U.K. Inquiry Pushing for Porn Filtering

Apr 18, 2012 8:15 AM PST

LONDON — British lawmakers are once again pushing the government to force ISPs to filter online porn.

As a result of a cross-parliamentary inquiry, Prime Minister David Cameron said he will investigate whether ISPs should adopt opt-in measures to access adult material and possibly impose a complete ban in an effort to protect children from viewing the material.

According to reports, The Independent Parliamentary Inquiry Into Online Child Protection found that porn and violence were too easily accessible to children.

Cameron told lawmakers in the House of Commons, “As a parent, and as a politician, I’m keen to help protect people from this material.”

In addition to opt-in filtering, parliament members who back the bill are calling for the adoption of the content-filtering system Active Choice for new Internet customers. They also want ISPs to provide “one-click” filtering for all devices connected to the same Internet account within the next year, and for public WI-FI networks to have a default adult content bar.

Conservative member of parliament Claire Perry, chairwoman of the Inquiry and its strongest proponent, told the BBC, "Our inquiry found that many children are easily accessing internet pornography as well as websites showing extreme violence or promoting self-harm and anorexia. This is hugely worrying.

"While parents should be responsible for their children's online safety, in practice people find it difficult to put content filters on the plethora of internet-enabled devices in their homes, plus families lack the right information and education on internet safety," she added.

Perry said that ISPs — that earn almost $5 billion on Internet services — should foot the bill for providing Internet safety, education and appropriate filters.

The U.K’s big four ISPs: BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, are currently offering all new subscribers the option of installing parental controls that resulted from an agreement with the government last year.

But Perry is adamant about an across-the-board opt-in plan, wanting the government to send a strong message.

Critics of the proposal however, are likening it to censorship and are raising privacy issues.

Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group told the BBC it is "appalling.”

"Default filtering is a form of censorship. Adults should not have to 'opt out' of censorship. Governments should not be given powers to default censor legal material that adults see online," he said.

Responding to the U.K government’s recent proposal to step up online surveillance of subscribers’ emails and Facebook accounts, broadband provider Timico co-founder Trefor Davis told The Telegraph that the plans were futile, and appeared to be part of a trend towards online controls.

“Blocking is very easy to get around for technologically-literate kids and there is a big privacy issue here,” he said.

“The Government is already planning to massively extend surveillance online. This seems like part of the same mindset.”

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