Is Internet Censorship the Answer?

For me, there’s been a definite theme this week.

A few days ago, I watched a Channel 4 programme called ‘Catching the Coppers’. This is a documentary about the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of Avon and Somerset Police. PSD, for those who do not know, are the people who investigate police misconduct. Several cases were shown in the hour long programme.

One involved 2 officers who had been rude, impolite and unempathetic to a person in their care. A decision was made to deal with the matter by way of management advice in which their Sergeant spoke to the officers about the incident.

One of the officers disclosed that he himself recognised that he had become emotionally detached and uncaring and that’s why he had behaved the way he had. He said it was the only way to cope with the horrors, the despair and the violence he had to witness on a daily basis.

Anyone who has served knows of what he speaks. My best friend, also an ex-copper, once described policing as “seeing the world with its skin peeled off”. Unpleasant but accurate.

The Sergeant skipped over these comments lightly, the officer was offered no support and the voiceover man left us in no doubt that this was a completely ridiculous excuse for what had happened. Nobody seemed to care that the officer was saying he was detached from his emotions. They just sent him back out on the street.

And then we come to the case of Brianna Ghey.

Brianna was selected from a ‘kill’ list formulated by Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe. Having lured her to a park, they unleashed a torrent of violence on their chosen victim. She was stabbed to death by her so-called ‘friends’.

As if we didn’t already know, we have discovered from this incident that those who see horror, violence and despair too frequently, whether accidentally or by choice, themselves become damaged human beings capable of unspeakable things.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both aged 16, are now known to have watched scenes of terrible depravity on the dark web. Enticed by the dark side of human nature, and unable to un-see the cruelty and violence once it had been seen, their tortured and affected brains led them to concoct their ‘kill’ list. The end result of their slide into the murk was the tragic death of Brianna Ghey, selected as a victim due to her vulnerability.

The reaction to Brianna’s death has been a cacophony of calls to restrict what young people can see on the internet. The theory goes that if they hadn’t seen what they had seen, the murder would not have happened.
Maybe that’s true. Maybe that one particular murder wouldn’t have happened.

The message from those involved in this case seems to be that we must protect our children from the internet at all costs. If we let people see bad things there, if we expose them to depravity, to violence and callousness, to the worst of human nature, then they too will become corrupted.

Common sense dictates that children should only be given phones with no internet capability. I would have thought this was a no-brainer but apparently not. Would this solve it though? I don’t know.

I remember several years ago that a school banned unhealthy lunches for their pupils. Such was the uproar from parents that news broadcasts soon showed hordes of parents passing takeaway burgers and kebabs through the school railings to their little darlings lest they, for once, didn’t get what they wanted.

Unfortunately there would be parents who would be happy for their kids to keep their internet-enabled mobiles.

There would also be parents who wouldn’t care what their kids were watching, I assure you of that. And don’t get me started on the parents who actively encourage their kids to watch stuff they are too young for.

Parents aren’t always the responsible people they should be.

Making the online platforms responsible for what they show is the other suggested option. I’m not sure who would make the decisions about what is and isn’t suitable as a “one size fits all” measure. Surely, it is a call for parents to make? There’s an obvious conversation to be had about censorship but that is a conversation for a different day. And don’t think censorship isn’t used for naughtiness. FBI, laptop, Facebook anyone?

And what use would any of this be against the unregulated dark web anyway?

Perhaps there is no answer. Whatever violence and cruelty you hide, there are other horrors coming up behind them. Do you stop your kid watching news items from Ukraine or Palestine so they never know about the horror of war? Do you stop them seeing or being aware of famines, ethnic cleansing, kidnap, murder, natural disasters, suicide, animal neglect or cruelty?

If your child plays computer games, are you sure you know what content they are being offered within that seemingly innocent pursuit? In Grand Theft Auto, one of the objectives is to murder prostitutes. Happy with that?

And I dread to think how many children are familiar with a piece of musical filth called W.A.P by someone called Cardi B. The video is easily available on YouTube. Ask your kid if they’ve heard it and then look up the lyrics. I guarantee you’ll feel the need to scrub yourself down with a Brillo pad afterwards!

I truly believe that the casual drip feed of depravity that children are being offered in video games, music videos, television, some school curriculums and social media is doing just as much harm in the long term as anything Scarlet and Eddie may have witnessed on the dark web.

Maybe your child is already seeing things that will influence their actions in the future, despite your best efforts. After all, Google and YouTube are just different tentacles of the monster that is already in your house.

And for those people who we pay to look at the world with the skin peeled off? What of them? Those police officers that we send out day after day to look at the worst of humanity and witness what they do. How do we protect them from the horrors? We don’t. Even knowing of the devastating effects on the human psyche, we offer our police nothing but our censure, our disrespect and our judgement.

You see. No-one escapes unscathed.

So by all means stop the worst excesses of the internet. But do it knowing that we will all — at some point — see the world with its skin peeled off. You can’t stop it. You can’t protect anyone from it. It is all around us every day, drip-drip-dripping into our brains. Hide from it all you like. It will find you.

But its not hopeless. The best way to withstand the onslaught is to build resilience. In ourselves and in our children. Strong values, clear morals, health and fitness, good food, sleep, balance, empathy, realism instead of idealism and a healthy acceptance of both the good and evil within us all.

Raise resilient children. Not frightened ones.


My thoughts are with our police officers who deal with more unspeakable things than any human should.

My thoughts are with the family of Brianna Ghey.

And lastly, my thoughts are also with the untold number of forgotten victims in the vile videos circulating on the dark web.

I urge you to watch a film called ‘The Sound of Freedom’.

Thank you for reading this. Please do let me know what you think.


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