Latest 'Think Of The Children' Scaremongering: Pirated Films Might 'Disturb' Them

from the don't-look-now dept

Just last week we heard how Russia has extended its “think of the children” law to include copyright infringement. That was a classic case of function creep, but here’s a more direct invocation of “the children” in order to attack unauthorized downloads of files, this time in the UK:

One in five young film fans (18%) admit they have been disturbed by the movies they have watched on pirate websites and two thirds (65%) wish they had checked the film’s official age rating first.

While almost half of children and teens (42%) admit to being aware of rules in place at home designed to restrict what they can and can’t look at on the internet, the research commissioned by The Industry Trust for IP Awareness, in partnership with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), shows a quarter (25%) download or stream movies from unofficial sources, which offer no guidance on age ratings.

Now, there are a heap of issues with this. For example, what exactly does “disturbed” mean in this context? Some films are deeply disturbing, but in a good sense (“Schinder’s List”, for example, rated “15”), because they bring new but troubling knowledge: does “disturbing” include those? Or only the “bad” ones — in which case, how is “bad” defined? Unfortunately, I can’t find the original research to explore that, or even to see how the questions were framed (always a critical issue for such surveys.)

But leaving aside all those methodological questions, there is a key flaw with this “for the children” argument, which is that we don’t know what percentage of children who watch legal downloads and DVDs are “disturbed” by what they see. That’s a key number, because it needs to be lower than the one pertaining to pirate sites if the latter is to have any relevance. It might be, for example, that children are more disturbed by their parents’ cinematic library than by what they search out for themselves online; after all, such searches are likely to be based on recommendations from their friends, or on what children read on other sites — in other words, an informed choice with plenty of context.

What’s interesting here is how the currently-fashionable “think of the children” trope is being deployed as part of a campaign against piracy. As such, it’s part of a long tradition of trying to frighten people away from unauthorized downloads by suggesting that they fund terrorism, are packed with malware or make your hair fall out (OK, I made up that last one.)

So here’s a suggestion. Instead of resorting to scaremongering, which never works anyway, why doesn’t the British film industry try offering a range of good online products at fair prices? After all, it seems to be working elsewhere….

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Comments on “Latest 'Think Of The Children' Scaremongering: Pirated Films Might 'Disturb' Them”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually it works like this – you shut down all the visible semi-legit sites where you can download movies and you drive the downloaders to increasingly more obscure sites which are less likely to classify the films appropriately and will have a greater proportion of “dodgy” material.

So this “harm to the children” is the direct result of the “war on piracy”!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The BBFC problem with unauthorized website isn’t that their rating are inaccurate, it’s that their not there. Tho the BBFC could just recommend that people to look-up the ratings on their website or if that to risky because of Hollywood, just throw it out there at the end of there video, since they know there are people who will continue to download, in spite of their advice.

out_of_the_blue says:

The old "can't quantify so TREND must be invalid" line.

Listen, kids: obviously “disturbing” movies are obviously disturbing. You’re just childishly saying that if one doesn’t know exact numbers, then NO conclusion can be drawn. — Try this: hold your hand closer and closer to a flame until you’re convinced that it’s a bad idea, despite lack of numbers on how many skin cells you’ve destroyed.

And the last paragraph is just startling non-sequitur, not even on-topic.

Why so many self-referring links here? Techdirt logic: old assertions prove new assertions.

Lord Binky says:

Re: The old "can't quantify so TREND must be invalid" line.

Ugh.. why’d my post have to get so close to yours…sigh and Good point, stupid people will confuse that the problem discussed is about an ambiguous trending when the real problem is with an ambiguous classification that has no correlation to harm or danger.

As for your silly example, if you’re outside in very cold weather, holding your hand near a flame may be a GOOD idea, if you’re wearing suitable hand protection holding your hand over a flame is not a decisively bad idea. To be relevant to the actual issue, you would have to use a term like ‘discomfort’ instead of ‘bad idea’. Terms like ‘disturb’ and ‘discomfort’ give no indication to any level of danger, which is what the scare tactics are trying to insinuate .

Anonymous Coward says:

I find it incredibly difficult to accept that “(65%) wish they had checked the film’s official age rating first”. That’s utter BS. Name one child who was not disappointed when they could not watch a “grown up” movie? Or one child that didn’t fight their parents to watch said movie? Or even one parent that said “you’re 12, this is 13. Go away”?


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When I was a kid I got really into sci-fi. There came a certain R-rated sci-fi movie I desperately wanted to see. I had really overprotective parents who wouldn’t let me see R-rated movies. I begged and pleaded to no avail. I finally did get to see it about 3 years later, when I sneaked a late-night viewing on HBO at a relative’s house.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Meh, it wasn’t that bad – the idea’s more disturbing than the execution IMHO. Both films are worth seeing for the lead crazy guy performance else it’s relatively. mediocre.

Then again, I am a rather seasoned horror fan who saw it at it’s world premiere at a horror festival, so take that with whatever the appropriate pinch of salt is.

Vic says:

I do not want to live in the UK anymore… They are too worried about too many children… As mentioned above by Mark Harrill in post nr 3, I too am a married adult with no kids and no plans to have any… Why am I being punished by the UK government… Can we put together a class action suit against this? Can we get a tax break for not having kids that needs protecting… You guessed it… NO…

PaulT (profile) says:

It’s rather sad that all these recent stories can be directly related to by tales from my own childhood in the 80s. Disturbing, violent films were readily available then – on VHS and Betamax. Even those that were banned were available with a little searching, and half the video stores near me didn’t care whether my 12 year old self was renting Elm Street. They did nothing to normal kids except induce a few nightmares and provide a handy scapegoat for right wing morons wanting to distract from war, poverty and unemployment.

I will note that this is a report by the BBFC, who not only have a vested interest in keeping their position as the official gatekeepers (it’s illegal to distribute any movie without a BBFC rating) but are also constantly attacked by said morons who want to blame them for any objectionable material their own tiny minds stumble across. The current people in charge seem to have found a happy medium where very few films are banned or heavily censored nowadays and they’re happy to keep adult films rated as 18 uncut.

I hope this doesn’t change their minds. Not only would that be pandering to idiots of the worst kind, it clearly would make any difference. Once again, sadly, we’re back to educating and parenting kids properly as the only real solutions to any problem, but that doesn’t make for distracting headlines.

Oh, and one funny anecdote I’ve just remembered. IIRC, there was a report where researchers asked kids about the films they were watching, and some people were horrified by the results. The experiment was repeated, this time peppering the film titles with fake but lurid sounding titles included among the real ones. The kids, naturally, claimed to have watch these fake films as well as the real ones. They just wanted to sound hard in front of their mates. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same mindset is at work here, and/or the kids were telling them what they thought they wanted to hear.

Andrew Lee (profile) says:

I guess children are too stupid to go look at IMDB because unlike adults they will blindly watch anything. Even if they have no idea what it is.

Now on to the pressing matter – I did every single thing I could to watch shit I was not supposed to be watching as a child. Then again I did grow up in the era of Pee-wee Herman’s creepy ass. That guy scared me far more than any psychopathic serial killer flick.

Anonymous Coward says:

i think what is going on here is that governments everywhere have realised how dangerous to them this internet weapon is in the hands of the people. they are therefore doing their damnedest, bit by bit, to close it down as far as being used by the ordinary people. in that way, the governments will know they are more safe than at present. they will be able to jump on to whoever says whatever because they will be spying continuously on everyone and any site not liked will be shut down for any/no reason at all other than it either tells the truth or allows people to convey the truth to others. the way info has been transmitted from countries that have been suffering from unrest has been applauded, until, that is, that it’s their country involved. then they want all news outlets stopped. with the internet being the fastest and covering literally everywhere, it is of prime importance to be controlled. apart from the USA, nowhere else appears to be trying to take sole ‘ownership’ of it. i would guess that there has/is going to be agreement that each government is responsible for what goes into and out of it’s own country. we, the people, are going to be well and truly fucked, that’s for certain!!

dartigen says:

Because it's totes a new phenomena

Because prior to Internet piracy kids totally didn’t watch movies they weren’t supposed to.

My friend used to get her (much older) brother to buy us horror movies because there was no way anyone was going to sell SAW to a pair of 14 year olds. I watched the Alien series when I was 9 – it was on TV very late at night one week and I stayed up to watch it.

Kids will go out of their way to watch films they’re not supposed to – for better or for worse. And it’s no easier today than it was before piracy – less expensive, maybe, but the ease of it hasn’t changed any.

viewster (profile) says:

Disturbing ads!

They’d better start filtering the ads! Nobody cares the kids might be watching them! I mean, whenever I’m looking for free movies online, movie/book/music news/reviews or even clothes/shoes online, I get tons of that flashing, noisy, jumping, body-parts-shaking crap! Downloading crappy stuff at least requires some skills and time, as well as having the patience to watch it despite bad quality, but the ads can be seen instantly by anyone, at almost every page. I’d rather explain to my kids what’s the difference between this and that horror movie creature, than why people need big… er…body parts and lots of orgasms every day!

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