TalkTalk: Don't force ISPs across porn-filter Rubicon

The UK government should not force ISPs to mandate opt-in porn filters, according to Google and Talk Talk.Government plans to legislate for network-level parental controls that force people to either opt-in or opt-out of pornographic and violent content "would be a mistake", and Google head of UK public policy Sarah Hunter told the Google Big Tent event on Wednesday in answer to a question from ZDNet UK.

The UK government should not force ISPs to mandate opt-in porn filters, according to Google and Talk Talk.

Government plans to legislate for network-level parental controls that force people to either opt-in or opt-out of pornographic and violent content "would be a mistake", and Google head of UK public policy Sarah Hunter told the Google Big Tent event on Wednesday in answer to a question from ZDNet UK.

"A lot of solutions being discussed are not that perfect," said Hunter. "A lot of filters either over-block or under-block."

Use of filters could "deskill parents" who may be lulled into a false sense of security.

Filters can be circumvented, Andrew Heaney from Talk Talk told the audience, and that legislation for mandatory filters would force ISPs into an irreversible situation.

"[Filters are] not difficult to get around," said Heaney. "I think the government should be encouraging ISPs to offer [filters]. Do not force them, because you cross over a Rubicon."

Talk Talk launched its own HomeSafe parental control system in 2011, which is an optional network level filter. Nevertheless, Heaney said that both device-level and network level filtering were possible to circumvent.

Free speech campaign organisation Index on Censorship said that porn-blocking could have an impact at a societal level.

"More blocking at network level means blocking at societal level, and that is very dangerous," said Index on Censorship chief executive Kirsty Hughes.

A bill is currently going through parliament that in its present form would mandate network-level blocking and opt-in for pornography.

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