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Government Rejects Porn Blocking By Default But Demands More From ISPs

Government finally comes to its senses on porn blocking

On by Thomas Brewster 0

The UK government has rejected calls to take a heavy-handed approach on keeping children safe on the Internet, saying it will not be pursuing default porn blocking.

The debate over blocking websites with explicit material has been raging for years, but Tory MP Claire Perry re-ignited the issue this year when she demanded an opt-in system, where such sites would be blocked by default.

Opponents have argued children would easily be able to get around ISP-enforced porn blocking, and such technical measures would be costly and ineffective.

Gov comes to its senses on porn blocking

The government appears to have agreed. Following a consultation with parents and other interested parties, the Department of Education decided that, as respondents wanted to control filtering themselves rather than let ISPs like BT and Virgin choose, default blocking was not an option.

This is despite the fact there was “marginally more support” for default filtering at the network level, with 14 percent of respondents saying they would like it. That compared with nine percent who wanted the parents choosing controls and seven percent who were for a combination of default filtering and parental choice.

According to the consultation response, there was “no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the internet by their ISP”.

The Coalition will instead be taking a light-touch approach, leaning on ISPs to be more active in helping parents. “Government will not prescribe detailed solutions, but we will expect industry to adapt the principles of this approach to their services,” the consultation response read.

“The Government is urging providers to go one stepfurther and configure their systems to actively encourage parents, whether they are new or existing customers, to switch on parental controls.

“The Government believes providers should automatically prompt parents to tailor filters to suit their child’s needs e.g. by preventing access to harmful and inappropriate content. We also expect ISPs to put in place appropriate measures to check that the person setting up the parental controls is over the age of 18.”

ISPs may now be concerned about the extra costs the extra government demands will bring, and the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) said it would be speaking with its members about the issue. But broadly speaking it was positive about the changes. “ISPA welcomes the government’s response,” a spokesperson said.

“Online safety is a shared responsibility between parents and the wider industry, including  ISPs, manufacturers and retailers, via providing easy to use tools, advice and information. ISPA will be working further with government and others on next steps.”

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told TechWeekEurope: “It seems very good. They appear to have agreed with ORG’s position pretty much in full.”

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Thomas Brewster

Author: Thomas Brewster

Security Correspondent, TechWeekEurope
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