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MPs Want ISPs to Block Porn By Default

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ISPs should be forced to provide a censored internet feed to protect children from “adult” content, say MPs

MPs have proposed a system where porn would be censored online by default in the UK, in a bid to protect children from adult content.

The move, first suggested in 2010, has been firmed up , after a cross-party  Parliamentary inquiry examined the state of online child protection. The current proposal is a  “network-level ‘Opt-In’ system”,  going beyond the “active choice” model  launched by ISPs BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin last October.

This would provide a “clean internet feed” as standard, which has been criticised as “censorship”. Anyone wanting to watch porn would have to change their settings.

MPs said this “would preserve consumer choice but provide an additional content barrier that protected children from accessing  age-inappropriate material”.

“This model would emulate the system already used by most major UK mobile phone companies, where access to adult content is blocked until an age verification check is conducted by the network operator, and could use the filtering technology already operating in all schools and on some public Wi-Fi hubs,” the report read.

“We find it perverse that companies who apply an adult content block for their customers  accessing the internet via a mobile device would argue against introducing a similar system for their fixed broadband customers.”

Porn party poopers?

It argued there was no evidence the model would add “substantial cost” or slow down access speeds, adding that the main objections were ideological.

The inquiry said its research suggested an opt-in would be popular, with almost six in ten people saying they would use the service. However, only 27 percent of men said they would use it.

MPs are hoping ISPs will be forced to roll out suitable services in the next 12 months.

“We accept that providing an Opt-In system  might create a risk of  complacency among parents but think that in practice it would offer far better overall protection for children in the online  environment than the current system where only a minority of households install device-level filters,” the MPs said.

They also want the Government to “consider a new regulatory structure for online content, with one regulator given a lead role in the oversight and monitoring of internet content distribution and the promotion of internet safety initiatives”.

Former home secretary and one of the contributors to the inquiry, Jacqui Smith, said she had spoken to porn producers, who had concerns themselves about the ease of access to their sites. “The first thing I thought was very interesting was that the people involved in making pornography themselves, who were concerned about the extent to which free and un-age restricted access through the internet was enabling young people,who they themselves didn’t think should be watching their material, to be able to access it,” Smith said.

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. The move came after more government pressure to put more barriers in place to prevent users from accessing prurient material.

Those ISPs were quick to note that their measures would not be opt-in as some had suggested.

Misguided legislation?

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

“Forcing ISPs to filter adult content at the network level, which users would then have to opt out of, is neither the most effective nor most appropriate way to prevent access to inappropriate material online,” said Nicholas Lansman, ISPA secretary general. “It is easy to circumvent, reduces the degree of active interest and parental mediation and has clear implications for freedom of speech. Instead parents should choose how they restrict access to content, be it on the device or network level with the tools provided.

“Government should concentrate on helping educate consumers to ensure they know about the tools already available to them to restrict unwanted content.”

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  1. OK, supposing a householder opts-in to the normal internet. How would you propose that children are prevented from using the connection?

    1. What your missing is the fact that because people have to opt-in then the scenario your talking about would be limited only to those who opted in. Thus that scenario would be substantially less than everyone having access.

  2. What about sex education sites and intelligent descussion about sexuality. In a multi cultural society the parents should decide what’s apprpriate for their children, not the government.

  3. It’s surely for parents to manage the access their child has to content. But the bigger issue is that it shouldn’t be about adult content or the much narrower set of pornography, it should be about age suitable content; and ISPs cannot be made responsible for providing age suitable content to the different ages in a household, or for different sensitivities of the parents in that household. This has to be the parents. And we’ll have a solution available soon!

  4. Mobile blocking of porn…mmm, this does not work. I regularly use mobile mifi to connect for work and pleasure from my iPad. Each time I access bloggs on google blogspot which are blocked by Orange, these are not porn, these are areas of free speech that is being blocked for no good purpose, as the mobile company is unable to keep up with the ever growing content therefore blocks full domains. This is stopping me from accessing legitimate content, content that could reduce my ability to make an informed choice. What would happen if we needed to go through an Arab spring? What would happen if we had to challenge the government of today and were being suppressed, sounds far fetched? Implementing these measures and it’s the start of being suppressed. I have a child, I don’t want him to access porn, but I also want him to make informed choices.

  5. This is not about protecting children or porn it’s about censorship.

    1. ‘This would provide a “clean internet feed” as standard’

    A ‘Clean feed ‘ means NO filtering. About sums up the dishonesty of the promoters of this legislation.

    2. If you can filter out porn then it’s a simple step for a government to filter out anything they want.

  6. Jacqui Smith – wonder if she will opt in or out?

    At least it would save the Tax payer having to pay for her husband’s porn magazines!

  7. There are two ends to this event, one that is naturally chaotic to begin with…even the software’s ports. A simple solution would be add a PCI card that contains the embedded browser and pins to distinguish where the browser may go.Very similar to assigning memory in a bios.
    The PCI cards can even be used with cell phones simply plugging in a micro connector very similar to the microphone jack…but with both a male and female connection, that allows you to still use a microphone.
    Of course…the idea is basically open source and already considered public property.
    Simplicity is one of the hardest things to use in innovation.You are not allowed to even think it…or comment it.
    The hardest part is realizing the individuality of each card and it’s registered owner…exam0led as commercial transactions…in addition to the hexadecimal identified routers, modems, etc.Plug and play…then naturally guess who would stop you?

  8. The idea that people should be “educated” to use the “tools” to block porno content to their homes is not possible unless people want to spend all of their time learning computer security and buying useless security software. If the Governments of the World do not get into the Networks and force them to filter out content, this content will be seen by children. Opt in is a choice! It is a choice to allow content, which is illegal and inappropriate for children to watch. Put the responsibility for network security where it belongs… on the networks and their programmers, to filter the content. People should have a button to push, not an encyclopedia to read on computer security and use.