Feeds

How the government uses dirty data to legislate morality

So what's a standard deviation?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Careful selection

The other way in which government manages to skew evidence for its policies is in the careful selection of the criteria it sets out to measure. Following on from an original assertion that there was no evidence for harm resulting from extreme porn, it put in place a Rapid Evidence Assessment which quickly concluded that after all, there might be some evidence.

This report has been widely criticised – not least on the grounds of the assumed bias of its authors. However, a far more serious criticism of this work is that it was scoped to report only on evidence for harm.

According to the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (pdf), Christmas trees, household linen, and underwear are all associated with some degree of harm. So should we ban underwear?

Any report on any subject that is directed to find harm is likely to do so to some degree. The real question is whether the topic under review causes net harm. Opponents of the extreme porn law have argued that the net effect of porn is to reduce overall sex crime in societies: The government review did not address this question. Nor did it report on instances where material reviewed showed positive harm reduction effects from porn.

It was essentially lopsided.

In closing our review of evidence in government policy-making, an honourable mention to Martin Salter MP, who has persistently talked up the evils of "Snuff" movies – despite numerous reports arguing that any such trade, if it exists at all, is tiny. A mention too to Keith Vaz, MP, who continued to claim that the killers of British schoolboy Stefan Pakeerah had been influenced by the video game Manhunt, despite police evidence that they had probably never seen it.

Congratulations also go to the BBFC, who are happy to quote the advice of experts when making their decisions – but who prefer not to name the experts concerned.

Pride of place, however, goes to the Home Office Committee charged with reviewing Sexual Offences back in 2000. In their report, "Setting the Boundaries" (pdf), they expressed surprise that necrophilia wasn’t actually a crime. They could find "no firm evidence of the nature or the extent of the problem," but, since they thought most people would expect it to be illegal anyway, had no problems with proposing its criminalisation.

That’s evidence-based policy-making for you! ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.