Internet giant Google was under fire in New Zealand this week for removing from its server a blog that had carried death threats against NZ Greens MP Sue Bradford.

Her offence? She has presented a bill against corporal punishment – specifically, to remove the defence of “discipline” to charges of child abuse – which is expected to be passed by parliament next month.

The anonymous organisers of the website, now moved to another domain, accused Google of “a breathtaking display of socialist censorship”. A Family First spokesman (no, I don’t know if they’re related to Australia’s Family First), while dissociating himself from the death threats, said: “I think there is a major problem if Google are going to start making moral judgments about what should be on websites.”

Although I’m firmly in the anti-corporal punishment camp myself, this seems to be an issue on which reasonable people disagree. Nonetheless, there’s something deeply disturbing about people who come out as passionate defenders of corporal punishment.

What sort of a twisted worldview do you have to have to think that your right to hit your children is an absolutely vital political issue – so important that you’d post threats against political opponents, or condone those who do?

Of course, some of the heat could be taken out of this issue if fewer people had children that they don’t want or aren’t prepared for. Hence the interesting move in Chihuahua, Mexico, where high school students “are being made to care for screaming, hiccuping baby dolls to try to bring down the state’s soaring teenage pregnancy rate.”

According to state education official Pilar Huidobro, “Students in Chihuahua are mostly horrified at the amount of work involved in looking after a baby”.

If they learn that in advance, they might be less tempted to hit the children when they do arrive.

Peter Fray

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