Government to review access to internet porn

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

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TOPICS: Security
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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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Topic: Security

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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4 comments
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  • Can anyone give a clear picture on what exactly are the current laws on internet pornography in the UK? This seems to be a deeply murky area and it could be possible that people searching for legal content can come across some deeply offensive illegal content.
    Kriyash
  • Pornography is not illegal therefor the UK government holds itself open to court action for trying to suppress a legal trade. There are ample programs available to give parents full control over what their children access on the internet. The internet is the voice of the people and should not be controlled by governments. Kids will access porn no matter what you do, I did when I was a kid and we didn't even have TV then. There was porn in my Granddad's days and in his Granddad's days. Wake up, it's been around since Adam.
    Skiggy
  • The government know this is impossible to legislate on, but they want to put forward the image of caring leaders. As they do not know what to do they are saying they are concerned but it is up to someone else (ISP's) to do something about it. How on earth can the ISP know the age of someone using a computer accessing their system? The responsibility belongs with the parents to monitor or install safeguards to restric access by their kids.
    69753
  • Like what Skiggy said, there are plenty of programs available. And chances are you're already able to do that without needing to install another program.

    Almost all Anti-Virus / Internet Security programs have block / black lists of websites, and keywords.

    If the user isn't aware of that, then educate them. Don't cut it off at the source and ruin it for the rest of the people.
    Sekonda