Campaigning MP Claims Support For Online Smut Ban

A backbench Tory MP has claimed there is a “scary degree of favourable consensus” between Internet porn campaigners, the government, and the ISP community, over ‘Internet filters’ that would require computer users to opt in, if they want to access pornography from their home computers.

Claire Perry, the MP for the Devizes constituency in Wiltshire, said a meeting on Monday had been “very productive”, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Mrs Perry was the MP who last November called for ISPs to apply an age rating system to pornographic sites. She claimed adult material is “one of the most widely available forms of content on the Internet”.

Campaign Group

Indeed Mrs Perry seems to be one of the main political supporters for the Safemedia campaign group, who are concerned about the possible influence that Internet pornography could have on children. The campaigners are asking for network-level filters to block legal sex sites by default.

The whole debate began to pick up speed in December, however, when Communications Minister Ed Vaizey urged ISPs to censor adult material on home computers by default. He made the comments after expressing concern over children’s exposure to online pornography in an interview with The Sunday Times. Vaizey said that anyone wanting to access such material should have to opt-in via their ISPs.

But the call received short shrift from the ISP community days later, when a number of ISP chiefs told the government that blocking porn sites from home computers was not plausible.

This week’s roundtable meeting was between Vaizey and major British ISPs to discuss the potential of voluntary, ‘opt-in’ filters.

Earlier this week Safemedia urged people to email Vaizey to pressure the ISPs over the issue.

“Research clearly indicates that viewing pornography leads to an acceptance of violent and unhealthy notions of sex and relationships, where the objectification of women and aggressive sexual behaviour are the norm,” said the campaigners.

ISPs Not Convinced

“That is why I strongly support your initiative, suggested by Claire Perry MP, to switch the default setting for Internet pornography into our homes to ‘off’, and implement an ‘opt-in’ system. I urge you to promote it as robustly as possible at your forthcoming roundtable with the ISPs in February,” the email urged.

However it seems that the ISP community itself is not convinced about the need for an ‘opt-in’ system, despite the optimism of Mrs Perry.

“ISPA was present at the roundtable meeting led by Ed Vaizey along with a number of ISPs, Claire Perry MP and children’s charities representatives on Monday,” said the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA UK), in an emailed statement to eWEEK Europe UK.

“During the meeting Claire Perry repeated her call for ISPs to filter pornography at the network level, which users would then have to opt out of,” the ISPA UK said.

“ISPs spoke about some of the safety tools and initiatives they already offered their customers, and the ongoing work of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety,” it added. “Internet safety is a priority issue for ISPs who continue to listen to their customers’ and help provide the tools for parents and carers to protect children online.”

This is not the first time ISPs have faced pressure to censor online content. Recently, the Motion Picture Association, which represents Hollywood studios outside the US, demanded that BT block access to Newzbin2 – an offshore website that offers access to pirated content via its Usenet indexing service.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

View Comments

  • ISPs have a commercial vested interest in opposing measures that require them to maintain or support additional hardware and software systems.

    We must also face thge fact that being an ISP does not qualify anyone to any degree more thatn anyone else to make judgement calls on whether content such as pornography is indded detrimental to children.

    Human common sense for thousands of years has been that children should not be exposed to sexual activity, yet now this human knowledge is suddenly faulty because we have an optimal means of delivering pornography and it is call ""Internet"".

    I think not. Porn is porn is porn and children should not have access to it in any form.

    If effective age controls cannot be applied on the Internet, then Internet connections should have "opt-in" measure for adult content where a proven adult needs to authorise this.

    Simple common sense. To come and question now, after thousands of years of human experience, whether pornography and exposure to sexual activity ir detrimental to children or not is an obtuse, misleading and incredibly cynical strategy by people who seek to avoid responsibility and accountability for what they do.

    And that includes many ISPs.

  • Actually pornography is not always pornography, as anyone who has worked with Internet filter systems will tell you. Every parent has differing views of what makes pornography, occasionally wildly differing, and on that basis every parent should make decisions about what they allow their children to see i.e. they should make the decision for themselves, not attempt to offload responsibility onto someone else.

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