Real Action For Children Not Censorship

Loz Kaye's picture

So a week in to the General Election campaign, and finally the Internet has been noticed by one of the big old parties.

It wasn't a mention of the benefit the web brings to our economy, not to open up access to technology, not to put actual figures on the vague promises in George Osborne's budget on digital infrastructure.

No, it was screaming tabloid headlines and a promise from the Tories to bring in web blocking powers, Internet regulation and what amounts to electronic ID cards.

This was all under pretence of protecting children with measures we have repeatedly pointed out that do nothing of the sort.

I can only say again we hand Internet censorship powers to governments at our peril. However good the stated intentions may be. It is simply not enough for Sajid Javid to say that politicians are not interfering because it will be a job for a regulator. He has publicly backed censorship plans in the course of General Election campaign. It does not get any more explicit than that.

It was clear that the proposals are ill-thought through, with Javid suggesting access to adult content could be done through credit card ID. Personally, I don't have a credit card. Presumably this makes me a child in the eyes of the Conservatives.

Javid has demonstrated a wide range of incompetencies as a minister. Either this announcement is ignorant or cynically exploitative of an emotive issue. Or most likely, both.

The real point is this. There is no “tech solution” for protecting our children. There is only one filter. It's called “parenting”. Whether those giving the care are biologically related or not. I find it extraordinary that it's me having to say this to the Conservative party.

Perhaps the Tories think the rest of us standing in the election are scared of being seen as not supportive of child protection. As I see it, it's the big parties who are ignoring real action to look after our children

Child poverty remains a blight in our country and particularly our cities. In the constituency where I'm standing it's at a shameful 44%, in one ward 49%. Manchester's Labour run council was judged to have inadequate childrens' services. The scandals in Rotherham and Rochdale have been truly shocking – and the exploitation of the issue by UKIP stomach churning. The failures in launching the historical child abuse inquiry beggar belief.

These are the problems that need addressing. It's not good enough just to pass the buck to a regulator or an Internet Service Provider. It will take money, hard work and supporting grassroots action.

Funding from the ill conceived “difficult families programme” needs to be targeted on child poverty. In Greater Manchester, we are calling for earmarking £50 million from the devolution budget. Sure Start centres must be protected. Community groups who do work on the ground and know the extent of the problems are best placed to offer solutions. That will take a renegotiation of the local authority grant formula.

None of that is necessarily the stuff of tabloid headlines. But that is the real action that is needed, not Internet censorship.