Feeds

How the government uses dirty data to legislate morality

So what's a standard deviation?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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! ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?