provided by a wide range of pornography and human experience form part of sex education teaching.
At the end, add:
4. Support moves by the adult entertainment industry that allow for more positive portrayals of various consensual sexual fantasies and acts.

I don’t know for sure what caused the Federal Conference Committee to reject this amendment. My educated guess would be that the thought of what the Daily Mail would have to say, or scream, about it scared them. We have never been scared of the Fail before, and if we’re going to start changing our behaviour now, when we’re actually in a position to do something, we are letting a whole generation of kids down. It does sound a bit like State Funded Porn,which is a horrible thought,  but I actually think that it would have been working with the industry in the same way that Jo Swinson and Lynne Featherstone have worked with magazines on airbrushing, to try to cut down on the misogyny.

Well, anyway, we could have had  separate vote on that bit and got rid of it. If we’d wanted.

The truly bizarre thing is that the amendment that was selected is, incredibly, even worse than the main motion. It imposes a bulky bureaucracy that will have very little effect and, does not prioritise education. Why are we thinking that we can just leave it to machines and technology to sort out our warped and unhealthy attitude to sex?

I really don’t see why FCC couldn’t have picked both amendments so that we could have had a rounded debate. Why did they not give Conference a proper choice?

As it stands, neither motion nor amendment is, in my opinion, anywhere close to where we need to be. If Shaddock/McGregor amendment is not restored on appeal, I will be putting my efforts behind referring the matter back to Federal Policy Committee to come up with something practically and technologically literate with education and dealing with our sexualised culture at its core. If that fails, then I will be voting against both amendment and motion.Yes, it would cause difficulties to have no policy when the Government is going to act on this in the next few months. I would rather have no policy than one that is so terribly wrong-headed.

We need talk not tech to tackle the menacing influences our young people face. If you agree,will you help me spread the word in Glasgow?

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About caronlindsay

Scottish Lib Dem pro UK activist, mum, Doctor Who, Strictly, F1 and trashy tv addict and blogger.
This entry was posted in Pornography, Sex education, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Party in a pickle over porn. What were the Federal Conference Committee thinking? #talknottech #ldconf

  1. Paul Walter says:

    Yes. I'll have to re-read the amendment, but the motion certainly is totally muddled and wrong-headed. As you say, this is crying out for a proper FCC sponsored team to work on a coherent policy. Totally agree, and in my humbled way, I will try to spread this message.

    Like

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