What is Safer Internet Day?

February 5 is Safer Internet Day in the United Kingdom, but are there other agendas at work here besides protecting children from on-line predators, like censorship?

According to its own propaganda, the UK Safer Internet Centre is run by Childnet International, the South West Grid for Learning and the Internet Watch Foundation. It is partly funded by the European Commission, and in spite of its name it is concerned exclusively with the protection of children on-line. Which is of course admirable, there are a lot of perverts out there looking for kids to prey on in the same way there are plenty of phishers and other crooks after your money, but as Chris Tame used to say, when they talk about protecting your children, they mean destroying your rights.

While the distribution of child pornography is rightly prosecuted to the full extent of the law, should that include cartoons? The Safer Internet Centre seems to think so, because on its hotline page it lists among those things to report “Non-photographic images of child sexual abuse (such as computer-generated images) – hosted only in the UK.”

Yes, you read that right, non-photographic images, ie computer graphics, drawings or even cartoons. It remains to be seen why any right thinking person should want to draw pornographic cartoons of children, but otherwise right thinking people frequently watch not cartoons but actual simulations of people – men, women and occasionally children – being murdered. For example, in its first episode, the new BBC series Ripper Street depicted an early snuff film, which involved women being murdered simply for the sake of being filmed. That’s entertainment? Surely the simulation of murder is worse than drawing cartoons of naked boys and girls? Apparently not, because last year a man in Missouri, USA was convicted of obscenity for possessing cartoons of child pornography. True, he did plead guilty, which can’t have helped his case, but Christjan Bee has now been sentenced to 3 years without parole for “committing” a victimless crime. In fact, at least one academic has suggested that if men who fantasise about children thus are left to do so in the privacy of their own homes they may be satisfied with that, and not attempt to move on to the real thing.

Whether or not that proves to be the case, and however enthusiastic you may be about nipping child abuse – real or imagined – in the bud, bear in mind Chris Tame’s warning. Paedophiles are both an easy and a popular target, but so are terrorists. Remember that next time your three year old son is groped by a TSA agent.

[The above op-ed was first published February 2, 2013.]

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