UK rejects proposals to automatically block porn

All the way back in October 2011, we reported on a controversial proposal in the UK to introduce a mandatory opt-in to view adult content on the web. The proposal, put forward by special interest groups such as the Mothers' Union charity, received public support from some Members of Parliament, including Prime Minister David Cameron, and would have required internet service providers to automatically restrict access to pornographic content unless users registered to opt in to view such materials with their ISP.

Unsurprisingly, ISPs weren't exactly thrilled by this prospect and have repeatedly resisted and rejected calls to get on board with the proposals. Earlier this year, the UK's Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) said that "forcing ISPs to filter adult content at the network level, which users would then have to opt out of, is neither the most effective nor most appropriate way to prevent access to inappropriate material online", and went on to highlight the ease with which such restrictions could be circumvented.

But over a year on, it seems that the plans have now fallen apart. BBC News reports that Government ministers have rejected the proposals to automatically block access to adult content at an ISP level, citing a lack of support among parents and other interested parties. Despite a petition with over 115,000 signatures being submitted to the Prime Minister's Office, a ten-week consultation found that just a third of parents were in favour of an automatic universal block, while a further 15% wanted to see certain content filtered but not on the full scale originally proposed.

The final report on the consultation period found "no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the internet by their ISP", but 13% of respondents were said to support "a system where you are automatically asked some questions about what you want your children to access". The report also appeared to echo the sentiments of ISPA in suggesting that a universal block would create a "false sense of security" for parents, given that no system would be able to successfully and completely restrict access to "all potentially harmful content".

Indeed, in the wake of the report, it seems that both ministers and ISPs are now favouring better awareness of parental control tools as a more practical solution to the problem. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) expressed disappointment at the outcome. While it praised the Government for taking "a step in the right direction in making the internet safer for children", the NSPCC's Alan Wardle maintains that "the best option to protect children is for adult content to be automatically blocked" by ISPs.


What are your thoughts on the outcome of the consultation? Would you have been comfortable registering with your ISP to be able to access adult content? Do you think it was a mistake to reject the proposals? And should parents take more responsibility in protecting their children online? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Source: BBC News

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