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Summary:

Claire Perry, the MP who drove through the UK’s absurd porn filter proposals, has revealed her technical cluelessness in a Twitter argument that is now getting her sued. Can’t lawmakers be forced to undergo internet training?

Claire Perry

Claire Perry, the member of parliament who led the campaign for an on-by-default porn filter in the UK, is being sued by a blogger after accusing him of “sponsoring” a hack on her website. The whole episode provides a fascinating insight into Perry’s technical knowledge.

Here’s what happened: a couple of days ago, someone hacked Perry’s website to display offensive images. Paul Staines, a right-wing political blogger who writes as “Guido Fawkes”, duly reported on the incident, complete with a screenshot of one of the more tame images displaying on Perry’s site. Perry took to Twitter to accuse Staines of “hosting a link that distributed porn via my website”; Staines replied that Perry was “confused by technology”; Perry didn’t back down, and repeated her reference to “the hacking of my website sponsored by @GuidoFawkes.”

(Click here to read the full, facepalm-worthy argument.)

Now, don’t forget that the UK has very strict libel laws. While Staines is usually on the defensive rather than offensive side of such issues, he polled his readers to see whether they thought he should sue. Eighty six percent said he should, so late on Wednesday Staines wrote that he was “reluctantly” instructing his lawyers.

If you’re reading this site, chances are you don’t need to be told that a screenshot of a hack does not equate to responsibility for said hack – in terms of determining cause and effect, it’s utterly back-to-front. But then again, Perry reacted to the news of her porn-blocking success by claiming it “represents a comprehensive and pragmatic approach to tackling the key issues which threaten the safety of our children online.” As I and many others have argued, the system won’t do what it’s meant to, and will probably lead to the unintended censorship of a wide range of online material.

Perry is, however, probably a bit more technically literate than Rhoda Grant, a member of the Scottish parliament. Grant recently asked why, if there is a watershed on TV – the 9pm break point before which adult material shouldn’t be shown, for fear of children seeing it – there can’t be one for the internet too.

The U.S. had Ted Stevens and his “series of tubes”; the United Kingdom has Perry and Grant. I think there’s a strong case for lawmakers being forced to undergo some basic training on how the internet works before they get any opportunity to try “fixing” things through new legislation.

  1. Or an IQ test before being allowed to stand for election. Sadly, politicians in the UK these days are elected on the basis of how they can push the emotive buttons of the electorate with total claptrap rather than in their ability to construct rational policies.

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    1. I sometimes feel that there should be an IQ test before you are even allowed to vote.

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    2. Have you been paying any attention to our Congress in the States. Most of them seem to be asleep at the wheel. Many years ago, Senator Roman Hruska (R-Nebraska) voting in favor of an intellectually challenged nominee to the Supreme Court said, “So what if he is mediocre? There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they? We can’t have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters and stuff like that there.”

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  2. Worrying that the people who are now policing the internet do not technically understand it.

    https://storageous.wordpress.com

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  3. georgecooperpearson Thursday, July 25, 2013

    Wow, accusing someone of inciting hacking on the basis of the fact that an individual with a profile disagrees with a policy which 70%+ of the population disagree on. Furthermore this woman is consulting on a technological issue? What an absolute farce.

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  4. These clueless idiots barely understand economics. What chance have they with something technical?

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  5. MP

    Job requirements: a Pulse
    Education: not required
    Skills: None

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  6. Interesting…

    So, we have an MP proving to one and all (and my 13 year old had a good chuckle at this) that the Internet really is beyond their intellectual grasp… Yet, they are allowed to promote a law which won’t tackle the real problems? Interesting.

    How does this brainiac keep her job I wonder?

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  7. The Internet?

    Is that old thing still around?

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  8. Shock horror. politician makes a fool of herself.

    Where is Nadine?

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  9. Someone should create a filter for clueless politicians…

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  10. To be fair, I don’t see how the a 9pm “watershed” for porn is any dafter an idea than that of a universal porn filter to start with. If UK ISPs could make the filter work (which of course they can’t, really), there’s nothing to stop them turning it off for network requests that came in at certain times of the day, either UK time or in the browser’s local timezone. (Though you could presumably just change the time on any given device to work around the latter).

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