Mail on Sunday - Tories: Jail 'Happy Slap' web bosses

Sunday, 5 August, 2007

INTERNET chiefs could be jailed if they refuse to stop showing videos of playground fights and bullying, the Conservatives have threatened.

In a crackdown on 'cyber yobs', Shadow Home Secretary David Davis last night accused Home Secretary Jacqui Smith of failing to take action to curb the 'appalling' menace of so-called 'happy slapping' attacks - videos of violent incidents that are posted on to popular websites such as YouTube. He called on the Government to introduce jail sentences of up to five years, and fines of up to £20,000, if website operators refuse to censor the videos.

A similar plan was rejected last year by the Government but Tories claim a growing trend in 'cyber yobbery' cannot be ignored. The latest proposal - backed last night by the police - follows a BBC Panorama programme in which Google, which owns YouTube, refused to block the videos, insisting it was the responsibility of police if criminal acts took place in them.

But Mr Davis's deputy, Shadow Law and Order Minister David Ruffley , said: 'Cyber yobbery is creating a culture of violence among teenagers and the Government is doing absolutely nothing about it.

'Existing laws are toothless and this is encouraging an increase in "happy slapping" incidents and vicious playground bullying. Socially responsible companies should not be making money out of this. YouTube say the police must take responsibility but they do not have the manpower - internet firms must put their own house in order.'

The Tories were supported by Surrey Deputy Chief Constable Brian Moore. He said: 'Unless companies take steps to prevent and remove such images, a law change may be necessary to compel them to do so. Either they police it themselves or the law should be changed to require them to do so.'

Google spokeswoman Rachel Whetstone said: 'It is up to the Conservatives to put forward legislation, not YouTube.'