Porn filter plans are 'absolutely ridiculous'

Porn filter plans are 'absolutely ridiculous'

Summary: Plans to filter all internet pornography for UK internet users would be unrealistic and costly, according to an expert.Updating the list of blocked or porn-hosting URLs would be a mammoth and time-consuming task that could result in huge bills for ISPs, according to one network engineer working for a major UK ISP.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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Plans to filter all internet pornography for UK internet users would be unrealistic and costly, according to an expert.

Updating the list of blocked or porn-hosting URLs would be a mammoth and time-consuming task that could result in huge bills for ISPs, according to one network engineer working for a major UK ISP.

"The government is very good at suggesting new schemes, but not very good at paying for them. Who is going to pick up the bill for the infrastructure costs? Will it be another situation where the ISPs are expected to pay? And that's before even considering the ethical implications of filtering," said the source.

On Monday a spokesperson for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) confirmed that UK ISPs would be meeting with members of the government in 2011 to discuss the best way to restrict minors from accessing pornographic material online.

One of the suggestions is that an ISP-level filter is put in place for all pornographic content, meaning that a user would need to 'opt-in' to be able to access adult pages.

Currently, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) compiles a blacklist of all sites that are known to host banned pornographic material which is then downloaded and implemented by ISPs. If the customer then tries to access any of the blacklisted URL addresses, it simply returns a blank page.

ZDNet UK's source also raised concerns about who would marshal a system similar to the IWF's and decide what is classed as pornography.

"What happens if a URL hosting adult material slips through and is seen by someone under age? Who is responsible or to be held accountable for that? It would need an organisation similar to the IWF to co-ordinate it," he said. "And who decides what is classed as pornography? Would an 18th century picture of a naked lady be classified as porn?"

There are also doubts over whether it would be effective at preventing children from accessing pornographic material.

"It will just come in different formats, whether it's peer-to-peer, file hosting sites or something else. We're never going to be able to block it entirely, but we can certainly make it difficult," the engineer said.

Topic: Mobility

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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8 comments
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  • I agree with your article but come on, unattributed sources everywhere....

    "according to one network engineer"
    "a spokesperson for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)"

    Bit lazy, couldn't be arsed to google for the name by any chance?
    milosevic999
  • Hi Milosevic999,

    The network engineer agreed to speak to me only on condition of anonymity, where possible and feasible we always provide our sources so that you know where the information is coming from.

    Cheers!
    Ben Woods
  • If a parent wants to hide porn then there are several internet content software packages available to do that.

    It would be a lot more practical for ISPs to sell a child internet service that only has disney and all the big corporations top websites available and then they can sell that limited and regulated and highly restricted internet to parents who are concerned. They can sell it a long side their tradional normal internet as a different package. The parents would then have an internet that would resemble the tv.

    But to force everyone on to a limited internet and force everyone to opt out and join a shame list of porn loving people who "opted in" is just unnecessary.

    This is realy just a way for government to start regulating the internet in a way that benefits the corporate interests that want to see the internet more regulated. To one, prevent any new internet start ups, like youtube, google etc, from starting up and making billions etc. and two so they can block websites that are not in the interest of the government or the coprorate interests that are behind the regulation in the first place.

    Basically just another attempt (they try every few months now) to regulate the internet. They want to remove the whole user driven aspect of the internet and make it more of a top down service delivery. They hate the fact that anyone can make a website and become a billionaire and they hate the fact that you can say what ever you want on the internet.
    whymustisignup
  • You make some good points, @whymustisignup. To me, it's almost like the government is saying "look, parents, despite our cutting funds everywhere else, don't worry! We're still thinking about the best interests of your children! See?!"
    Shannon Doubleday
  • I think a good what-if example is the single dad who wants to access porn but doesn't want his kids to see it. In this very commonplace case, he will have to register his, ahem, desire, and will still need to get the same parental control software that he would already use now. In other words, the legislation would likely be an expensive waste of time, and more embarrassing than anything else.

    I also don't subscribe to the it's-a-conspiracy faction. My suspicion is that this will come to nothing (the vague "there may be legislation in a year or two" timescale is a dead giveaway) and Vaizey will have made the right soothing noises for a Tory right that is currently feeling betrayed by this coalition business.
    David Meyer
  • The entire internets pages and all its contents are at any one time stored as a mirror on Googles servers. It is therefore possible to cache all approved pages on a server and unless you actually know of the existence of the WWW the simulated web would be the real thing.
    The search engines only give hits and rank approved pages, the so world wide web has already been filtered for you by Google.

    On the simulated web some Hyperlinks would not work and if you manually input a unapproved URL it would give the 404 error but the average person cannot tell the difference between a word doc and a HTML page anyway.

    In truth, most people would not notice.
    L1ma
  • I've got an idea. Why not start actually enforcing the laws we've already got in place. i.e. if somebody under 18 views porngoraphy, they get *arrested and charged*. I think that would probably make parents sit up and take accountability.
    bluechip-6ecfd
  • To do that, it must be do as I do, and as I say. The current regime here writes laws for all but itself to obey, when they are made accountable for what they have done perhaps parents would believe in the law.

    Two words to remember 'Parliamentary Privilege'.
    L1ma