Legal threat to the UK’s Information Commissioner

This should not have been necessary, but I’m afraid it is.

We all know about the damage exposure to porngraphy does to children. There are no serious voices being raised against that proposition, particularly in view of the types of pornography which have become standard fare on the internet of late. Playboy centrefolds they are not.

Earlier this week we learned and saw documented another manifestation of this damage. Ofsted reported on the large scale sexual harrasment of girls taking place in schools and, commenting on it, the Chief Inspector was very clear when she said the Government needs to “look at… the ease with which children can access pornography“. In modern parlance that means porn on the internet. The Chief Inspector added that sexual harassment, including online sexual abuse, had become “normalised” for children and young people. How did it ever come to this?

To borrow a phrase from the Venerable Gail Dines, girls in school have become victims of the “pornification” of our culture. The internet has played a decisive part, not the only part, but a decisive one, in helping create these lamentable conditions.

We all know children, often very young children, are accessing porn sites in gigantic numbers, either driven by natural curiosity or by accident. The porn sites know this. But they continue to receive and process children’s data with the entirely predictable result that this helps draw children back to them time and again. You cannot separate the fact of unlawful data processing from its consequences. This is not a theological or wholly abstract offence.

The porn sites are fully aware

Despite being fully aware of this the porn sites take zero meaningful steps to prevent children gaining access. This was why, in June 2020, I wrote to the UK’s Information Commissioner asking her to call them to account. The Commissioner declined giving what was, in my view, a political answer not a legal one.

Maybe I should have pursued it at the time but the fearless souls at CEASE have taken up the cudgels. Please see their letter threatening legal action and their plea for financial support. I hope you can help.

The CEASE letter quotes my correspondence and the Commissioner’s reply. Here is my original and the reply. And my reply to the reply.

There is something not quite right about a country (us), rightfully proud of being the first in the world to adopt an “Age Appropriate Design Code, putting it under the aegis of the Information Commissioner only then to be told it was not intended to help with stuff that is unarguably age inappropiate.

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 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. More: http://johncarrcv.blogspot.com
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