U.K. Lawmakers Begin Consultation on Porn Opt-in Plans

Jun 28, 2012 8:00 AM PST

LONDON — Members of the British parliament are beginning a 10-week consultation today to decide on whether to adopt a national Internet porn filtering plan.

The country has been under recent pressure from conservative members of parliament, spearheaded by MP Claire Perry, who are pushing for porn filtering in an effort to protect children.

Backers want an opt-in plan that would automatically block adult material unless the user chooses to view the content and directly requests porn from their ISP.

In an earlier statement, Prime Minister David Cameron said, "I want to fully explore every option that might help make children safer — including whether Internet filters should be switched on as the default, so that adult content is blocked unless you decide otherwise."

A discussion paper is the center of the new summit and asks for views on three broad options for the best approach to dealing with online porn. The choices include automatic filtering, "active-choice" that asks users whether they want full access, and "active-choice-plus" that automatically blocks content but then asks if the user wants open access.

The government has already proposed the "active choice" option where new customers are asked whether they want open access to all content.

This method would block adult content, but would ask if users want to access porn, violence and other adult material.

Cameron favors a more robust form of the system that would “nudge” people to block some of the most harmful categories by having some items on the list checked off in advance.

Although the U.K.’s four main ISPs — BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Sky — have already signed up to a code of practice that provides a choice, some ministers think the technology doesn’t provide a foolproof barrier for protecting children.

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) that includes 150 organizations is organizing the consultation on the plans.

Children's minister Tim Loughton told the BBC that many parents want to be responsible for what their children access on the Internet but they’re intimidated by technology.

"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,” Loughton said.

He added, "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."

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