xxx domain top

ISPs Launch Stronger Porn Block Features

BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin will offer users an ‘active choice’ to block adult content at the point of purchase

On by Matthew Broersma 0

Four major Internet access providers have announced new measures for blocking adult online content, as Prime Minister David Cameron launches a website aimed at helping parents protect children from ‘sexualised’ media messages.

BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin said they would begin offering customers an “active choice” at the point of purchase to block adult content. The filtering will affect PCs as well as mobile devices such as smartphones.

User choice

Details of how the system will work are not yet clear, but some industry observers have already warned that they will not support a choice that in effect obliges customers to “opt in” to be able to access adult websites.

“There is a world of difference between offering sensible child safety, and trying to persuade adults to live with layers of censorship,” said Jim Killock, executive director of digital rights group the Open Rights Group, in a statement.

He said the question is how the options will be presented to the user.

“Will adults be asked if they need parental controls, or if they want to switch adult content on?” Killock stated. “We will oppose anything designed to induce adults to live with ‘censorware’ which would inevitably deny them access to commentary, health and medical advice.”

Meanwhile, David Cameron has launched Parentport, a website offering parents a single online destination where they can lodge complaints covering media, communications and retail.

The website offers advice on keeping children safe online and has a section allowing parents to give informal feedback and comments.

Centralised website

“Seven UK media regulators have come together to develop a single website, with a single aim – to help protect children from inappropriate material,” said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards in a statement. “Each regulator shares this common purpose and is committed to helping parents make their views and concerns known.”

The site will be operated by the  Advertising Standards Authority, BBC Trust, British Board of Film Classification, Ofcom, Press Complaints Commission, Video Standards Council and Pan European Game Information.

The website is part of a wider set of child-protection measures inspired by the Christian charity Mother’s Union.

In May Mother’s Union chief executive Reg Baily wrote to the government suggesting a number of child-protection measures including a centralised complaints website, restrictions on billboard advertising, age restrictions on music videos and restrictions ensuring retailers offer age-appropriate clothes for children.

Centralised approach

In June Cameron responded that the government wanted to support Mother’s Union’s approach.

“I very much agree with the central approach you set out,” Cameron wrote at the time. “As you say, we should not try and wrap children up in cotton wool or simply throw our hands up and accept the world as it is. Instead, we should look to put ‘the brakes on an unthinking drift towards ever-greater commercialisation and sexualisation’.”

At a summit in which Cameron met with children and representatives of parents’ groups the Prime Minister announced government backing for a ban on billboards displaying ‘sexualised’ images near schools and a ban on children aged 15 and under from being used as ‘brand ambassadors’ to sell products to other children.

In March ICANN approved the .xxx top-level domain (TLD), a decision criticised by conservative governments. Others argued the TLD would make it easier and more acceptable for websites to be censored.

Matthew Broersma
Author: Matthew Broersma
TechWeek Freelance
Matthew Broersma

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