Doing the stats on unpopular law

The previous Government no doubt tabled the extreme pornography measures expecting wide popular approval. There was a recent court case that seemed to demonstrate its risks, and a fifty-thousand vote petition condemning violence against women and the pornography which ‘promoted’ it. A clear vote-winner, surely.

But from the outset, the online community didn’t agree. In every comments page, opinion has been against the law by a factor of roughly ten to one. This is irrespective of the stance of the article being commented on, and consistent back to the start of the Government’s proposals. These articles and comments date from the earlier stages of the measure’s becoming law.

Since enactment in January 2009, the fitness of the law has had no press coverage. But now with the announcement of the Great Repeal Bill the law is again indirectly the subject of media attention. Can we gauge public opinion now?

It seems that we can. On May 19th, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free page asked its readers “Which laws must be repealed in Clegg’s Great Reform Act?”. This resulted in 220 comments, the great majority following the brief and naming one or more laws for repeal. The extreme pornography law was named on its own in one comment, and another comment named it together with ‘The Digital Rights Act [and] the new law against visiting brothels’.

Site users can ‘recommend’ each comment and the number of recommendations is listed. This would seem to be a reasonable measure
of approval amongst the readers.

Comments received between zero and 168 recommendations, the average
number being 16. The comment specifically about extreme pornography had
100 comments and the one with the two other suggestions had 60, ranking
ninth and fifteenth respectively out of the 220 comments.