The UK should create a Council For Child Internet Safety that would monitor user-generated content sites for offensive material, according to a wide-ranging paper from the House Of Commons media and culture select committee. The committee said it was “not persuaded” by arguments from sites like YouTube, which leave monitoring up to users, and called for “pro-active review of content (as) standard practice for user-generated content sites”.
Instead, it supported Dr Tanya Byron’s proposal for a council that would give “high priority to reconciling the conflicting claims about the practicality and effectiveness of using staff and technological tools to screen and take down material”. It wants the council to set deadlines by which offensive content must be removed and for sites to add a “one-click mechanism” that would alert police to videos containing the worst abuses. And it wants sites to move toward this “without delay”.
From the paper: “We are also concerned that user-generated video content on sites such as YouTube does not carry any age classification, nor is there a watershed before which it cannot be viewed.” On monitoring: “Even if review of every bit of content is not practical, that is not an argument to undertake none at all.”
I watched the committee grill Google (NSDQ: GOOG) general counsel Kent Walker in the April session that informed this review (read transcript here) and, whilst one sympathises with its frustration that such sites eschew responsibility for the material they host, the general view of the recommendation amongst the sites that it affects may be that they’re being rather unrealistic, so strong is site’s belief that the Wisdom Of Crowds will do a better job at regulating their output than they can.
The proposed body “might” even regulate other areas like behavioural advertising and P2P filesharing “in time”, the committee said – potential mission creep and a significant overlap with government initiatives that are already underway. And the council would be chaired by a minister, giving government a massive say in what can and can’t appear in online media.