Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stupid Idea of the Month

(Thanks to Ian Sorensen for the tip off.) News from way back on April 4th 2008 -

"Registered child sex offenders will have to provide their email addresses to police in a move to stop them using social networking Web sites, the Home Office announced on Friday

Police will pass the addresses on to the sites which will then be expected to monitor usage or stop offenders logging on. Sex offenders will face up to five years in prison if they fail to hand over the details or provide a false email.

The proposal is one of a series of measures announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to make it harder for child sex offenders to meet children online."

Oh come on, Jeremy. Anyone heard of hotmail, yahoo, gmail, a 1000 other ISPs? Your average pedophile is at least smart enough to realise that even if conscientiously and truthfully hands over (one? all?) of his email address (es), it doesn't take long to get another.

This really is a bad case of "having to be seen to do something, anything". I feel actually embarrassed for our poor polis who'll have to implement this piss-stupid idea.

The wider question again, is how legitimate is it to ban someone from the Internet (all of it? some of it? is tere any realistically any halfway house?) just because their past or future potential crimes might use the Internet. We` routinely allocate ASBOs and domestic injunctions barring certain persons from eg schools, shopping centres or the homes of ex-spouses, but these are in general (a) limited in geographical area (b) proportionate to the crime and (c) enforceable, in that there is very likely someone who has reason to take note if the area restriction is broken.

Arguably, none of these justifications apply to a total Internet ban. But who cares, it's clear`that considerations of civil liberties simply melt away compared to the votes that can be won by name-dropping the "will no one think of the children line". And not mentioning that by far `and away the majority of the sbuse is by someone known to the child and usually resident in their own home, not by stranger online pedophiles. At least in the US there appears to be a debate about the constitutionality of Internet band - Pangloss has seen little or no sign of this in the UK.

Hell, they could simply plant 3 downloads on the pedophile's hard disc and that'll be them banned from the Net for life shortly :)


Anonymous said...

I agree. Sometimes it makes one cringe. See

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Ralf Bendrath said...

This has to be seen as part of a more general attempt to get rid of anonymity online. The UK bill is actually modeled after a U.S. senate bill supported by both McCain and Obama. See my short analysis and more examples here.