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Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

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Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Danfox Davies

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Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Andy Halsall

Written by: Adrian Short

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Andy Halsall

Written by: Andy Halsall

Andy Halsall : The internet 'blame game' - watching the watchers

Problems with the internet including child protection are not being dealt with – government, ISPs, search engines and parents are passing the buck between each other rather than taking action

In the United Kingdom, both the coalition government and the opposition have called for the increased use of web filtering to deal with a whole range of problems that they see as emanating from the internet. A summit was held at 10 Downing Street to discuss issues of child protection and the web. The meeting, chaired by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, was attended by all of Britain's major internet service providers as well as the worlds larger tech companies including Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook.

It is probably unsurprising that after the 90-minute summit, not very much changed in the ISP's or search engine's approaches to dealing with images of child exploitation online. That is not to say that the government did not immediately hail it as a great success. Yet the only concrete result appears to have been to secure additional funding for the Internet Watch Foundation, a commendable achievement. However, given that the government has already cut funding for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and the local authorities that deal with child protection issues and victims, that is scant consolation.

Of course what we should do to ensure that we are effective in detecting, investigating and dealing with abuse is to ensure that organisations like CEOP, the police and local authorities are properly funded. Yet the public discussion, even some of the stated reasons for the summit have been muddled. Far from dealing with issues of exploitation, Miller wrote in The Daily Mail on Saturday that she wanted the likes of Google to "protect my children from the depravity of internet porn".

Andy Halsall : Parenting by proxy

In a week where there has been a lot of argument about what Internet service providers and search engines should do to protect children and adults from harmful content online, we seem to have lost sight of what we want to achieve. The government, it seems, wants to teach children how to use technology and the internet, but at the same time presents a view of the internet as a medium where grave danger exists around every digital corner. This sends a contradictory message to parents about their responsibilities and does nothing to provide the resources needed to meet them.

As a parent, I know that the internet can't be treated like television. It may seem like a silly statement, but it's one that happens to be accurate and is important to determine how the internet is used and managed in the home. You can't turn the internet on and switch to a children’s channel. Sure there are sandboxes for children to play in on-line, but they are easy to get out of and metaphorically walk away from.

I think that we need to treat children using the internet more like we do when they play outside rather than when they watch a film. You can't filter the internet to the point where there is no danger, any more than you can filter the outside. Online they are interacting with other people, exploring new places and discovering new ideas. And like when they play outside, there are some dangers, but none, as in the wider world, that cannot be mitigated by supervision and awareness, if parents know where to look.

Andy Halsall : UK needs new 'productive' Euroscepticism

If you take a cursory glance at British politics over recent weeks, you might be forgiven for assuming that as a Brit you only have two options when it comes to the European Union. Either you are pro-EU and opposed to change, opposed to a referendum and happy with the creeping political union that we are seeing. Or you are Eurosceptic, opposed to everything the EU stands for, opposed to any political union and not only want to see a referendum, but actively want to remove Britain from the bloc. Of course that is not even remotely true: there is not a binary split on Europe, and if you look at the detail there is a whole spectrum of positions and, more to the point, there is a lot to talk about.

The biggest problem that we seem to face when it comes to the debate on Europe is not even one of policy or direction – these are things we can work out through discussion – it is one of labelling. The pro and sceptic positions, beyond presenting a false dichotomy, make it too easy to pigeon-hole people in ways that are not only unfair, but also wildly inaccurate.

My party, the Pirate Party UK, is supportive of a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU. It is in our manifesto and it is the only position we can take given our principles. The reasons for that are obvious: the drive toward greater political union, one accelerated by the recent economic downturn, has the potential to change the EU in a way that was not entirely obvious when we joined. The potentially massive change in our relationship with the EU is something that people must have a say in. As a result we have, on occasion, been labelled as Eurosceptic and frankly, it is a term I would be happy to embrace, if we could shed some of the rather negative baggage that currently comes with it.

Loz Kaye : Three Strikes Struck Out - Lessons for Digital Europe

The French government has just dealt a serious blow to the big entertainment lobby's assault on the Internet. The Hadopi "three strikes" law has been, well, struck out. The Hadopi measures were introduced in 2009 by President Sarkozy, and threatened to disconnect from the Internet those suspected of online copyright infringement after three written warnings. This flagship "anti-piracy" measure has now run aground.

The new French culture minister said "Hadopi has not fulfilled its mission of developing legal content offerings...In financial terms, [spending] 12 million Euros and 60 agents—that’s expensive to send a million e-mails... the suspension of Internet access seems to be a disproportionate penalty given the intended goal."

All of us in the digital rights movement had pointed out years ago that this was a disproportionate tool, not least because it could lead to collective punishment of entire households. Equally, we warned that it would be an administrative nightmare, a waste of money with no positive aims. 

The French retreat from the three strikes approach has lessons for policy making across Europe. In the UK the 2010 Digital Economy Act contained so-called graduated response legislation. It has not come in to force yet and remains firmly in the long grass. We must surely ditch the Digital Economy Act now, and EU governments should reject the hounding of individuals and Internet cut offs. There has been a long and tedious discussion about the merits of graduated response legislation. We now know it is simply not tenable.

This is a good moment to take a step back in what has been a fraught debate. Let's stop digital policy being hijacked by narrow interest groups claiming to speak for the creative sector. 

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