Desiderata – A New Blog on Child Protection

Labour Party

 Child security and the distribution of child abuse images online is a very important issue.  You may remember me blogging about the use of internet blocking last year (read the blog here).  A very useful resource in finding out about this subject is a relatively new blog called Desiderata (Latin for ‘things you desire or need).  

I should say that the blog is written by an old friend of mine, John Carr, who I have known for many years.  As well as an old friend though, he is a world expert in the field of child safety and security online, as an adviser to the British Government and the United Nations.  Further more, John is an executive on the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online and is Secretary of the UK’s Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety (made up of NSPCC, Action for Children, Barnardo’s and many more). He has also provided advice for Microsoft, MySpace and Google as well as a number of the UK’s leading mobile phone service providers.  John was also the worthy recipient of an OBE for services to child security online.  So you can see he is well placed to offer advice and analysis on many of the problems that worry many parents and people responsible for young children and teenagers.

The blocking of internet sites that contain child pornography is one of the first issues that John tackles on his new blog.  If you would like to read a well written and thorough defence of blocking and a debunking of the arguments against then please click here, I highly recommend it.  He writes with clarity, never overly technical so even relative laymen like me can understand, and has a mastery over the subject matter, not surprising given his unparalleled level of expertise in this area.  Blocking was recently voted on in the Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee, and it did not go the way he or I would have hoped.  I was happy that most if not all UK MEPs were in favour blocking, but perhaps if a few more MEPs from other delegations, particularly Germany, had read John’s blog, we may have got a better result.

Apart from that I think we can expect a high level of discussion about all current issues and debates surrounding the important subject of child security online.  In his most recent posts John talks about the possibility of Internet Service Providers doing more to stop children accessing inappropriate material.  He suggests solutions that I think would definitely meet the approval of any parent or carer who reads it.  I’m sure we will see a lot more like this in the future.

If only you knew what really goes on in the European Parliament

Labour Party

One of the things I have found most frustrating in my 10 years as an MEP is the seeming impossibility of getting information on the EU and what we do as MEPs out to a wider audience.  Indeed, one of the reasons I started this blog was to put forward my, and the Labour Party’s, perspective on the European Parliament.

However, we now have a potentially much bigger fish in the form of a report about European Parliament and EU communication.  Currently before the Culture and Education Committee, this report written by Danish MEP and former journalist Morten Lokkegaard, tells us unequivocally that “access to information for citizens and communication between policy-makers and voters are central elements” to our democracy and that  we need clearer explanations of the local, national and European implications of laws and policies being considered in Brussels.

Mr. Lokkegaard goes on to say “politics and communication are two sides of the same coin. Consequently a problem arises if politics fails to be communicated properly. It is in this context that the EU faces its greatest challenge.”

These are very much my own views which the majority of my colleagues would also agree with.  I would even go so far as to say many of us are desperate for our, i.e. EU and Euro Parl, news to become mainstream and raised out of its current Euro ghetto.

Lokkegaard has some serious thoughts. In an imaginative proposal, the report puts forward the idea of setting up a group of correspondents from among the specialised, accredited journalists in Brussels, whose role would be to cover European news in a more instructive manner while guaranteeing editorial independence. It also calls for public broadcasting to include European news to tell people more about the decision making process in the European Union.

No report of this kind would be complete without mentioning the “new” media. Lokkegaard seeks to expand the role of interactive media – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.  While agreeing these forms of communication have their place, the report warns the EU and European Parliament to tread delicately in this area. It stresses “although social networks are a relatively good way of disseminating information rapidly, their reliability as sources cannot always be sufficiently guaranteed and they cannot be considered to be professional media”.  It also “underlines that the way in which data is handled on social network platforms can in many cases be dangerous and give rise to serious breaches of journalistic ethics and that caution is therefore required when taking up these new tools.”

The report therefore calls for a code of ethics for this new type of media to be drawn up, something I would definitely support.  The internet has now reached the stage in its development when we have to consider regulation, both self regulation and, where needed, binding legislation.

Morten Lokkegaard has produced a thought provoking report with plans for concrete action. I hope it will encourage us all to think about how we communicate both what we are doing and why we are doing it.  If this were to improve, some MEPs such as myself may feel less frustrated at the seeming lack of interest and knowledge about what actually goes on in the European institutions.