Ofcom has published a prospectus angling for a role as the UK internet censor. It writes:
Ofcom has published a discussion document examining the area of harmful online content.
In the UK and around the world, a debate is underway about whether regulation is needed to address a range of problems that originate online, affecting people, businesses and markets.
The discussion document is intended as a contribution to that debate, drawing on Ofcom's experience of regulating the UK's communications sector, and broadcasting in particular. It draws out the key lessons from the regulation of content
standards 203 for broadcast and on-demand video services 203 and the insights that these might provide to policy makers into the principles that could underpin any new models for addressing harmful online content.
The UK Government intends to legislate to improve online safety, and to publish a White Paper this winter. Any new legislation is a matter for Government and Parliament, and Ofcom has no view about the institutional arrangements that might
Alongside the discussion paper, Ofcom has published joint research with the Information Commissioner's Office on people's perception, understanding and experience of online harm. The survey of 1,686 adult internet users finds that 79% have
concerns about aspects of going online, and 45% have experienced some form of online harm. The study shows that protection of children is a primary concern, and reveals mixed levels of understanding around what types of media are regulated.
The sales pitch is more or less that Ofcom's TV censorship has 'benefited' viewers so would be a good basis for internet censorship.
Ofcom particularly makes a point of pushing the results of a survey of internet users and their 'concerns'. The survey is very dubious and ends up suggesting thet 79% of users have concerns about going on line.
And maybe this claim is actually true. After all, the Melon Farmers are amongst the 79% have concerns about going online: The Melon Farmers are concerned that:
There are vast amounts of scams and viruses waiting to be filtered out from Melon Farmers email inbox every day.
The authorities never seem interested in doing anything whatsoever about protecting people from being scammed out of their life savings. Have you EVER heard of the police investigating a phishing scam?
On the other hand the police devote vast resources to prosecuting internet insults and jokes, whilst never investigating scams that see old folks lose their life savings.
So yes, there is concern about the internet. BUT, it would be a lie to infer that these concerns mean support for Ofcom's proposals to censor websites along the lines of TV.
In fact looking at the figures, some of the larger categories of 'concern's are more about fears of real crime rather than concerns about issues like fake news.
Interestingly Ofcom has published how the 'concerns' were hyped up by prompting the surveyed a bit. For instance, Ofcom reports that 12% of internet users say they are 'concerned' about fake news without being prompted. With a little prompting by
the interviewer, the number of people reporting being concerned about fake news magically increases to 29%.
It also has to be noted that there are NO reports in the survey of internet users concerned about a lack news balancing opinions, a lack of algorithm transparency, a lack of trust ratings for news sources, or indeed for most of the other
suggestions that Ofcom addresses.
I've seen more fake inferences in the Ofcom discussion document than I have seen fake news items on the internet in the last ten years.
Following an investigation, Ofcom has revoked the broadcast licence held by Ausaf UK Limited for Ausaf TV, a channel which was intended to serve the Pakistani community in the UK, but had not started broadcasting at the time of Ofcom's decision.
In line with our ongoing duty under the Broadcasting Act 1990, Ofcom opened an investigation into the licensee about whether those in control were 'fit and proper' to hold the licence.
After carefully considering all available evidence, including oral representations made by the licensee, our investigation concluded that:
the individual in control of Ausaf UK Limited had close links to the Pakistan and UK editions of the Daily Ausaf newspaper, in which articles were published which we considered amounted to hate speech and incitement to crime/terrorist actions;
the licensee provided misleading or false information about the links between the Daily Ausaf and Ausaf UK Limited during the course of our investigation; and
there is a material risk that the licensee could breach our broadcasting rules; for example, by airing similar content to that published in the Daily Ausaf on Ausaf TV, which would be harmful to viewers if the licensee were permitted to
this brings into question public confidence in the regulatory activity if Ofcom were to remain satisfied that the licensee was fit and proper to broadcast.
In light of these serious findings, we are no longer satisfied that that those in control of Ausaf UK Limited are fit and proper to hold a broadcast licence. We have therefore revoked the licence.
The channel had not started broadcasting, and it will now be prevented from doing so.
Bob FM is a local commercial radio service for Hertford and its surrounding areas. The station's output consists of music and information aimed at listeners aged between 25 and 54.
We received a complaint about a segment broadcast during the station's daily breakfast programme, during which the presenter took call from a listener who identified the location of a vehicle with a mobile speed camera.
The listener described the person conducting the speed checks as a scumbag and said he was sat there like a little maggot. The presenter then said that this person was:
In the back of a van, catching hard-working, tax-paying people who are on their way to work206to earn their living, to take their place in society, to make a bit of a difference, to you know, help the economy of this country so they can earn a
living to put a roof over their head and pay taxes. Those are the people that this maggot
Ofcom consider Rule 2.3 of the Code:
In applying generally accepted standards, broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context... Such material may include offensive language...[or] discriminatory treatment or language
The Licensee said that the language used was provocative and designed to be entertaining while empathising with listeners' frustration. It added that there was no assertion that the person in the speed camera van was a police officer or whether
the van was unmanned.
This two-minute segment called into question the actions of speed camera operators and their motivation for carrying out this function. The item contained six uses of the word maggot, two uses of the word maggotwatch and one use of the word
scumbag to describe people who operate mobile speed cameras. The presenter and caller criticised their work, saying that its purpose was to generate revenue and that it caught innocent people.
In Ofcom's view, the language used in this segment was critical and derogatory and had the potential to cause offence. We took into account the Licensee's argument that there was no assertion that the people operating the speed cameras were
police officers. However, in our view, listeners were likely to have understood the criticism as being directed at police officers in speed camera vehicles. We considered that this heightened the potential for offence. We also took into account
the Licensee's submission that children were unlikely to be in the audience. However, our concern in this case was the potential offence to the audience generally rather than just children
Our Decision is that the offence caused by this segment was not justified by the context and in breach of Rule 2.3.