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Government Opens Consultation Over Default Porn Block

Internet Pornography © jwblinn - Fotolia
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As promised the government has begun consultations over an automatic block for online pornography

The government looks set to outline plans to block undesirable online content, including porn, after it launched an official consultation today.

It is looking at whether a block should be automatically enabled as default by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or not.

The government had promised back in May to consult with ISPs over controversial measures to protect children from online adult content. This came after a cross-party Parliamentary inquiry backed proposals to introduce Internet filtering by default, effectively obliging Internet users to opt-in if they wanted access to pornography.

Consultation Document

Now the government has unveiled a consultation document that is inviting responses from parents and members of UKCCIS (UK Council for Child Internet Safety). The ten-week consultation is seeking their advice and views on parental controls, to protect children not only from online porn, but websites promoting suicide, anorexia and self-harm.

“The internet is transforming every aspect of society and family life – and opens up enormous opportunities for us all. But with the benefits come risks. Growing numbers of parents do not feel in control of what their families are exposed to online,” Tim Loughton, the Minister for Children and Families, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“Many want to take responsibility, but all too often they do not how know how because they find the technology too difficult to use or their children are more technically advanced then they are,” Loughton said. “There is no silver bullet to solve this. No filter can ever be 100 percent foolproof. There is a cottage industry of people, mostly operating outside the UK, continually creating and proliferating ‘proxy’ websites that provide links to adult and harmful content.”

Three Systems

There are currently three suggested solutions being presented.

The strictest is that being proposed by Conservative MP Claire Perry, who is urging all ISPs to act as censors and automatically block “harmful content”. Web users would have to contact the ISP to ‘opt in’ for this content. The government is thought to be distancing itself from this idea.

“Automatic filtering on its own risks lulling parents into a false sense of security and there can never be any substitute for parents taking responsibility for how, when and where their children use the internet. The answer lies in finding ways to combine technical solutions with better education, information and, if necessary regulation further down the line,” Loughton added.

The government has been mulling this porn-blocking idea since 2010 and has previously proposed a system dubbed “active choice”, where new online customers are asked whether they want open access to all content.

A third option, called “active choice-plus”, would automatically block adult content, but would ask online users whether they want to change this to gain access to adult content websites.

Online censorship

The ISPs have done plenty of work to deal with porn access already. Late last year BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin all committed to offering customers an “active choice” at the point of purchase to block adult content. Those ISPs were quick to note that their measures would not be ‘opt-in’ as some had suggested.

The Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) has also previously slammed the proposals, saying the measures would be inappropriate.

Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary General, said today: “ISPA supports active choice and welcomes the consultation as a way of providing some much needed clarity to the area.  We hope this refocuses the debate on the most effective way to control access to inappropriate material rather than about default blocking of pornography.”

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, added: “Giving parents tools is great, but ‘Nanny State’ filtering using government approved technologies is bound to fail the people it is designed to protect.

“This is a Government looking for headline grabbing solutions to complex solutions. They need to think again.”

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  1. hmmm, the government want to block online content? I wonder why? they don’t have any right to restrict any online content, its against freedom of information laws. children shouldn’t be using the internet, thats not what its there for. also theres nothing remotely harmful about witnessing nudity or sex, online or otherwise. infact this prudish attitude is to blame for the rise in sexual deviancy that directly correlates to public attitudes, which are governed mainly by gay virgins who worship dolmio!