Feeds

How the government uses dirty data to legislate morality

So what's a standard deviation?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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! ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
10 Top Tips For PRs Considering Whether To Phone The Register
You'll Read These And LOL Even Though They're Serious
Stop ROBOT exploitation, cry striking Foxconn workers
HP downturn and automation eroding overtime on China's production lines
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.