Stonewall and O2: Won’t Someone Think of the Children?!

I don’t want to spend too much time on this because, you know, even I have limits. But it’s another week and so we have another woeful Stonewall initiative backed up by some  vague (I’m being charitable here) ‘research’. This time it’s tackling ‘endemic levels of online abuse‘ in “response to statistics showing that almost a quarter of gay young people experience cyberbullying.” What are these statistics and where do they come from? Who knows? They don’t tell us and a quick Google search throws up nothing. How does it define the rather nebulous term of ‘cyberbullying’? Your guess is as good as mine. What is the age of these ‘young people’? Um. Still, it sounds like the kind of thing which demands action, right?

Don’t worry! Stonewall have done their own research (in association with Childline, no less!) It apparently surveyed 248 young LGB people. Via Surveymonkey. This self-selecting, unsound and statistically useless ‘research’ found “deeply worrying levels of ‘sexting’ among gay young people”. This ‘sexting’ is  ’shocking’.  We’re told that:

Shockingly, 59 per cent of all gay young people who participated in the survey had created a sexual photo or video of themselves.

Then Stonewall’s Chief Exec (I miss you, Ben) pops up to call it ‘disturbing’. The moral outrage and hysteria over a laughably dodgy survey is such that by this point you may have forgotten that you’re reading a Stonewall press release and instead think you’ve stumbled onto the Daily Mail’s site. It’s notable that the release doesn’t say why any of this should be so terrifying – it just takes it as a given that we’ll be clutching our pearls at the thought of teenagers sharing “self-generated sexually explicit images”. The accompanying report relies on similar shared assumptions about anything sexual, from porn to ‘adult’ hook-up sites.

Such idiotic and evidence-free outrage was, of course, heavily in evidence when the government was pushing its ‘porn filter’ which (inevitably) ended up blocking a whole lot more than porn. Heck, even Stonewall’s site was blocked. Rest easy, however, as Stonewall are working with O2 to refine their censorship in order to keep the kiddies safe. Hooray! Once more Stonewall rushes to stamp its banal approval all over some incredibly problematic behaviour and provide a handy ethical veneer for a company under fire. Reactionary demagogy must get the donations rolling in and is so much easier than actually thinking about how filters don’t help and are deeply sinister. Heck, even The Telegraph has run pieces from this angle. Filters are never going to help kids and it’s arguable that they could impact on LGBT youth worse than most. The ‘guide’ to online safety which Stonewall and O2 have produced is pretty basic stuff and doesn’t remotely justify the moral indignation running through it or, indeed, its message that “Internet filters play an important role in protecting gay young people from unsuitable or adult sites.”

Interestingly enough, O2 recently partnered with the racist, homophobic, sexist and generally deeply reactionary The Sun. Shocking and disturbing, indeed. Won’t somebody think of the children?!