Jonathan Weinberg writes…
OK, so let’s do a straw poll. What do you think would stop a sex offender abusing children? I know this is not a comfortable topic but it is an extremely important one in tech and Internet terms. Stiffer sentences maybe? The threat of castration? A life term in jail? Perhaps even death by lethal injection?
We’ve all had those “If I were Home Secretary” moments and this is one of them because the plans today released by the UK’s Home Secretary Jacqui Smith seem the worst kind of limp proposals for such a serious matter.
The idea is for sex offenders to have their email addresses passed to social networking sites like Facebook and Bebo to prevent them contacting children. I can just see them running for cover right now!
The new law it is reported by the BBC will apply to 30,000 sex offenders. How on earth is it going to stop them? It is the easiest thing in the world to create a new email address, it takes under five minutes. It is just as easy to log into social networks and chatrooms with false information and pretend to be over 18.
Now these new proposals issue a threat of five years jail to anyone who gives police a false address, or refuses to divulge theirs. Just what our cops need eh, far more paperwork chasing this stuff up. The majority of people in this world use two or three email addys anyway, so again, how on earth does Ms Smith think this is going to help.
“We need to patrol the internet to keep predators away from children in the same way as we patrol the real world,” she told GMTV. Now I am all for that. It’s a worthy statement and a mission most of us would sign up for if it could be done. But the fact is, it’s impossible and this smokescreen will just divert resources that could be used in fighting the scourge of paedophilia on the web.
Why not ban their IP address? Put them on a blacklist of every ISP in the world? Make it impossible for them to even get on the Internet in the first place let alone have an email address. Of course they could find an Internet cafe but the more blocks we put in front of these sickos, the harder it will be. And moves like that must be more useful than simply saying “What’s your email Mr or Mrs Paedophile? Let me note it down!”
I’ve written a lot of stories about the brave cops working at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection unit in London. Their work to catch those who use the web to prey on kids was recently featured on TV show The Bill.
I attended their launch two years ago and have since had lengthy conversations with the staff who work there and care passionately about protecting youngsters in cyberspace. I’m heartened that they will be working out a format for this scheme and not Jacqui Smith and her teams in the Home Office. At least CEOP know their stuff inside out.
If the Home Secretary wants to keep children out of harms way on the World Wide Web then she needs to bring in tough laws forcing ISPs to remove sick content, ban customers found abusing the Internet and bring in legislation so that the credit card companies and financial organisations who perverts need to feed their addiction to paid-for pictures can blacklist them. Take away the tools these people need for getting onto the Internet in the first place and things will become so much harder for them.
Social networks don’t want to be associated with this type of scourge and neither does any right-minded ISP. The startling figure recently that a third of those aged nine to 19 who used the internet weekly had received sexual comments via e-mail, instant message, chat or text message, just shows the need for some kind of clampdown.
Chief Executive of CEOP Jim Gamble – a man I know well – said of the overall series of plans for kitemarks to be displayed on safe sites: “It will provide parents with those crucial indicators as to which sites and providers they should be using, allowing children the chance to get on and enjoy the full benefits of the internet with vital reassurance.”
Maybe Jacqui Smith should hand the Home Secretary job to him because building a list of sex offender email addresses is not the way to go about things. Unless of course the British Government could conveniently lose that list like those data discs a while back and we can all start spamming the hell out of these predatory paedophiles who pollute cyberspace for every decent human being on the planet.
Via BBC News