U.K. ISPs Criticize Push to Make Users 'Opt In' for Porn

Jun 4, 2013 12:15 PM PST

LONDON — U.K. Internet service providers have criticized a recent Online Safety Bill that would require people to choose to “opt in” and prove they are at least 18 years old to view adult content online.

While U.K.-based political observers believe the bill is unlikely to pass, the advent of the bill has put pressure on ISPs to take extra steps to shield underage viewers from sexually explicit content.

Claire Perry, a conservative member of Parliament, said she was not in favor of government regulation, but insisted that should the ISPs shirk their responsibility to self-monitor, "then we will have to step in".

A recent poll revealed that 35 percent of its participants were in favor of the Online Safety Bill. Last year the government rejected a proposed automatic block on Internet porn.

The four biggest ISPs in the U.K. — BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media — have collectively agreed to an updated code of practice to increase awareness of parental controls.

Supporters of the bill believe that the new code of practice will not be sufficient to prevent children from accessing adult content.

Critics of the legislation, including Baroness Howe who introduced the bill, worry that the opt in approach will dissuade users from accessing information pertaining to sexual health, abuse and sexual identity. Others have voiced concern that the adult industry will suffer financially.

"It seems to be recognizing the problem but not coming up with any real suggestions on how it's going to work," said Victor Charlton, spokesman for the ASACP.

"The industry is a money-making industry and anything that stops people [from] joining websites or paying by credit card for websites is going to hit their revenue stream."

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