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Govt whips up chatroom pedo hysteria

More misguided legislation

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Not content with the RIP and Terrorist Acts which give the police and secret services unnecessary access to Internet users, ministers are now discussing methods of "targeting" "perverts" who "lure" children away from their innocent lives by chatting to them online.

Home Secretary Jack Straw is at the centre of it, of course, and seems to think that forcing ISPs to write in some software that restricts kids from chatrooms is a really good idea. Other "measures" are expected to be announced soon.

Now, don't get us wrong, we're as blinkered and violent as the next man when it comes to kiddie-fiddlers, but this is a blatant attempt to gain yet more control over the Internet by using the hysteria whipped up over paedophiles. It's almost shameful.

Before you "right-thinking people" start ranting incoherently, think of this. The RIP Bill was drafted to capture paedophiles, criminals and bad people who used the Internet to anonymise their actions. It ended up allowing the police easy access to anyone's Internet traffic (that includes you and me). Oh, and if they get it wrong, they won't have to admit to it if they don't want to - thanks to the "Freedom" of Information Act.

The Terrorism Act was drafted to capture terrorists, criminals and bad people that used the Internet to anonymise their actions. It ended up allowing the police to use the strongest laws we have in this country against anyone that tries to "seriously disrupt an electronic system". Oh, and if they get it wrong, they won't have to admit to it if they don't want to - thanks to the "Freedom" of Information Act.

Consider this also: ministers want "online grooming" - adults building unhealthy relationships up with kids online - to become a criminal offence. Quite right, you say. Yep, and let's have a law that any adult not known to a child's parents is committing an offence if they talk to a child. That would protect the kids. Kinda like the Dad that had to explain to police why he was having a bath naked (!) with his own kids. You know, like every Dad has since the dawn of time.

So let's have a law that makes ISPs not allow children into chatrooms. Brilliant. And we can also lock up parents that let their kids wander more than 50yds away from their home or school without a trusted adult. Let's bring out a law that makes BT responsible for dirty phone calls. While we're here, let's bring out a law that makes everyone have to wear a tag so the police know where you are at all times - hey, if you've nothing to hide, right?

Or, maybe, just maybe, we could revert back to the laws of commonsense and responsibility for yourself. We could perhaps tell kids what to be wary of. All chatrooms are is an extension to the old "do you want to see some puppies" schoolyard approach. But you don't legislate against people that stand outside schools. No, you tell kids to run away or scream if they're approached by an adult they don't know.

The government has already demonstrated its ludicrous paranoia regarding the Internet and that frenzy has seen it justify trampling on civil rights. God only knows what this suggested legislation would allow the government to do.

It may not be an easy argument to swallow, but by "protecting our kids", we're actually making their world smaller, scarier and less enjoyable. ®

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