Concerns Raised Over “Child Protection” Conference

The UK video-on-demand regulator, ATVOD, has announced a conference on child protection, to be held in London on 12th December. In an open letter, below, we raise concerns with the nature of the conference and some of the speakers to be featured. (UPDATE: a response was received on 19th November, and has been appended to the end of this post).

Jerry Barnett
SexAndCensorship.org

18 November 2013

Open letter to: Julia Hornle, ATVOD board member

Cc: Sue Berelowitz – Deputy Children’s Commissioner

 

Dear Julia,

I am writing with regard to the ATVOD-organised child protection conference taking place in London on 12th December. I am informed that you selected the conference speakers. I write on behalf of a number of people who are greatly concerned that the conference line-up is not altogether suitable for an event whose purported goal is to determine what best can be done to protect British children.

The concerns are twofold: first, the lack of expertise related to the effects of content on viewers, including children and teenagers, and second the inclusion of two speakers whose beliefs seem out of place at a conference dedicated to child protection.

On the first point: How children and teenagers are affected by what they see online is widely debated. A great deal of research has been done over several decades, and a good deal has yet to be done. There is still however no conclusive evidence to support how harm, if any, is done by  sexual, violent, or other material and it would therefore seem premature to suggest remedies until the existence and nature of any problem is properly understood.

For this reason, it is puzzling that the conference speaker list includes no expertise on this matter, and yet plenty of expertise does exist. It would seem suitable to include a child psychologist, or somebody who has directly tried to research the effects of viewing such material.

A number of suitable individuals come to mind, but we might suggest:

  • Dr Guy Cumberbatch is a chartered psychologist who has been commissioned previously by Ofcom to conduct research on this very subject area. It would seem sensible that the conference should be informed by an expert in child psychology before coming to any conclusions.

  • Dr Clarissa Smith is Professor of Sexual Cultures at Sunderland University, and (along with colleagues) is conducting the most exhaustive study to date into the effects of pornography on its users.

  • Sharon Girling is a former senior Police officer with national responsibility, now an independent consultant, and probably the UK’s leading authority on online child abuse imagery, and protecting abused children who are identified from such imagery.

It may be dangerous to rush towards policy-making without input, at such a critical event, from people such as the above. As history shows, rashly drafted laws and regulations might disrupt existing child protection activities, and thus have the reverse effect to that originally intended.

On the second point: we note with concern the inclusion of the following two speakers:

  • Paula Hall is billed as Chair of the Association for the Treatment of Sex Addiction and Compulsivity. However, there is widespread skepticism among mental health professionals that “sex addiction” is even a genuine condition, or whether it simply stigmatises normal sexual response. Although “hypersexuality” was previously accepted as a psychiatric condition (as once was homosexuality), it has now been removed from the most recent manual of psychiatry, DSM-V. It is worrying that you consider what many believe to be quack psychiatry to be relevant to this discussion.

  • Julia Long is a spokesperson for the morality group Object, which campaigns against all forms of sexual expression, whether consumed by children or adults. Object frequently attempt to link adult material to sexual violence, although they have no evidence to back this point of view. They have claimed (without evidential foundation) that adults are harmed by accessing pornography, reading lads’ mags and visiting strip clubs. Again, their inclusion seems incongruous at a conference aimed at protecting children, a subject in which Object and Ms Long herself appear to have no expertise or prior interest.

The anomalies in the conference line-up have led to questions as to whether this event is about child protection or Internet censorship. I look forward to your response, and hope that you can put minds at rest regarding your goals in setting up the conference panels.

Regards,

 

The UK Will Block Millions of Sites
Install a VPN

Jerry Barnett
SexAndCensorship.org

The UK Will Block Millions of Sites
Install a VPN

 UPDATE: the following response was received on 19 November:

Emailed on Behalf of Julia Hornle

Dear Mr Barnett,

Thank you for your letter and suggestions for the joint ATVOD-QMUL conference on 12th December.

We have finalised the composition of the panels and speakers.  I’m familiar with the work of the speakers you suggest and have no doubt that they also have interesting contributions to make, perhaps at a different conference.  Please let me know if you are organising such an event in the future.

Kind Regards,

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6 thoughts on “Concerns Raised Over “Child Protection” Conference”

  1. Surprised that Julia long is going, she usually requires a chance to promote her book before she speaks. One thing that isn’t a surprise is the fact that she has no one there who would challenge her beliefs as she has no facts to back them up. Certainly Object have never been one for facts, they still link to the Lilith report (18/11/13) even though Eaves removed it.

    The line up certain sounds like someone has a “solution” and just wants to be sure theirs is the only view taken.

  2. Jerry the government is pretending to protect children from the perceived harm of sexual images when it is doing nothing except protect real paedophiles in its ranks and those of Labour. The police only discover the real abusers of little children when they are dead and although they have plenty of evidence against real living elite paedophiles the police protect them on orders from above…

  3. The response is extraordinarily arrogant –
    “I’m familiar with the work of the speakers you suggest and have no doubt that they also have interesting contributions to make”
    I would regard their contributions as essential rather than interesting.

  4. In a so called democratic society all I see in this arsenal of speakers are those who do not want their opinions challenged with reasonable debate in their persuit of censoring and controlling the internet from free speech and freedom of expression. Thats the holy grail of all this. Its not about protecting the minors at all and if people dont oppose this now they will find themselves losing out in the long term with no ability to fight back

    Think Wikileaks. Think Julian Assange. Think Bradley Manning. Think sex counselling. Education. Literature. Important works of art. Think anything the government does not want you to know including protecting the Jimmy Savilles and the embarrasements of politics by controlling the internet the way they do the media and you will see that this is how they try to get control of it with one sided views designed to scaremonger civic minded people on their side

    This issue is bigger than porn

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