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The spirit of Mary Whitehouse lives on

It’s now been three days since the new legislation against extreme pornography came into effect here in the UK, despite protests from CAAN and others, so it’s time to get organised and wipe your hard drives of anything disreputable if you haven’t already.

So, what should you be looking for?  The law specifies that all of the following elements must be present:

  • The image is pornographic;
  • The image is grossly offensive, disgusting, or otherwise of an obscene  character
  • The image portrays in an explicit and realistic way, one of the following extreme acts:
  1. An act which threatens a person’s life;
  2. An act which results in or is likely to result in serious injury to a person’s anus,
    breast or genitals;
  3. An act involving sexual interference with a human corpse,
  4. A person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive),
  5. and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that the people and animals portrayed were real.

The last section does at least seem to rule out prosecutions resulting from the possession of Japanese manga, although they could well still fall foul of the new sections of the Coronors and  Justice billPictures of Russell Brand’s ex could well be a different matter.  Films rated by the BBFC are also exempt, but intriguingly, not excerpts from them.

Of course, it’s still difficult to see what extra benefit this law adds.  The Ministry of Justice has already said that no image that would be legal under the Obscene Publications Act will be covered by this legislation anyway, so why do we need additional laws?

In fact this new legislation sounds suspiciously similar to the many other pieces of new legislation produced recently.  An attempt to look tough on the tabloid-issue of the week but without actually making any real difference.  Police chiefs have already said they’re not planning on targeting people for breaking the new law, possibly wise as the last time they were asked they didn’t even seem to know what was covered.

Fortunately for our collective morals a new internet vigilante group has appeared, picking up the torch from Mary Whitehouse and promising to catch and report offenders to ISPs.  They’re planning on doing this by capturing IP addresses from bittorrent streams which they have categorised as falling foul of the act.  Of course, presumably to do that they’re going to have to watch the streams themselves first and thus fall foul of the law.  A slight problem perhaps?

Still they clearly have the moral high-ground, linking their enforcement activities to the beating to death of a suspected paedophile. Ok, to be fair, they do say they would “rather not associate ourselves with such.. unsavory (sic) people” which is clearly a ringing condemnation of their actions.

I’m sure we’re all grateful to have such a caring organisation looking out for our well-being and, if they fail, they can probably at least sell on their URL for a few quid..

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