by Stephen Tall on September 21, 2013
Lib Dem party member, Winchester
Reason: for urging adults to talk to kids about pornography not rely on technical filtering
For much of this week I’ve been cocooned in the bubble of the Lib Dem party conference in Glasgow. For the last couple of years, the party has felt like it’s stuck in some kind of suspended animation, frozen by the decision it took to enter Coalition. This year felt different: the party was starting to look forward (albeit with trepidation) to the 2015 general election.
That meant plenty of meaty decisions were up for grabs. It’s become a truism that the Lib Dems are the only major party still willing to hold a proper public debate on controversial issues and allow party members democratically to decide the result. That pride can be over-done – the debates aren’t always top-quality and machine politics still decides many of the votes – but it can also be under-estimated.
After all, which other party would be willing to debate the risks of online pornography and how you respond to legitimate concerns in a liberal way? That’s what happened this week, though. A motion was proposed that would automatically filter out websites deemed to contain ‘adult’ content unless and until the adult paying the bills opted into allowing it through.
There are all manner of practical objections to it (‘false positive’ blocking of websites, the ease with which filters can be got around, etc) but the principled objections were summed up neatly in the hash-tag deployed by opponents of blocking to garner support on Twitter: #talknottech. There is no way you can stop children from seeing pornography: restricting magazines on the top-shelf didn’t do it, and nor will filtering – all it will do is offer parents false confidence that they’ve sorted the problem.
Speaker after speaker got up to point out the flaws in the motion and to urge its rejection. The stand-out speech was from Jezz Palmer, a Lib Dem member in Winchester, who debuted on the conference platform to make this four-minute pitch – brave, passionate, rational – for the Lib Dems and for parents and carers to talk to kids, not at them.
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