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Tuesday 10 April 2007

Moral Panic #6,235,985

Here we go again, another moral panic about the web. This time it's teachers and 'cyber-bullying'.

The Pollie leaping on the bandwagon here is aspiring Deputy Alan Johnson, speaking today to a Teaching Union AGM:
The internet has been an incredible force for good in education... But there exists a sinister downside as well ... The online harassment of teachers is causing some to consider leaving the profession because of the defamation and humiliation they are forced to suffer.

The new powers allow teachers to confiscate mobile phones which film them maliciously but I believe there is a wider responsibility upon the providers of the sites which broadcast this material. These are big companies we are talking about: they have a social responsibility and moral obligation to act.

I am therefore calling on the providers of these sites to take firmer action to block or remove offensive school videos, in the same way that they have commendably cut pornographic content. By removing the platform, we’ll blunt the appeal.
What EXACTLY are you (portentously) asking them to do, Alan? Because unless you can offer some sort of definition of what constitutes 'offensive' then actually you're calling for self-censorship and for "big companies" to have power over what gets online and what's taken off!

Those companies already remove material willy-nilly.

Teachers can get material removed the same as anyone else. Libel law has already been found to apply online.

Yes, "big companies" should spend money on enough staff to cull material but they already need to to cull spam. It's basic customer service to provide this as many providers learn to their cost.

That's the market: but you either have free speech or not — what is 'offensive' Alan? And who decides?

I notice on his Deputy website that he even has a Twitter account, but from these comments he's either:
  • a complete no-hoper computing/web-wise like most older senior politicians, or
  • just another cynical politician prepared to wager basic freedoms for tomorrow's headlines.

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