The Government has unveiled a number of proposals aimed at making children safer online through closer monitoring of registered sex offenders.
These websites would then be expected to monitor how those email addresses were being used on their sites, or even to block their owners altogether.
To ensure compliance with the proposed legislation, the Government has said that sex offenders who supplied incorrect email addresses would face up to five years’ imprisonment.
Of course, given how easy it is to create virtually untraceable alternative addresses, and to piggyback on unsecured wireless networks, it could be said that the Government’s proposals hold about as much water as a tea strainer.
Add to that the fact that most social networking sites are registered in the US and do not therefore fall within the domain of UK law, and the proposals look less likely and more like the hollow words of a PR-hungry Government looking for a cheap headline.
Educating children about the dangers they face online, and providing easy access to the relevant authorities if they should ever face predatory approaches is all well and good, but pretending that the internet can be policed in such an easy, cooperative way is at best naive.
Speaking on GMTV this morning, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith seemed to admit as much when she admitted that the proposals could never be “completely foolproof”.
Of course the real sound-bite Smith wanted everyone to hear was that children should be “free from fear” online. Of course they should. There’s no argument from us about that, but half-baked ideas like this really aren’t the way forward.