UK Politicians Demand YouTube Vet Content To 'Protect The Children'

from the the-end-of-safe-harbors dept

Various safe harbors for service providers that protect them from the actions of their users make a lot of common sense. It’s simply wrong to blame a service provider for the actions of its users. We don’t blame the telephone company when someone commits a crime using the phone. And we don’t blame the car company for providing the getaway car. Nor do we ask those companies to do anything to block those actions. That’s because we all realize how silly that is — to blame a tool provider for the actions of its users. Yet, for some reason, when we move online, that concept gets confused. While most of the focus has been on safe harbors concerning copyright or defamation, when you toss in a bit of “but think of the children!” it gets even more ridiculous.

We’ve already seen this with US politicians bullying ISPs into blocking “objectionable” content, even though they have no legal basis for this (and, in fact, such blocking will only make it more difficult to track down those actually responsible). And, now we see it in the UK. UK MPs are claiming that Google needs to vet all of the content uploaded to YouTube “to protect children from harmful content.” Seriously.

I guess it’s only in the techie community that we recognize that the phrase “to protect the children” is almost always followed by a plan that does the opposite.

The politicians seem concerned that occasionally, questionable content is found on YouTube, and it might take them (gasp!) 24 hours to take it down. Apparently it has not occurred to those behind this demand that perhaps they should be focused on using the content being uploaded to track down those actually responsible for the objectionable (illegal?) content, rather than demanding that Google proactively hide the evidence. Next up, we’ll be expecting the report where politicians demand that telephone companies “proactively” review all telephone calls to make sure there is no objectionable content “to protect children.”

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Comments on “UK Politicians Demand YouTube Vet Content To 'Protect The Children'”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Europe doesn't deserve YouTube...

Wow, first comment, first woefully stupid and misinformed comment…

Tell me, PRMan, what do you know about British culture and law? What is it that enables you to distinguish the “fact” that the UK is somehow unable to handle new media while such progressive figures in your own culture such as Jack Thompson “get it”.

Oh, that’s right, they don’t. This is a story about a few dumbass politicians jumping on a “think of the children” bandwagon, in the same way that Thompson and other anti-videogame/internet lawyers and politicians in the US do. If this were ever to become law (unlikely) and effectively upheld (extremely unlikely), then maybe you’d have a point. Otherwise, keep you outdated xenophobia somewhere else…

Your Gawd and Master says:

Re: Re: Europe doesn't deserve YouTube...

I’d like to remind you that we’re talking about a law there in the U.K. and you’re talking about a single person here in the U.S. I don’t know if you see the difference but there’s a huge one concerning Jack Thompson’s idiocy and the idiocy passed by the UK, Belgium, France, etc. as actual LAW; that takes a lot of people, not just a couple. Sure, we have Cuomo trying to get rid of Usenet or the like but he’s got limited scope in the grand scheme of things however these laws being passed in Europe are not so limited.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re: Re: Europe doesn't deserve YouTube...

Are you thick or just ignorant?

The article even states examples of US politicians abusing the law and then goes on to state that a few politicians in the UK are PROPOSING a change to UK law (which stand naff all chance of being passed if we are all honest)

Remind me again how a UK politician suggesting changes to the law is worse than US ones actually abusing it? Or is this just “ra ra” flag waving bollocks?

Personally I think the politicians cited are idiots and as usual going for the lowest common denominator vote but fortunately this sort of idiocy stands little chance of being approved (unlike the much more cancerous anti-liberty crap going through at the moment which we seem to be catching like a bad case of the trots from the good ole US of A)

Abdul says:

Re: We should vet the politicians

We are doing that almost every election period. Why are people so cynical about the proposal? When elected officials are not doing a thing, we are quick to lambast them for their insensitivities. Now that they are addressing a potential dangerous pattern developing on youtube, we are damning them. Is this not hypocricy at the highest?Top 10 Ways YouTube Has Ruined Life for Good(

Stephen Christian (user link) says:

Re: This sounds familiar....

It’s knife control that’s needed to protect the children. Then it will be rock control and then fingernail control and finally nerf control.

The British are so nutty about protecting the children you can’t even have kids appear in video games (like Fallout 2) in case you virtually abused the virtual kids. Dunno if that craziness still holds but I’d bet it does.

In reality, though, the politicians know exactly what they’re doing. Techies are acquiring too much power. Politicians are giving them smack-downs. Common sense doesn’t play a part in a smack-down — just watch pro-wrestling.

ScaredMommyHater says:

Dont cover the world in bubble wrap!

Firstly its not my responsiblity to raise your kid. If I see them lost or hurt somewhere I would certainly do what I could to help as I believe most adults would (its just in our nature as humans). However it is not my responsibility to prevent them from watching, viewing, reading, or believing in anything. That is YOUR responsibility as a parent . . . live up to it! Stop trying to cover the world in bubble wrap to protect your kid, some of us like the view.

Nobody says:

Re: Dont cover the world in bubble wrap!

“If I see them lost or hurt somewhere I would certainly do what I could to help as I believe most adults would (its just in our nature as humans). “

Actually, that would put you in the serious minority, at least here in the U.S.

A recent report (couple months back) on the news showed that hundreds of people will walk right by a child in distress (sitting on the sidewalk and crying), without a second thought. This was regardless of age, sex or race of the child.

The few people that did stop were elderly women (read Grandmas) or other kids that made their parents stop.

If that is not the ultimate indication that our society is completely screwed up, I don’t know what is.

jonnyq says:

Re: Re: Dont cover the world in bubble wrap!

When I see a child crying, I usually assume it’s because the other kids didn’t play fair… I don’t assume the worse. How is that an indication that our society is screwed up?

What worries me is the people who see a crying child in Walmart and assume he’s being abused.

Though, I do see part of your point – there’s nothing wrong with trying to be helpful. But there is something wrong with assuming the worst and causing a situation when none exist.

ScaredMommyHater says:

Re: Re: Dont cover the world in bubble wrap!

“A recent report (couple months back) on the news showed that hundreds of people will walk right by a child in distress (sitting on the sidewalk and crying), without a second thought. This was regardless of age, sex or race of the child.”

My guess is this is because they were scared of being accused as molesters or abductors. I truly believe there is innate biology in us that makes us “care” to a certain degree about children, be they ours or anyone else’s. To see a large part of society NOT react to help a child in distress would tell me they have been “trained” not to. It’s antithetical to the natural condition (which would be to help).

I agree that our society is extremely FUBAR when it comes to children (mainly the incredibly ludicrous amount of fear we instill in them constantly). However, I would put the blame for that mainly on the scared mommy brigade and the pandering politicians that exploit their media induced fears.

My bottom line though is, while I would help anyone’s child to find immediate relief in a crisis, they are not my children and I feel no more beholden to “protect” or “shield” them then that. I am not willing to give up ANY of my freedoms, liberties or even modest enjoyments, to make anyone else’s children ANY safer (even if I thought it would do so, which I don’t in this case). Parents need to understand that their children are precious to them, they are NOT precious to everyone else. Parents can’t simply pass off the responsibility of protecting their children to the general public, we just don’t care as much about them.

udamdirtyape says:

Re: Re: Re: Dont cover the world in bubble wrap!

You hit the nail on the head. Precisely what is going on.

I have more than once seen a child crying or upset with no parents around and waited for a police officer to assist because I know that in today’s climate of fear people simply dont trust each other and they see predators everywhere.

Media is largely to blame, and I think it is intentional…

Rather than reporting on real issues of concern for thinking people they distract the public with worthless sensational B.S.

Anonymous of Course says:

An Objection

The majority of YouTube content that I’ve
seen is harmless fun. Occasionally it
is excellent. That said, some of the most
objectionable and harmful content is
generated by children.

Beyond video of vicious attacks, animals
set on fire and other criminal behavior,
there are the comments. Never read the
comments if you wish to remain hopeful
about the future (after all the children
are our future.)

I think these MPs would be better serving
their public by hunting down some of the
more egregious perpetrators and bringing
them to justice.

tabs says:

What the.......

They won’t get this through. they can’t get this through, they musn’t get this through.

I know our polititions have only been exposed to the interwebs in the later half of their lives but cmnon,

listen to your advisors, not your spin doctors, claiming the “Protect the children” vote time and time again will only lead to resentment and loss of power.

Hopefully our antiquated system will stop this getting through and it will be stopped by the House of lords.

And if not then it will be appealed again and again and again until it reaches the big boy courts and the law lords better smite this down.

Matt says:

The Vast Universe we call the Internet

Do they not realize that anyone could setup a website instantly with little to no personal information about themselves. And on this instantly deliverable media platform deliver any and all content to the end-user? targeting specific sites saying they have to moderate their content is removing one needle from a syringe factory, opening the doors and screaming “Come on in children, it’s now safe to play.” (This would probably sound more funny in a Lewis Black voice).

DrE says:

But tool baning is more common than you imply

While agree with the main point of the article, you didn’t mention the bane on guns to prevent murder or the bane on drugs to prevent ?? what I’m not sure. Our politicians have previously believed, generally without evidence or in the face of contradictory evidence that banning tools is a good way to control human behavior. This is just another in a long line of public policy for votes rather than public policy for real benefit to society. Sigh…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Question for you all....

NO and NO.

Ignorant schlubb.

Gun control puts control of your life in the hands of those willing to break the law to get guns, or those whom your government deems to give guns to!

Internet control puts control of your life in the hands of those willing to break the law to get Internet, or those whom your government deems to give Internet to!

udamdirtyape says:

Re: Question for you all....

By the by, the second amendment to the constitution’s purpose is not as an anti-crime measure.

It was designed as an anti-tyranny measure. It seems like everybody in America has lost their minds. We fail to accurately understand own nation’s history, and our responsibilities as citizens of this nation.

We started a war with our parent country because of a few pennies in taxes. We were then an armed nation of individuals working collectively.

Now we seem to be a nation of cowards, so afraid of the faceless ‘other’ that we give up essential liberty for a little safety.

I for one am more afraid of the uncontrolled abuse of power that is coming from our government than every member of AL-queda combined.

The same goes for internet censorship, they remove first all the unpopular speech, you know, the stuff all the mindless multitudes can all agree is ‘dangerous’, then they censor a little more and a little more.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” ~Thomas Jefferson

It looks like almost time to ‘water the tree.’

udamdirtyape says:

Who decides whats objectionable?

What exactly harms children? I’d say most of the vapid, senseless tripe on television harms children. I’d say inattentive and disinterested parents harm children. I’d say that the policies of the politicians that are sold to the ‘masses of asses’ out there on the basis ‘protecting the children’ harm children. The truth is, policies like these are simply a foot in the door, so that someday the powerful, and the politicians they own can quickly remove from public view what harms them, and their continued hegemonic aspirations.

udamdirtyape says:

Re: Screw 'em.

Yes, screw’em… Why don’t our governments to stop deficit spending or failing education ‘for the children’?

The truth is they don’t give a rats-ass about YOUR children.

They use ‘the children’ to further their control over the already-too-child-like minds of the parents of all these precious f’n children.

WarOtter (profile) says:


I can’t wait to have a kid so I can:
Keep my house non childproof
Teach them to ride bikes without a helmet
Let them learn for themselves that stoves can be hot
Play full contact sports
Make them eat their dinner, whether they like it or not
Beat them when they’re bad
Kick them out of the house on nice days
Give them slingshots and bb guns
Let them play at neighborhood construction sites

“Children are smarter than you think. I don’t know any children with two jobs and children.” – Bill Hicks

EO says:

there's precedent

Kiddies: we have laws all over the place to protect children Pick up a law text book, I’m not making this up. The precedent here is quite clear: those who serve as outlets for “adult material” (which is latest euphemism for really raunchy or violent stuff) are held responsible for keeping it out of the reach of children even as they are given license for distributing to adults. Have you visited a convenience store lately? Notice that the “adult” magazines are kept behind the counter. The same thinking applies here: the people who are clever enough to put up a service like YouTube should be clever enough to figure out a way to filter the questionable material from a segment of their users/viewers. And if they can’t figure it out, then decency (eeek! and old-fashioned word!) demands that they screen it completely.
You’ll get it once you have kids of your own. Until then, trust an old-fogie on this one.

flesh99 says:

Re: there's precedent

There is no precedent as your analogy is incorrect.

Sure the store that sells Playboy keeps it behind the counter but once daddy brings it home it is his responsibility to keep his hormone driven thirteen year old from finding it. Parents subscribe to an unfiltered internet and as such they have brought it into their house and it is their responsibility to keep their children away from content that they do not like. Decency on the part of Google/YouTube doesn’t play into the equation at all in this case. In fact if they begin to proactively filter content they could lose all sorts of legal protection so it is in their best interest to not do so.

It is likewise not the government’s responsibility to make sure that Google/YouTube doesn’t present “bad” content to my children. That responsibility rests solely with me and my wife. I do not want them to legislate where I can hide my Playboys just like I do not them to legislate what YouTube has to filter.

I don’t get it and I do have kids. I have seven of them to be exact and on most issues I may well be one of the most conservative posters on this site. I have ages from 10 years old to literally only 10 days old and I will be damned if I support the government jumping into the business of regulating content on the internet. I will regulate what my children see and if I, or any other parent can’t be bothered to do so, then they shouldn’t have kids. It’s not the government’s responsibility and I hope it never is.

Jake says:

On The Other Hand...

Unusually for me, I have to defend the politicians on this one. YouTube relies almost entirely on peer-review to enforce its terms of service, but is it really likely that someone is going to report this stuff if they’ve specifically searched for it? And when it was pointed out to them that a video of three lads setting on a passer-by and beating him nearly to death -apparently with the specific intent of putting it on YouTube- had accrued over seventeen thousand views before anyone complained, their response amounted to, “Not our problem.” Regardless of the exact letter of the law, that struck me as being a bit off. I also find it hard to believe that setting up a bot to search for certain keywords and delivering the results to a couple of dozen interns and passing any evidence of criminal activity they turn up on to the appropriate authorities would put much of a dent in their profit margin.

NotOnly says:

Its not only the techies

“I guess it’s only in the techie community that we recognize that the phrase “to protect the children” is almost always followed by a plan that does the opposite. “

Ask a gay or lesbian techie about past “protect the children” projects. Most of these protection schemes are just witch hunts. Why take up all your time watching and guiding your own kids? Its so much more convenient when you can staple the blame to some innocent person, then walk away feeling good about yourself for doing something to “protect the children”.

Protecting the children from useless parenting would go a lot farther. And if you insist that gays and lesbians always conform to stereotypes, then here’s one for you: Get the beercans out of Bubba and Luraleen’s hands, and force them to spend more time watching their kids than trying to make new ones.

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