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Is 2,000 consultation responses representative of public opinion?
Thursday 06 September 2012 10:39:32 by Andrew Ferguson

In the UK it is not uncommon for millions to not bother voting at Election time, and it seems the public consultation into what form of parental controls should be implemented to help protect children has followed a similar pattern.

The BBC is reporting that on the eve of the deadline over 2,000 responses had been received in the ten week consultation period, which hardly seems representative of the views of the nation. There has been high profile campaigns calling for mandatory blocks on pornography, and some lower profile campaigns from those trying to highlight the flaws and problems that may occur. If the response to the consultation is actually as low as it appears, then the pro-filtering campaign appears to have not mobilised many supporters.

What no one knows at this time is what the actual outcome of the consultation will be, but if a system is to be implemented that affects over 90% of broadband connections in the UK (assuming the chosen system only applies to major providers), basing the decision on 0.004% of the adult population responding seems very dangerous.

Of course there are many polls appearing weekly, and during elections national results are projected from surveys of around 2,000 people, but these surveys are in theory conducted with good sampling methodologies to ensure that all layers of the UK population are represented.

If we want the facts on what parents, and the large number of adults who are not actually parents, perhaps the only way is to conduct a national referendum. This may not be cheap, but then implementing one of the three options from the consultation is not going to be free. The TalkTalk HomeSafe system may be seen as an example of what can be implemented for minimal cost, but TalkTalk, by being first to market with a network based filter, has gambled on attracting the concerned adult who favours network level filtering.

Interestingly much of the opposition to default network based level filtering is not actually against parents having the option to filter but they want it to remain a persons choice. Very importantly for such a culturally diverse nation as the UK by placing parents in control, you cater for the very wide variation of what is considered inappropriate content for children, and the ability for parents to vary this as their children grow older.


Posted by dsf58 over 4 years ago
"Is 2,000 consultation responses representative of public opinion?"

Possibly, but when I looked at the consultation it appeared to be aimed squarely at parents of young children - and no one else. For someone who is not a parent of young children the questions seemed very skewed.

I suspect that the 2000 who replied are therefore predominantly parents with young children.
Posted by camieabz over 4 years ago
"Very importantly for such a culturally diverse nation as the UK by placing parents in control, you cater for the very wide variation of what is considered inappropriate content for children, and the ability for parents to vary this as their children grow older."

Ah, but in the nanny state, this 'culturally diverse nation' cannot be trusted to self-regulate, self-police or self-help.

Do parents allow their children on the Internet without monitoring their browsing habits? Is this responsible parenting?
Posted by camieabz over 4 years ago
On second thoughts, let's have an opt-in system.

Make it a legal responsibility for parents to opt in to filtering if there are children in the household.

Nanny state and non-parental happiness combined.
Posted by jmorby over 4 years ago
When I tried to access the consultation (as I have just tried again today, ahead of the 5pm cut off) ... it wasn't available

Due to technical problems we have had to temporarily take the e-consultations tool offline. However, you can still access details of all the Department’s live consultations, as well as download and submit response forms, from this section.

And the only way you can respond is apparently to upload a Word doc with your answers to questions that you're not able to download.

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
The link to the word doc is on the page BEFORE the online form

and you upload it after filling in the form.
Posted by chrisspargo over 4 years ago
I can't work out how to tick the boxes in Word... this is unnecessarily complicated, the gay marriage consultation was a nice easy web form
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
I replaced the box with YES or NO in capitals or an X where it seemed appropriate.

Agreed not simple.
Posted by camieabz over 4 years ago
So if not a parent or a business, don't bother, it seems.
Posted by JttB over 4 years ago
Lets be honest, it would only be nosey busybodies who would fill out a word document as a survey anyway.

Posted by uniquename over 4 years ago
They would also be American.
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
Lets face it.. it's going to happen, no matter what the consultation finds! Not that it is in any way reflective of public opinion.

It's just another tool in making sure the plebs are compliant.
Posted by Michael_Chare over 4 years ago
@jttB. Presumably you are happy to be forced to pay for such a filter service. I have no desire to subsidize such a service which may well cause problems accessing innocent internet services.
Posted by jumpmum over 4 years ago
Not surprised there were only 2000 responses.
The word doc is designed to be printed then filled in by hand and posted not completed electronically. The tick boxes are not a text box but a picture so you cannot add a tick without inserting a text box each time and when pasting the text doesn't go in the correct place so every box has to be moved. The whole form was a nightmare!!
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