I realise I am going to be on very unsteady ground here but I’m usually a straight down the middle guy who doesn’t rock the boat so I’m going out on a limb with a slightly controversial piece here.
In the few days since Jim Gamble announced his resignation from his role as Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and On-Line Protection Centre (CEOP) he has been accorded almost universal adulation by the British Media and has been followed out of the door by three other senior executives at CEOP. To believe the media Mr. Gamble was an irreplaceable hero who single-handedly protected our children from online harm. Here are a selection of stories from the last 48 hours.
“Top Abuse Boss Quitting Puts Kids in Danger” says The Sun; “Resignation A Sad Day” says BBC News; “Victim’s Group Slams Home Secretary” says the Daily Mail and in this weeks most tabloid friendly collision of stories “Kate and Gerry McCann “Very Upset” at Resignation” says the Daily Mail natch. Now I’m not denying Jim Gamble was/is a man with a mission and a very laudable one at that. His aim is to prevent the abuse of children. This is something which is unarguable and inalienable. I though have met Mr. Gamble on more than one occasion (and more than two for the wags at the back) and there was something very undesirable about his methods and his message. In a cry that echoed back to the radical feminist cry “All Men are Rapists” Mr. Gamble in public speeches seemed to suggest that all men were paedophiles. The role of CEOP was to protect children at all costs from these almost primeval urges. He also seemed to be suggesting that only CEOP could fulfil this role in the UK. The view of many in industry and the legal profession is he was an empire builder who had a particularly narrow and skewed view of society and in particular the relationship between adults and children. I still have a marginal note I made at one of his speeches where I noted down “I am not a paedophile and I resent the implication I am because I happen to be a man.”
I wasn’t the only one less than happy with his methods. As the BBC profile of him (linked above) notes:
Gamble began to gain his reputation as the UK’s foremost hunter of paedophiles, heading up Operation Ore, the UK’s largest ever police investigation into who was viewing internet child abuse images.The operation identified over 7,000 suspects and led to more than 2,000 convictions but it proved highly controversial. There were criticisms that the net was hauling in too many innocent people and that some of those convicted had not viewed images of child abuse at all but were actually victims of identity theft.
The specialist press were even more direct. in January 2009 ISPs attacked his plans to pass on RIPA costs to ISPs (The Register) while in May 2007 a PCPro investigation revealed the flaws in Operation Ore in full. This is why I’m glad to see that The Register has yesterday put its head above the parapet to write the story “Internet Firms Welcome CEOP Chief’s Exit“. I agree with the comment that this offers a clean slate. The protection of children is one of the most sacred responsibilities of any society. The UK takes it particularly seriously and UK ISPs working with CEOP and local and national police forces have gone a long way to eradicating its production and distribution via the internet in the UK. It is the responsibly of us all to take things forward. Jim Gamble should be thanked for his work to date but we need to move forward in a more streamlined and co-operative form of regulation within this area.My two cents is that Jim Gamble was not the right personality to work with ISPs on the next stage – his form of management was well suited to the Wild West of the internet between 1995-2005. It is not as well suited to the modern internet.