To fight bad law, talk to its targets, not about them.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
UK policy

This guide to a US online “child safety” law written for young people, explaining why they should in fact oppose it, is remarkable for an unexpected reason:

we have never seen anything like this, here in the UK, explaining draft legislation allegedly in young peoples’ interest in language they can understand and act on.

Why is that?

It’s because unlike their US and European counterparts, UK digital rights salaries are so insultingly low that no one who has a kid, or really any sort of family at all, can afford to work for them.

Simple as.

No, nobody goes into civil society for the money. No one goes into digital rights – the good side, anyway – for the prestige or status. And no one goes into it for the career advancement.

But when you’re paying senior professionals, who are required to bring advanced qualifications and a career worth of contacts to the job, full time salaries in the £20s and £30s, you are only going to be able to hire people who have no obligations beyond their selves. (Or who have a better-paid partner or even parents to carry the weight, which is equally problematic and, in rights terms, deeply ironic.)

For the organisations fighting bad law in the trenches, that comprehension gap leads to

  1.  A total lack of understanding, within the organisations, about young people and their digital lives;
  2. A total inability to address the issues impacting them with empathy, or to speak about the issues in anything other than detached digital solutionist and legalistic language, and
  3. A total incomprehension of the need to communicate these issues to young people, on their level.

And when the majority of the legislation is being pitched as being by, for, or about “the children”, backed by people who don’t think twice about claiming to speak *for* the children, you’d better believe that’s a problem.

For the record, in my time in the digital rights trenches, I did raise this issue, and explain these points, and they didn’t get it.

They absolutely didn’t get it.

Crickets. Tumbleweeds. Silence.


So well done to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for laying a pattern for UK organisations to follow, whenever the penny drops for them.

Even though it’s far too late.

The Author

I’m a UK tech policy wonk based in Glasgow. I work for an open web built around international standards of human rights, privacy, accessibility, and freedom of expression. The content and opinions on this site are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of any current or previous team.