With steam coming out of my ears

Today was a terrible day for children in the UK and the Government is 100% to blame.

However, because of the drama and uproar over Brexit what the Government has done may struggle to get adequate attention in the media tomorrow and in the next few days. Some say that is precisely why the Government chose now to make the announcement.

Following a Manifesto pledge and publication of a Government Bill, Parliament said it wanted to inaugurate a system to compel commercial online pornography companies to introduce age verification so as to keep children off their sites.

The porn companies didn’t like it, tried to stop it, but the Government’s view prevailed. It became law in the Digtial Economy Act 2017.

Since then a new Regulator has been putting everything in place to ensure the policy works smoothly. They spent millions gearing up and they are ready to go now. Today.

The porn industry likewise spent millions getting ready. They are ready to go now. Today.

New age verification companies and older ones spent millions getting  ready. They are ready to go now. Today.

What did Secretary of State Nicky Morgan do today? She called a halt and kicked the whole thing into the long grass.

Morgan says the policy needs wrapping up with the response to the Online Harms White Paper (OHWP). This means nothing will happen for two, more likely three, or  even four years, conceivably more.

In other words Nicky Morgan has condemned Britain’s children to being exposed to horrific scenes of sexual violence for a further two, three, maybe four  or more years.

Morgan could havetaken a different course by laying the necessary orders before Parliament so they would become operative 40 days from now. She didn’t.

Once the policy was working, if adjustments needed to be made they could have been made as part of the roll out of OHWP but, no.

Weeks into her new job Morgan decides to ignore and override years of work done by other people with a huge amount of knowledge and expertise. You have to ask who got at her? And why?

This is an absolute disgrace. She must be persuaded to change her mind. The children’s organizations are livid and I imagine a lot of other people will be.

The press is already full of suggestions the Government  did this because it no longer thinks the policy will work.  Either someone in Government is briefing against the official policy – not unheard of – or it is the usual mischief makers indulging themselves. What a pity the Government gave them the opportunity.


About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Executive Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This was renewed in 2018. More: http://johncarrcv.blogspot.com
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