Letters: Give ‘opt-out’ porn filters a fair trial

These letters were published in the January 11th edition of the Independent

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The level of misreporting in relation to the UK ISPs’ default on filters is reaching staggering proportions. What a pity it seems the Lib Dems have been taken in by it (“Lib Dems risk ‘pro porn’ label as they oppose internet filters”, 10 January).

Parents like filters, but many found the whole business of setting them up too complicated, so they abandoned the attempt. The new way makes it easier. Thus ISPs are giving parents a real choice, not a theoretical one. It seems to me to be entirely disingenuous for anyone to say they don’t mind parents using filters as long as it’s not too easy for them. If you don’t want to use the filters you can say so with a click of a mouse. What could be simpler?

Last October Ofcom released data showing that 37 per cent of three- to four-year-olds are going online. After the Christmas splurge on new, inexpensive internet-enabled tablets, my guess is that number will be nudging nearer to 50 per cent, and this time next year it will be moving towards the high 80s or 90s. When the Lib Dems say they do not want ISPs to make it easier to use filters, what are they saying to parents? Finger-wagging about always sitting with your child when he or she goes online won’t work. Filters are not perfect but they can help busy parents keep some of the most awful stuff away from their children’s machines. As long as any discovered errors can be quickly rectified, and they can, I don’t see the problem.

The ISPs are planning to spend £25m on a public awareness campaign which, among other things, will explain exactly what filters can do and what they can’t. Everyone should take a breath, and let’s see how this experiment pans out.

John Carr, London NW3, (The writer is a member of the executive board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety)

Great war generals had to attack

I have little truck with Michael Gove’s comments on the First World War, but feel that many of your letter writers have no real knowledge of the subject. As one of the dwindling number whose fathers fought in that war, I have read much about it.

One correspondent tells us of her aunt “not realising what they were sending men to”; in the first six months, neither did the generals, as the warfare in the trenches was something they had never experienced. Perhaps they should have learnt lessons sooner, but after the slaughter on the Somme they did develop new tactics – tanks, ground-strafing aeroplanes and avoiding mass frontal assaults.

The problem was that the Germans very rarely attacked but sat securely in well-developed defensive positions which we had to attack – otherwise the war would have dragged on indefinitely, with half of France and Belgium occupied and the UK suffering more and more from the U-boat blockade. There was no option but to attack.

If our troops were so badly led, why did they not mutiny like the French and Russians? It was because they were much better treated, with regular periods out of the front line. When America came into the war their generals ignored the lessons ours had learnt and carried out frontal assaults with heavy losses.

Terry Hancock, Cherry Willingham, Lincolnshire

Sean O‘Grady (“Who was to blame for the First World War?” 8 January) is harsh on Sir Edward Grey. It wasn’t him who declared war on Serbia, mobilised armies of millions, or invaded Belgium and France.  

If one man can be blamed, look no further than Count Conrad von Hötzendorf, chief of the Austro-Hungarian general staff, who had been desperate to find an excuse to attack Serbia, and who had been assured of German support if Russia came to the aid of her  Serbian client.

Barry Mellor, London N7

TV view of life on benefits

Did Owen Jones actually watch Benefits Street before he wrote his piece (9 January)? The programme he described seemed very unlike the one I watched.

As someone still working in their sixties, I have paid taxes to support the benefits system for over 40 years. Nothing I saw on Benefits Street made me, or seemed designed to make me, regret this use of my money. The inhabitants were not demonised, but were shown as a collection of people with different characters, different lives, different needs. Some were attractive (the man with his 50p business); some were not (the aggressive young shoplifter); but all clearly needed some form of  benefit support.

The “controversy” over the programme seems to have arisen from Twitter and the intervention of smart young journalists down from Oxford and looking for a cause.

Helen Hancock, Birmingham

Wouldn’t it have been interesting to be a fly on the wall in the production meeting for Benefits Street? “OK, we need fighting dogs, people smoking, watching Sky on enormous widescreen televisions” etc, etc.

I can just about remember when Channel 4 made thought-provoking, hard-hitting, intelligent programmes, as was its initial remit. Iain Duncan Smith and friends must be jumping with joy, at such a free party political broadcast for the Conservative Party.

Chris Allcock, Wirksworth, Derbyshire

Owen Jones is absolutely right. The approach of TV to pensioners is more subtle but just as poisonous. Whenever the question of winter fuel allowances or travel passes comes up we get a shot of a group of well-heeled “pensioners” playing golf or bowls before sitting down to refreshments in the clubhouse. Not exactly representative of the average pensioner.

B J Cairns, London N22

Alarming advice for visitors

Last night I was in the departure lounge at Benito Juarez airport waiting for a BA flight to Heathrow when a Mexican on his way by Lufthansa to a Frankfurt trade fair introduced himself. His immediate comment when I said we lived in London was: “How are you dealing with the Muzzies?”

I said mildly that London is perhaps the most cosmopolitan and diverse city in the world, that its many different cultural groups seem to get on pretty well with each other, and that my Muslim acquaintances include a neighbour who is fully involved in mainstream three-party politics. 

My new Mexican “friend” then observed that when he was in London a few months ago a policeman took him for an American and advised him very strongly not to visit any of half a dozen named areas in London where he was likely to be killed on the spot, if identified.

Do you suppose Boris, or Theresa, or  Commissioner Hogan-Howe, or even the Border Agency, is responsible for disseminating this kind of helpful advice to selected overseas visitors?

John Mann, London NW2

Celebrity MP in a swimsuit

Your article entitled “MP makes waves with part in Splash!” (9 January) claims that Penny Mordaunt MP is “facing criticism after announcing that she is to strip to her swimsuit and take part in the ITV celebrity diving show”, with the clear implication that she is being criticised for sexualising herself. The report also refers to her (three-year-old) status as “sexiest female parliamentarian”.

However, the only criticism quoted is for allegedly neglecting her constituency by “appearing in an entertainment show”.

Ms Mordaunt is far from being the only female politician to be forced to wear her sexuality like an albatross around her neck, as every single time that Mara Carfagna is mentioned in your paper her name is prefaced with the description “former topless model”.

Eoghan Lavery, Norwich

Met’s history of sick leave

Your report exposing “endemic corruption” at Scotland Yard (10 January) could explain why the Met adopted such an obviously lax approach to the management of sick leave during the 1980s and 1990s.

This failure to control such a drain on resources camouflaged the significant number of flawed officers who should have faced disciplinary charges or more but were allowed to retire on ill-health pensions which entailed lengthy periods of sick leave prior to the retirement.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner in his 1986 annual report boasted that the 15 days average annual sick leave taken by his officers compared favourably with that of  other forces.

When I recently used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the latest statistic I was told it was now down to about seven days. The management tools used to achieve this remarkable reduction could probably have been used 20 years ago.

John Kenny, Acle,  Norfolk

A cut above the rest

Does Boris Johnson’s hairdresser deserve a knighthood or an Asbo?

John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

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