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UK ISPs Fight Parliamentary Proposal for Network-Level Adult Content Filtering

Ioana Jelea

May 11, 2012

UK ISPs Fight Parliamentary Proposal for Network-Level Adult Content Filtering

Parliamentary Inquiry finds more energetic approach in online porn issue necessary, ISPs strike back with freedom of speech and consumer education arguments.

According to an Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection in April 2012, “many feel that device-level filters are no longer offering sufficient protection for children online. Only a minority of parents use these filters and this number is falling.” The proposals` authors admit that “mandatory government censorship of internet pornography” would be “difficult and wrong”. Their alternative suggestion is the implementing of a network-level “Opt-In” system to be maintained by ISPs. This would ensure “a clean internet feed to customers” while preserving consumers` choice to receive adult content. The document is the result of a cross-party Inquiry that brought together more than 60 members of both Houses of the British Parliament “to examine the current state of online child protection and review the arguments for and against network-level filtering”.

According to the Findings Summary section of the document, though the four major British ISP`s recent efforts to develop a new Code of Conduct and to implement new Active Choice controls beginning with October 2012 (which would leave device-level filter installation at consumers` discretion) are taking things into the right direction, “a more energetic approach” is necessary. Hence, the network-level “Opt-in” system is pushed as the better alternative.

In an official statement on the matter, Britain`s ISPA qualifies network-level adult content filtering “[“¦] neither the most effective, nor most appropriate way to prevent access to inappropriate material online”. The ISPA provides reasons having to do with the relative ease with which the system can be circumvented, its influence on parents` “active interest” in children`s online safety and, ultimately with freedom of speech.

This new episode in the Government versus private sector battle points out, once again, that educating consumers is preferable to any form of censorship.

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