Thursday, 6 March 2008

Getting Tangled in the Webcameron

Last week David Cameron launched the 'Friends of the Conservatives' campaign which sounded a bit too close to a 'Friends of the Earth' campaign: we all know it's an old and dying lump but by God it keeps on spinning.

The campaign was built around the idea that kids willing to spend a pound on the latest Dizzee Rascal number might consider doing the same for The Conservatives. Lord knows Dave probably thought Dizzee's fox-hunting video was a mark of respect to the Cameron crew:

In reality the whole thing is a pale imitation of Obama's internet campaign. But what Cameron doesn't realise is that Obama's message has only had success because it has been combined with enormous support from an army of activists on the ground. 

Just imagine Cameron sending out his own troops to get out the British youth. I can just see the blue- rinses marching on the street corners now. Just think of the thrilling activities that await our net-savvy youngsters when they stride into a local Conservative association. 

When Cameron ran for the leadership, he persuaded his party that he understood the web generation. The Conservatives had come third amongst under-35s at the 2005 election and Cameron positioned himself as the man to turn that round.

Which makes it all the stranger that he should come out with this campaign in the Daily Mail. According to the Mail the Conservatives would impose 'huge civil fines' or 'criminal charges' on websites such as Youtube that carry violent or sexual footage.

Now quite aside from the practicalities of a British government pressing charges on a US-based website run by the most successful internet company in the world, this story just doesn't ring true.

Indeed as The Mail readers helpfully point out in the Comments section of the article, Youtube has a policy of removing all illegal material as soon as it is pointed out by its users. And with hundreds of thousands of videos being posted every day, it is inevitable that some nasty ones will slip through the net.

In fact if you read further down the Mail article, you see that the Conservatives would only impose these fines if sites 'ignore' complaints that are given to them. Quite how a judge would decide what had been ignored and what complaints had been made is quite another matter. But the fact is that this policy has as much chance of success as the Friends of the Conservatives campaign. 

Because the internet is open and free to all, and its users access what they want, not what Conservative HQ think they should want. 

And there is no amount of 'liberal conservatism' that will change that.

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