Last week, a government committee produced what was a switched-on report on Internet filtering. (PDF link) In it, they rejected calls for a default-on internet filter, pointing out that “default filtering can create a false sense of security” and that “there was no great appetite amongst parents for the introduction of default filtering“.

Personally, I’ve always preferred the educational approach to keeping kids safe online. In our house, the computers are all kept in public areas so when they were younger, before they had smart phones, we had some idea what they’re up to. (Which mostly consists of doing their homework and looking at videos of Ponies, Minecraft and cute cats on YouTube) The trouble with blocking is that parents and carers assume it will work, but it doesn’t. It will block the obvious sites, but might fail to find more obscure items. And if there is one thing kids are good at it’s finding obscure sites.

Oh, actually, there are two things kids are good at with computers. The second thing is bypassing blocks put in place by parents and ISPs. There’s even a project part-funded by the US Military to allow people to bypass such filters, often used by those in oppressive regimes such as China or, uh, the UK.

On filtering, the government report stated they “work to filter out certain kinds of internet content but do not prevent… online bulling… sharing personal sexual content… online grooming… sharing personal information online“. There is also the risk of blocking positive content, such as help sites for LGBT+ youth or even content for other adults in the house who are being emotionally or physically abused.

Sadly, the evidence that blocking is unhelpful isn’t enough to deter Claire Perry MP and the Daily Mail from their “WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN” campaign. Potentially increasing risk to children isn’t enough reason to stop such campaigns of course. It appears they’ve dragged David Cameron along with them. He’s announced today that publicity-seeking Claire Perry is to be put in charge of plans to create internet filters, which contrary to the recommendations in the report parents will be forced to choose between.

Well, I say parents. Actually, it will be whoever sets up the computer. Because nobody will ever give their 13 year old the new X-Box to set up on Christmas Day, will they? Vague plans that people will need to prove their age to be able to configure these things do make me wonder if anyone involved has even even been online.

Are you 18 or over? Please click “Yes, honestly, I’d never lie to you” or “No”.

The Prime Minister’s announcement was very motherhood-and-apple-pie, even containing the statement “These should be distinct and precious years, full of security and love, untainted by the worries and complexities of adulthood.“. How much engagement do Tory MPs have with their kids if they think you can protect a 13 or 14 year old from “the worries and complexities of adulthood”. That’s exactly when you do need to deal with such issues if you want to become a healthy, well-adjusted adult.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceBut I guess life is easier for non-LGBT+ and non-queer youth.

I just had a very quick initial scan of the Government’s response to the Equal Marriage consultation. (PDF Link) Headline issues of particular interest to Bi and Trans folk are as follows:

Civil partnerships will be retained, but open to same-sex couples only. This is disappointing, as it’s effectively giving same-sex couples more rights than mixed-sex couples. There is a legal challenge in the works already to try to open this up to mixed-sex couples, and presumably that will now go ahead.

Civil Partnerships (CPs) can be converted into marriages, either for transition or just because a couple wishes to do so. This will be required for those transitioning but already in a CP, because mixed-sex CPs will not be allowed. Conversion due to transition will become part of the Gender Recognition process, but will require written consent of the spouse as well as the transitioning person. Once an interim Gender Recognition Certificate has been obtained, the choice is either to convert to marriage or go through the current system and annul the existing marriage.

The handling of paperwork on transition, e.g. would a replacement marriage certificate be issued still showing the initial marriage date, is still up for discussion.

In an announcement that I know will upset a great many people, marriages stolen under the old system of forced-divorce will not be reinstated.

Interestingly, 3% of respondents indirectly stated they were Trans and married, a surprisingly high proportion. Another 3% were identified as being spouses. In both cases, 79% of people said they would like to use the option to retain their existing marriage.

Opposite sex couples will continue to be able to annul their marriage on the grounds of non-consummation. This may be of particular interest to some non-op Trans folk as well as other groups, such as those with disabilities where consummation is physically impossible and both people knew it when they got married.

And finally, the one you’ll no doubt read in the mainstream sources: Religious (Not just civil, as I’d initially thought from earlier statements) marriage in religious premises will be allowed as long as both the minister and the wider church agree to it.

As a result of Freedom of Information request responses, the figures for all three major political party’s conference accreditation schemes have been released. When I looked at the numbers for 2010, Labour conference attendees were around twice as likely to be blocked as Conservative conference ones, with the LibDem conference somewhere in the middle.

The results for this year and previous years are as follows:

2012 2011 2010
LibDem 0.018% – 1 / 5,585 0.045% – 3 / 6,650 No accreditation
Labour 0.032% – 3 / 9,403 0.19% – 25 / 12,032 0.20% – 24 / 11,988
Tory 0.04% – 4 / 9,612 0.19% – 24 / 12,800 0.04% – 6 / 13,767

The first thing to notice is that 2012 conference attendance is well down across all three parties – 15% for the Liberal Democrats and over 20% for both Labour and the Tories. Secondly, conference rejection rates this year have been lower than earlier years, which may be the effect of additional focus caused by the liberal backlash against the process. It is also interesting to note that the difference between the Tory and Labour conferences in 2010 was a one-off, and has not been reflected in later years.

It always puzzled me how the figures for this could be so low, given the significant number of people I know who have been willing to apply but been stopped by accreditation – I know personally of at least three people this year who were unable to attend the Liberal Democrat 2012 conference. If we ask the police the number of people who tried to attend but didn’t complete accreditation, the numbers are much higher:

2012 2011 2010
LibDem 0.70% – 39 / 5,585 No data No accreditation
Labour 1.69% – 159 / 9,403 3.76% – 452 / 12,032 No data
Tory 1.04% – 100 / 9,612 3.42% – 438 / 12,800 No data

So it seems that accreditation is having a more serious effect on excluding people than the headline rejection figures would initially show. For example, one cases I am aware of includes a situation where someone had moved around and the police asked for additional proof and information on previous addresses, too late for it to be reasonably produced. In the case of the Liberal Democrats, these people will never reach the Party President and Federal Conference Committee chair for consideration, so they will not even have the chance to argue their case as would someone who had been outright rejected.

Finally, although not available in all cases, the 2011 Tory conference response included number by type of applicant. The disparity between rejection/non-approval rates and types of applicant show we should be at least a little cautious with the above figures.

Rejection Non-approval
Political Party Members 0.046% – 5 / 10,921 1.48% – 162 / 10,921
Ancillary 0.90% – 15 / 1,672 16.0% – 268 / 1,672
Security 1.93% – 4 / 207 3.86% – 8 / 207