U.K. ISPs Say Porn Filtering is Unnecessary, Ineffective

Sep 28, 2012 10:00 AM PST

LONDON — Responding to a public consultation, U.K. ISPs are telling the government that forced porn filtering is unnecessary and technically just won’t work.

Major providers including TalkTalk, Virgin Media and British Telecom (BT) in papers submitted to the Department of Education said that although they agree that children should be protected, they believe a parental control “active choice” option is a better solution.

In information obtained by PC Pro, the ISPs said there's no evidence that a default block would help.

"We recognize that there is a concern about children who are particularly vulnerable to the risk of harm on the Internet however, we think that this needs to be considered in terms of wider policy work and interventions around vulnerable children as opposed to looking at internet issues in isolation," TalkTalk said in its response.

"We are also unsure that offering a default block would actually mean these children were less at risk nor are we sure that this is proportionate."

TalkTalk’s response carries weight because its existing HomeSafe network level filter has been embraced by anti-porn advocates as an example of how ISPs can help the problem despite its technical flaws.

Part of the company’s argument against filtering comes from YouGov research that found 78 percent of people were against default blocking, and maintained that the government may be jumping the gun with new controls before active choice has been given a chance.

"Research has consistently found that the majority of adults do not support default filtering," TalkTalk said. "It is also worth saying that active choice as a policy has not yet been given sufficient time to bed in across other providers and have their success measured... it is premature to be looking at other policy options."

Virgin Media weighed in saying that the debate over filtering is partly the blame of a lack of progress in the industry.

"The recent uncertainty surrounding ministerial support for 'active choice' has been unhelpful as regards enabling businesses to plan for the long term delivery of solutions for new and existing customers," the ISP said.

BT also balked at the proposals and claimed that parents might rely too heavily on a technical solution that in all likelihood would never be able to block all adult content.

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