ON April 29 Ofcom announced the appointment of Jessica Zucker as director of their Online Safety Policy team. Formerly of Meta (Facebook), Zucker had previously led their Misinformation Policy team in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and was in charge of the social media giant’s tackling of health misinformation throughout the pandemic. Her reputation therefore precedes her.
In March 2020 Ofcom wrote to all licensed broadcasters to outline their approach to the coronavirus pandemic, demanding censorship of any statements that sought to ‘question or undermine the advice of public health bodies on the coronavirus, or otherwise undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information about the disease’. Having pierced the flesh of public health, how far can the broadcasting screw now be turned? All the way to the bone of anything deemed a hindrance to the state’s pursuit of its deranged post-Covid era agendas, it seems.
With the Online Safety Bill, and Ofcom’s role in enforcing it, comes the fear that far from serving the purpose it is nominally designed for – to clean up the dark, pornographic, and brutal side of the net – it will serve little other purpose than to crush the virus of so-called disinformation – the ‘infodemic’ – a canard itself conjured up during the pandemic to concretise the new idea that the public will never be truly safe until they are shielded from all possible causes of offence. Call it Wokery, call it health and safetyism gone mad, call it the Great Reset, no matter the label the result is the same – a CCP-style policing of thought. Or as Zucker prefers to call it: ‘Setting the global foundation for content regulation’. This, not our genuine protection from degrading adult content, is already the direction of travel.
According to Ofcom’s 2021 Online Nation report, the regulator appears quite sanguine about half of the UK adult population having visited a site containing adult content in September 2020, the most popular being Pornhub.com, for which the UK is the third highest source of traffic. Regardless of the genre’s exploitative and harmful nature, Ofcom’s report does not refer to it in a negative light, seemingly happy for consumption of pornography to remain one of our national pastimes.
However, as part of the Online Safety Bill, adult content providers will soon be forced to prevent underage access to their sites by implementing new age verification protocols, which could see users having to provide data such as credit card and passport details. For the sake of protecting children from pornography it could be said to be a step in the right direction. There is a caveat – this measure will mean that everyone has to comply in order for sites to determine the age of those attempting to gain entry. How long will it be until accessing any site deemed spuriously to contain ‘adult content’ – a definition flexible enough to cover virtually anything – will become contingent upon this offering up of personal data, a hazard in its own right?