Ministers Object To Default Porn Block

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Ministers are already hinting that a proposal to censor the Internet by default is a dead duck

Government ministers are looking to move away from proposals to censor porn by default, after technical and ethical concerns were raised.

Earlier this month, a cross-party Parliamentary inquiry backed up proposals dating back to 2010 to enforce a network-level ‘Opt-In’ system, going beyond the “active choice” model  launched by ISPs BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin last October. This would provide a “clean internet feed” as standard, requiring users to specifically request access to “adult” content – an approach which has been criticised as “censorship”.

Yet culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and sources from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have indicated such measures would infringe civil liberties, according to reports in the Sun and the Daily Mail.

Instead, Hunt wants ISPs to be forced into providing customers with an “active choice” for filtering porn, which would see end users given the simple task of selecting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if they wanted access to adult content.

Range of options open

The DCMS offered no specifics, however, in its official line. “It is vital we do all we can to protect children from inappropriate material online,” a DCMS spokesperson said.

“We are looking at a range of options for increasing child protection online and we will be bringing forward proposals later this year.”

A spokesperson from the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) told TechWeekEurope it stood by its belief that the opt-out model was weak.

“In terms of the pieces in the Sun and Mail, we believe that default filtering of content that customers have to opt out of is ineffective and unnecessary.  Like the Government, we feel that active choice … is a better way forward,” the spokesperson said.

Yet Tory MP Claire Perry has been railing against a lighter touch from government, saying the current opt-in proposals did not go far enough. She wants to see stringent age-checking processes enforced. “Our kids deserve more than empty phrases like civil liberties. If there’s no age check there then we’re not solving the problem,” Perry said.

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