UK wants to block all Internet porn, ISP’s say it’s impossible

Posted 21 December 2010 00:00 CET by wconeybeer

Internet porn is something that parents around the world try to keep their children away from. Typically, they have had to implement software content filters on their home computers to block offensive content, but British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey thinks that this kind of filtering should be done at the ISP level to take the burden off of the parents.

Vaizey’s idea is to require internet users to “opt-in” to receive pornographic content rather than having to impose filters as a way to “opt-out”.

“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 as he explained his proposal in an interview over the weekend.

But at least one British ISP doesn’t think it’s a feasible task to accomplish, and would set a dangerous precedent for government internet control.

“Unfortunately, it’s technically not possible to completely block this stuff. You end up with a system that’s either hugely expensive and a losing battle because there are millions of these sites or it’s just not effective” said ISP Timico’s chief technology officer Trefor Davies. “The cost of putting these systems in place outweigh the benefits, to my mind. If we take this step it will not take very long to end up with an internet that’s a walled garden of sites the governments is happy for you to see”

The Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA UK), the industry association for ISP’s in the UK, also finds issue with Vaizey’s proposal : “ISPA firmly believes that controls on children’s access to the internet should be managed by parents and carers with the tools ISPs provide, rather than being imposed top-down. Online safety is a priority issue for the internet industry and ISPA will be discussing the options available to protect children with Government,” said Nicholas Lansman, ISPA secretary general. “ISPs currently block child abuse content which is illegal and widely regarded as abhorrent. Blocking lawful pornography content is less clear cut, will lead to the blocking of access to legitimate content and is only effective in preventing inadvertent access.”

Civil liberties organizations are up-in-arms over the censorship aspect of the proposal too. “This is not about pornography, it is about generalised censorship through the back door,” said Jim Killock, chair of the Open Rights Group which campaigns on digital liberties issues. “This is the wrong way to go. If the government controlled a web blacklist, you can bet that Wikileaks would be on it.”

I would have to side with the ISPA on this one. Who exactly decides what content gets the “porn” designation? It also seems like it would be a violation of citizens’ privacy because it would be easy to track households that have opted to receive potentially offensive material. Would the government hold it against a household that opted for a material if there was a child at the residence? The potential for misuse of this type of legislation at a government level is high. Parents should be monitoring their children’s internet habits whether or not this measure gets voted it, as porn is only one of many dangerous aspects of the web for minors.


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