ISPs: UK porn block not possible

Earlier this week, it was reported the UK government is considering an opt-in option for accessing online porn. This plan will be discussed in January with the UK’s leading ISP’s including BT, Virgin Media, as well as Talk Talk before any legislation moves forward. The government will define how porn should be blocked by default on a user's connection, with the ability for adults to opt-in should they want to view such content.

Today the BBC reports several ISP's say such a plan is not possible, explaining that too many variables and work arounds exist to prevent such a block from occurring. Legal issues regarding how to block lawful pornography also haven't been clearly defined. Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the ISPA industry body, worries an opt-in may “lead to the blocking of access to legitimate content and is only effective in preventing inadvertent access."

One of the largest UK ISP’s BT, said it would partake in any discussion on the proposed opt-in idea, but also stated there are several legal issues regarding consumer rights laws that need to be reviewed before any blocking policy is implemented.

While the legality of this proposal continues to be debated, the larger issue of actually filtering pornographic content comes into play. Trefor Daves, chief technology officer at Timico states, “Unfortunately, It's technically not possible to completely block this stuff.” File sharing networks, e-mail, VPN’s, news groups, internet boards, and social networking sites all offer ways to bypass such blocks. The sheer amount of data being exchanged would be extremely difficult to filter, and would require massive amounts of resources to monitor.

Proponents of the opt-in idea such as Miranda Suit, co-chair of Safe Media, whose company’s focus is ensuring media is safe for children, stated “Children are becoming addicted in their teens to internet pornography; They are being mentally damaged so they cannot engage in intimate relationships.”  Opponents such as Jim Killock, chair of an open rights group said, “This is not about pornography, it is about generalised censorship through the back door." Others believe filtering should be left in the hands of the parents, and not the government.

Regardless of what side UK citizens may be on, a big debate on this opt-in policy appears to be inevitable; one that will require a review of all current filtering technologies, as well as the mediums used to distribute online porn.

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