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ISPs dismiss calls for default porn blocks

Web children

By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 28 Sep 2012 at 15:51

ISPs have come out against default internet filtering of adult content, telling a government consultation that proposals to block content are neither necessary nor effective.

The comments come as the Department for Education released copies of papers submitted by the ISPs in response to a consultation on protecting children online through better parental controls or default blocking.

The documents were released under a Freedom of Information request and highlight that although ISPs agree with protecting children under an "active choice" model, where parents are given an option of turning on parental controls at point of sale, they were not in favour of routine blocking.

PC Pro has covered the issue at length, and argued that default blocking is heavy handed and almost technically impossible.

There is strong evidence to suggest that over reliance on a technical solution could give parents a false sense of how secure their children are online

Among the submissions to the proposals was a 100,000-signature petition calling for tighter controls, but according to the ISPs there's no evidence that a default block would help.

"We recognise that there is a concern about children who are particularly vulnerable to the risk of harm on the internet however, we think that this needs to be considered in terms of wider policy work and interventions around vulnerable children as opposed to looking at internet issues in isolation," TalkTalk said in its response.

"We are also unsure that offering a default block would actually mean these children were less at risk nor are we sure that this is proportionate."

TalkTalk's position is significant as it has been cited by anti-porn campaigners as an example of how ISPs can make a difference, despite the fact that its HomeSafe network level filter suffers from serious flaws.

The company cited research from YouGov which found that 78% of people were against default blocking, and claimed the government risked implementing new controls before existing policies had even been put into practice.

"Research has consistently found that the majority of adults do not support default filtering," TalkTalk said. "It is also worth saying that active choice as a policy has not yet been given sufficient time to bed in across other providers and have their success measured... it is premature to be looking at other policy options."

Policy confusion

Virgin Media said the confusion sparked by the debate over whether active choice or default blocks should be implemented was at least partly responsible for the lack of progress in the industry.

"The recent uncertainty surrounding ministerial support for 'active choice' has been unhelpful as regards enabling businesses to plan for the long term delivery of solutions for new and existing customers," the ISP said.

BT, too, questioned the wisdom of the proposals, claiming in its response that default blocking would lead to parents becoming over-confident in their children's browsing safety, and that technical solution would never be able to block all adult content.

"Parental interaction and engagement is vital, not least because no technical solution is 100% effective," the company said. "In fact, there is strong evidence to suggest that over-reliance on a technical solution could give parents a false sense of how secure their children are online."

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User comments

ISP's should instal default porn blocks ...

... when builders fit stair gates to every house and car manufacturers fit child seats to every seat (except, presumably, the drivers).

And shouldn't cookers and lawn mowers be PIN locked?

For God's sake, when are parents going to accept that if is for THEM to take responsibility for their children's safety as a general matter of course?

By qpw3141 on 28 Sep 2012

@qpw3141

I and every other parent I've spoken to does think that this is their own responsibility. It's MPs and tabloid journalists who seem to think we are too stupid to live up to it.

By TBennett on 28 Sep 2012

@TBennett

Yes, sorry, I worded that badly.

I was aware that it's interfering busybodies that are the problem.

I wouldn't even care if they did impose filters. It's just that it annoys the s**t out of me that they have been obsessing about porn and the potential for it harming children just about for ever and are always desperate to do something about it but when it comes to things that REALLY harm children such as junk food advertisers targeting them with adverts for unhealthy food of bull bars on vehicles (going back a bit, there), they refuse point blank to get involved.

By qpw3141 on 28 Sep 2012

porn is not like stair gates and lawn mowers

it is tedious to have to explain to our Daily Mail readers the proposal is not about the banning or even restriction of porn to adults. The excitable opposition seems mainly because the porn lovers, like our earlier contributors, I presume, are embarrassed to make that one call to the isp the they would like the porn block removed.
The universal access via tablets smartphones laptops is, unlike lawn mowers, impossible for even the most caring and responsible parent to police. Therefore any measure that will make it a little more difficult for impressionable youg people to access is good.
Does anyone doubt the harm of porn?
Already we have a growing section of young women introduced to porn by their hormonal teenage boyfriends thinking that a normal sexual encounter involves being sodomised ( accompanied by the appropriate and apparently enjoyable pain) followed by the climactic ejaculation on her face by the man and his friend which the girl should enjoy as much as both of them.
And the teenage boy taking it all in - slowly building up his distain for women.

By Robreilly1 on 28 Sep 2012

@Robreilly1

Porn is not what it is about. It's about politics. Being "seen to do the right thing" when it's a useless gesture.
It IS the parents responsibility to look after their children, not the governments.
If your child is too young for unrestricted internet access, then they are too young for a £300+ smart-phone or tablet, unless you're really stupid.
Most routers can block URL's and net nanny, family safety et al can tell you which URL's they're trying. Being responsible takes a little effort - that's all. Is their browser history frequently deleted? Do they close doors when using their computer? Have you bothered to restrict their Windows account or user parental settings? I rely on common sense, not some poorly implemented generic filter system from cheap-ISP Ltd, to protect my children!!!

Screwing up the internet protects nobody. And you are deluding yourselves if you think porn of all types wouldn't simply find its way into their hands by other means. Hell, it was passed around school on VHS 25 years ago! DVD, BluRay, USB stick etc. what "filter" can you shift the blame to for letting those in the house?

The failed blocking of ThePirateBay has ably demonstrated the sheer stupid pointlessness of such technically naive politically motivated action. As futile as boarding up school windows to prevent paedophiles getting access to children and no better thought out.

By cheysuli on 28 Sep 2012

@Robreilly1

"Does anyone doubt the harm of porn?"

Yes, I do, I call bullshit on that belief. There is no hard evidence that porn does harm and to be fair there is no evidence that it is harmeless either. All there is, is vested interested repeating claims with little or no evidence.

Just because something is believed does not make it true.

And you know what, what actually is wrong with anal sex? It seems very popular in the gay community and as long as it's practiced safely (just like any other kind of sex) it does no harm. Personally I've always found it disappointing in practice but each to their own. I've also met women who enjoy being the centre of multiple men's attention, they've not been flawed or damaged individuals.

Don't judge other people's perfectectly legal lifestyle choices by your morality filter.

BTW, my wife certainly isn't offended by porn, just bored by it.

By daveandrews1 on 29 Sep 2012

In fact in the UK

You already have laws that mean possession of images showing consenting adults performing perfectly legal acts and being willingly photographed or filmed can get you jail time and an entry on the sex offenders register.

And you want the people who brought you that to have control of your internet activity or recording it?

By daveandrews1 on 29 Sep 2012

@Robreilly1

I have rarely seen such an obvious case of projection as your post.

You clearly spend a LOT of time watching some of the nastier types of porn as you are quite the expert on it.

And you are also very clearly the one who is more than a little overexcited by the whole business.

By qpw3141 on 29 Sep 2012

OPTIONS options OpTiOnS.

There is a fundamental flaw in the British behaviour of the internet.

It is the way we have to "sign up" to "sign off".
The way the British Business mentality seems to work is:-

If I do NOT wish to Opt IN, I have to enrol, give my name and address, hand permission for cookies and say "I wish to be anonymous".

This is so I can be placed in a database and registered for abstention.

HOW UTTERLY RIDICULOUS !

EU Law states that users should have to OPT IN to any agreements, like cookies placement on computers.
Likewise, in the case mentioned, the onus should be on an adult to sign up to bar unsuitable material:- i.e. Sign up to OPT IN.

Laws have a tendency to creep and if the State takes over the freedom of the Internet, nobody will be better off.

By lenmontieth on 30 Sep 2012

OPTIONS options OpTiOnS.

There is a fundamental flaw in the British behaviour of the internet.

It is the way we have to "sign up" to "sign off".
The way the British Business mentality seems to work is:-

If I do NOT wish to Opt IN, I have to enrol, give my name and address, hand permission for cookies and say "I wish to be anonymous".

This is so I can be placed in a database and registered for abstention.

HOW UTTERLY RIDICULOUS !

EU Law states that users should have to OPT IN to any agreements, like cookies placement on computers.
Likewise, in the case mentioned, the onus should be on an adult to sign up to bar unsuitable material:- i.e. Sign up to OPT IN.

Laws have a tendency to creep and if the State takes over the freedom of the Internet, nobody will be better off.

By lenmontieth on 30 Sep 2012

politics?

I love porn because I find it difficult to have loving relationships. I see women almost purely as potential sources for my own sexual gratification, so you can imagine I'm very much against the opt-in, even though it won't be hugely effective.

By trist3000 on 30 Sep 2012

@trist3000

"I love porn because I find it difficult to have loving relationships. I see women almost purely as potential sources for my own sexual gratification, so you can imagine I'm very much against the opt-in, even though it won't be hugely effective."

I presume this is a gimmick account just to post this nonsense.

If you really were such a misogynistic dick, why would you not just opt in?

Or does the level of your technical intelligence match that of your emotional intelligence? :D

By qpw3141 on 30 Sep 2012

@qpw3141

I love the directed replies, Mr qpw3141.
Anyhow, I'm not feeling much love from you.
Look, we may not have the same reasons, but we want the same end - no opt-in.
This bloke who is trying to groom kids is also on our side because he says the opt-in will weaken one of his key grooming tools - he tells the kids how easy it is to access porn and sends them links.
Together we can stop this evil opt-in!
Freedom to porn!
Freedom to degrade!
Freedom to abuse!

By trist3000 on 30 Sep 2012

@trist3000

Your logic is both twisted and absurd.

Should we ban sweets because perverts could use them to attract children?

The opt in is not evil, it's just objectionable because it is yet another instance of shifting responsibility from where it belongs, the parents, onto society as a whole.

By PeteLogan on 1 Oct 2012

Where does it stop

First the government puts in place laws so that ISPs have to filter porn as a default and people have to opt out, then it becomes mandatory. Then once the technology becomes effective they decide to ban other sites that are inconvenient to the government.

Its a slippery slope. How many other laws have we seen that have been used beyond their original purpose.

By Ulfarus on 1 Oct 2012

"Parent"al Control

Why not just force ISPs to ask customers at the point of sale if they want adult and other inappropriate content filtered?. Or does that sound too expensive and can't the ISPs "be bovvered"?.

The best protection our children can have from this sort of thing is to do it ourselves. The government will do an half-arsed job of it anyway, it'll be unbelievably expensive and we probably won't be seeing it actually implemented until most of our children have children themselves.

By thickspex on 1 Oct 2012

@trist3000

Brilliant logic there - "My enemy's enemy is my friend"

Yeah that's worked so well in so many other areas of life.

It's pretty simple really, the laws already exist to prosecute unacceptable images and videos. There's no need for new ones.

This, and previous governments have already managed to criminalise recording of perfectly legal behaviour using the "think of the children" argument.

And most of the arguments advanced by the anti-porn crew are based on no more evidence than a "down with this sort of thing" placard.

By Dave00 on 2 Oct 2012

Parents should filter the

It is impractical to block everything with millions of web pages being created every day. So ISPs are right. However, parents can filter content on their home PCs using apps like Qustodio. It does a great job blocking nasty stuff and would achieve the same objective.

By Patmilton on 12 Oct 2012

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