Government to review access to internet porn

Summary:The communications minister will be meeting with major UK ISPs in 2011 to discuss measures for restricting underage access to adult material, including the proposal that internet providers block all porn by default

Internet service providers will be meeting with the government officials in 2011 to review parental control measures on the internet, according to comments given by the communications, culture and creative industries minister Ed Vaizey on Saturday.

The meeting has been called to discuss the possibility of implementing an internet service provider (ISP)-level pornography filter that would block adult content for everyone in the country. Those wishing to view pornographic material would have to manually opt in to access the content.

Ed Vaizey image

Communications minister Ed Vaizey plans to meet with ISPs to discuss filtering of internet content. Photo credit: David Meyer

Vaizey says that the planned round-table debate on age verification is "a very serious matter", but feels that the issue should be handled from within the industry.

"I think it's very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children. I'm hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years," Vaizey said.

No timescale has yet been set for the meeting, which will include representatives from UK ISPs BT, Virgin and TalkTalk among others. However, the meetings are now expected to take place sometime in the new year, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

"We are aware of the adjournment debate and the minister's stated intention of holding a round table. We would be happy to take part to discuss the issues raised. There are many legal, consumer rights and technical issues that would need to be considered before any new web-blocking policy was developed," a BT spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Monday in a statement.

Many major ISPs and security companies already offer parental control software that can restrict access to adult-oriented websites. Some adult websites also offer their own restrictions to help keep out minors, which are often disabled through credit-card verification.

I think it's very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children. I'm hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate.

– Ed Vaizey, Communications minister

The Australian government has trialled several ISP-level porn-filtering schemes since 1999. In 2007 a scheme known as Family First was tested by Australian authorities with the intention of restricting children's exposure to online porn.

However, in February 2010 the websites for the Australian Parliament House and Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy came under attack from the internet group 'Anonymous', which opposes efforts to filter internet content. Anonymous is the same group that claims to be behind the recent DDoS attacks on MasterCard, Visa and PayPal following their refusal to process payments to whistleblowing site Wikileaks.

Some mobile operators in the UK already operate an opt-in scheme for customers that want access to adult material on their mobile phones, usually requiring the manual removal of the 'content bar' from the account.


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Topics: Security

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