02 January 2009

Dear Mr Burnham....

Tom Watson is that rare thing: a tech-savvy MP. And since he has taken the trouble of asking what people think about Andy Burnham's proposals to adopt cinema-style ratings for the Internet, I think it would be churlish not to respond. Not least because this kind of thing should be the norm, not the exception, and needs to be nurtured.

Here's what I've posted on the site:

As someone who has been writing about the Internet for fifteen years now, I obviously agree with the majority sentiments expressed above: the idea simply won't work at multiple levels. If attempted, it will be costly, and cause great collateral damage in terms of maligning perfectly harmless sites.

But carping is easy: the real issue is what should be done instead.

I think the key to solving not just this problem, but myriad other technology-related issues, is to tap the huge reservoir of expertise that exists both in the UK and elsewhere. It is simply folly to attempt to come up with solutions to complex problems ex nihilo; instead, we need to build on what people already know, and what they've already tried. This means getting people involved, at all levels.

This would help not only in the current case, but generally when the UK government is grappling with the intersection of policy with technology. Sadly, previous decisions involving computers, the Internet and related areas have frequently ignored salient facts that have subsequently vitiated the proposed schemes.

In summary, please don't even think about implementing clumsy classification schemes until more general structures are in place to help arrive, collaboratively, at ones that will work better.

You may want to add your twopence.

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