UK Liberty

MPs on the Internet and video games

Posted in law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on November 20, 2008

John Ozimek, at the Register:

The times, they may be changing on the internet, but if our Parliament has anything to do with it, that change is unlikely to be for the better. The problem is that far too many MP’s not only don’t get it when it comes to the net, they actively bask in their ignorance of new technology. 

… last week’s Westminster Hall Debate on the Report on Harmful Content on the Internet, released earlier this year by the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport was chock-full of parliamentary courtesy.

Middle-aged speaker after middle-aged dinosaur lumbered up to make the same quaintly prehistoric self-deprecating joke about their technological incompetence and how little experience they had of the internet or computer gaming. …

Yet the self-admittedly ignorant and incompetent were debating how (not whether) to regulate such activities.

Last word to a committee member who did not speak in the debate, but who did speak toThe Register. Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders said: “Government – of whatever stripe – is happiest with traditional models of topdown publishing run by properly constituted enterprises that it can control and regulate.

It finds the conversational anarchy on the web difficult to understand and definitely very difficult to deal with. Hence the authoritarian tendency in government thinking on the internet, which is never that far from the surface.

The debate can be read on TheyWorkForYou.

John Ozimek also quotes Edward Vaizey (Shadow Minister, Culture, Media & Sport; Wantage, Conservative):

In his response to Keith Vaz, he has implied that “Kaboom” is somehow a legitimate video game that breaches the boundaries of taste, but it is not. It was created by an individual in his bedroom. To say that we should ban “Kaboom” is, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, slightly missing the point.”Kaboom” is not subject to any legal constraints. It cannot be submitted to a regulator to be classified, because it is made by an individual, effectively illegally, outside the mainstream, just as violent pornographic films or child abuse photographs are. It is not at all part of the mainstream video games industry.

This is quite extraordinary: activities are only illegal if they are prohibited by law.  It is because Vaizey disagrees with the content and the manner of its production – “it was created by an individual in his bedroom”, as if that has any bearing on whether something is ‘legitimate’ – that he considers it ‘effectively’ illegal – of course it is nothing of the sort.  What’s even more absurd about this is that the video games industry was born from bedroom programming.

They have a profound distaste for it because they cannot control it.

Keith Vaz has changed his tune:

What we need first of all from the industry is responsibility and partnership. We are all on the same side. We are saying clearly that for someone who is over 18, there should be no censorship or attempt to stop them seeing or doing whatever they want as far as video games are concerned. My interest has always been to protect those who are under 18. Some are our children, of course, but it goes beyond protecting our own children. That is my only concern—not to stop adults buying games but to ensure that harmful games do not fall into the hands of young people and children.

He campaigned to ban Manhunts 1 & 2, which – ironically – increased sales.

Well, there’s plenty of other guff in there.  It’s a pity that they feel they have a right to control the Internet and video games even though they admit to being incompetent and ignorant.

Does anyone remember the episode of Thomas the Tank Engine, Henry’s Bad Day, when Henry is bricked up in a tunnel?  ‘Effectively’ buried alive?


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