Oh dear. Since i have been getting on better wih the Internet Watch Foundation (aka the IWF) in recent months, its a shame that my first real post – the one with which i will christen this new blog, is going to be about the latest extension to their service.
Last week they announced, as expected, that they would now be patrolling the net for cartoon images of the abuse of children. Quite right too. Sort of.
It fits with their existing remit, and if you happen to believe that cartoon images are as bad as the real stuff, then its a jolly good thing that someone has picked up the task.
Actually, i don’t happen to believe that. But that’s another story – for another time and another post.
So what’s my beef? Just that, buried in with their announcement is the pure government propaganda that this law will “only catch material which is already illegal to publish here under the Obscene Publications Act 1959”.
In the words of the immortal Mr Howard (that’s Frankie, not Michael): “No, no and thrice no!”
I had thought this canard laid to rest with the extreme porn law. Its the same line trotted out by the Ministry of Justice back then – and every bit as untrue.
The use of obscene in that particular bit of legislation was designed – just read the parliamentary debates – NOT to be precisely the same as the definition of obscene in the Obscene Publications Act (though Ministers weren’t exactly clear as to WHAT it meant).
The MoJ kept peddling this misleading line about extreme porn until i finally nailed them with a simple challenge: if the two laws are 100% congruous, then presumably i – or anyone else – can just refer anything we wish to the CPS as obscene under the OPA, and if they don’t prosecute, it is presumably ok to possess.
er, no. Back came a long convoluted answer about individual cases, juries, etc. It all boiled down to: it may say “the same” on the packet…but it is anything but.
Back then to the child cartoon act, which reprises the wording from the extreme porn law. One of the dodgier provisions of this llaw is that an image falls foul of it if it involves sex “in the presence of” children.
Ye-es…. I’ve also asked the MoJ about this one – and been fobbed off with a similar non-answer.
A drawing involving adult sex with a child in the same frame clearly falls foul of this law. But next frame, same room? Or same frame, but clearly drawn as outside the room?
Same story? Same comic. They have no idea – because it is all up to a jury to decide. And this sort of nit-picking is NOT within the OPA.
Sure: there is plenty of overlap between this law and the OPA. But please, please, please, IWF: please don’t fall for the government line that they are identical.
They aren’t – and if you doubt that, I can let you have the names of half a dozen lawyers who will explain just why it isn’t.