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Government wants to block internet porn

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By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 20 Dec 2010 at 08:45

The Government is considering plans to block internet pornography.

Communications minister Ed Vaizey told The Sunday Times he was looking to protect children from being exposed to pornography, and that such content would be blocked by default. Anyone wanting to access such material would need to opt-in with their ISP.

"This is a very serious matter. I think it's very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children," he said.

I think its very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children

"I'm hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years."

The move comes after Conservative MP Claire Perry called for ISPs to apply cinema-style age ratings to pornographic sites last month.

A spokesman with BIS said that the only current plan is to discuss the issue with ISPs at a roundtable debate about age verification. There's no date set for the event yet.

Despite the plan raising technical and censorship issues, ISPs seem generally supportive. TalkTalk's executive director of strategy and regulation, Andrew Heaney, told The Sunday Times: "Our objective was not to do what the politicians want us but to do what is right for our customers. If other companies aren't going to do it of their own volition, then maybe they should be leant on."

Virgin Media, meanwhile, said that it already has a similar system for mobile internet. “We already have an opt-in approach on mobiles. We’re able to block sites, so it would be possible to do the same on the internet. It is just about finding the right approach.”

Technical issues

BT said it would be "happy" to discuss the issue with the Government, but said such a plan would need to be carefully considered. “There are many legal, consumer rights and technical issues that would need to be considered before any new web blocking policy was developed," a spokesperson said.

The ISP added that it already blocks some illegal content. "BT has provided customers with a content blocking system since 2004 which targets websites on a list compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation, an accredited association set up by the internet industry," the spokesperson added. "Sites on the list contain images of child sexual abuse, which are illegal to view in the UK, under the 1978 Child Protection Act.”

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User comments

Government wants to block internet porn

Not to mention viruses,botnets and malicious users that people come into contact with these sistes.

By sparky05 on 20 Dec 2010

Whatever happenned...

to responsible parenting?

Surely it is the parents job to look after their children, not the ISP's?

Blocking spambots and quarantining connections with infected PCs, I would agree with, but blocking legal content? Port doesn't bother me one way or the other, but what when they decide that the news service I read isn't following the party line?

Thin end of the wedge, me thinks.

By big_D on 20 Dec 2010

Oh for crying out loud. I thought this nonsense had ended when we got rid of the malevolent idiots in the Labour party?

What children do on line is the responsibility of their parents, not the state, not some idiot MP, not ISPs.

If a parent hasn't the sense to manage what their children watch, read or browse then they're gooseberries.

If an ISP wants to set up specifically as a selling point to implement content filtering then so be it, that's a business choice.

By bubbles16 on 20 Dec 2010

Internet 'Filtering'

I think that this is the start of Internet censorship. While I have no problem in them blocking illegal site the idea of blocking access to a range of websites as specified by Governement is the first step on a dangerous road. First who decides on the list? Is there legal redress if your site is mentioned. What if the site (in gov. terms) incites violence (eg Student Protest) could that be added?

I think that we have lost far too many civil liberties recently - Why not get ISPs to provide net blocking software on demand - then YOU can decide what is reasonable or not.

By Billhow on 20 Dec 2010

The points above about it being the responsibility of the parents is all very well in theory. In practice, many parents are just too naive and clueless and rely on their kids for computing advice!!!

By rjp2000 on 20 Dec 2010

How soon...

before they decide to "protect" us in the same way that the Chinese protect their citizens.

For our own good of course.

By Lacrobat on 20 Dec 2010

I think that sounds like a good idea to be fair. It's all too easy for a child to reach an inappropriate site unless their parents are already using some sort of nanny software.

By skarlock on 20 Dec 2010

OpenDNS

Does the job for me, no software to install and works on any PC connected to my home network.

By 959ARN on 20 Dec 2010

Along with the religeous nuts...

Sure... as long as they ban all the religeous sites too that try to indoctrinate our kids with a load of, even more dangerous than porn, mumbo jumbo that causes people to kill each other.

I, as an atheist, wish to teach my kids that the fairy tale of religeon is just that but I don't want some "official" holier than thou type deciding for me and my kids on any subject.

Oh and whilst we are on the subject of banning can we also include that most offensive of all - the politicians web sites?

Come on China show us how it's done! Or maybe the Arab states could block all sites championing womens rights so they can happily live with thinking being stoned to death is OK?

Very, very, slippery slope for people to go down the route of internet censorship IMO.

The web has given, to a certain extent, the power back to the people and introducing blocks would be the biggest threat to democracy we will ever have seen.

Have compulsory tag codes maybe or auto add a tag but let the block be at the final PC or router not at the ISP. Move if you must the decision to block down to the end users/parents/schools.

By itsmagic on 20 Dec 2010

Parenting?

I assume those of you who say this is the job of parents don't have children? Or do you make a habit of watching them every second of the day and never let them leave the house? For once it sounds as though they have come up with a reasonable solution.

By Terrier on 20 Dec 2010

Quite apart from the censorship issues the filtering process is far from 100%.

My teacher friend's school net access is heavily filtered but often ends up blocking quite useful and perfectly legitimate resources too. Its like spam blocking its a devil to get right.

For example people living in Fanny Avenue, South Yorkshide will find themselves deemed hardcore porn. And that's just one obvious example of many.

By cyberindie on 20 Dec 2010

@rjp2000 , @Terrier

Are you basically saying that parenting is a hard job?

Suck it up and stop your kids watching porn ASAP. Seriously.

By steviesteveo12 on 20 Dec 2010

One man's fanny is another man's ass!

At least it is in the USA.

So what is porn? Apart from the obvious, will the The Sun's website get fewer hits in future? Some might say that's no bad thing!

And will this opt-in-to-porn be limited to households with children or will it be a blanket requirement, an electronic "hold your hand up if you want to look at porn" indicator? And thus could be a way of marking your card ...as some sort of sexual deviant?

France is trying to put up a firewall as we speak. For much the same purposes as described above. Protect the citizens from blacklisted sites, kiddie porn and terrorism. All perfectly justifiable ...except Wiki-leaks is also on the blacklist. I wonder why!

By fingerbob69 on 20 Dec 2010

@959arn, @Terrier

OpenDNS won't help. Whether you can look up the address or not is irrelevant. It is whether the data coming from the website gets through the ISP's Firewall.

Using a proxy, like Tor might help, at least in the short term, until their addresses get blocked.

Terrier, I have children, well my girlfriend does. No, we don't watch them constantly. When they were younger, they had a PC in the hallway of the flat, which everybody used.

Now they have their own computers, but the youngest is still blocked by the firewall. Her PC cannot look at porn or illegal film and music download sites, for example.

The solution offered is very unreasonable. They block off parts of the net, which they want to block off, as I said above, it might start with Porn, but where does it stop? And you have to opt-in to see the content?

Having the content blocking as opt-in maybe, but having it as opt-out is the start of a downward cycle.

By big_D on 20 Dec 2010

Also @ rjp2000 & Terrier...

Are you therefore suggesting that it's everyone else's responsibility to look after your children because it's too difficult to do it yourselves?

No I don't have children myself, but my brother does. As well as 'child-proof' software he also keeps his PC in his lounge, so my nephews and nieces either have someone in the room with them at the same time they're on it - or they're aware that someone may walk in on them unannounced at any moment. It seems a pretty simple and effective solution.

I do think too many parents give their children unfettered access to the internet, (often in the privacy of the children's own bedrooms). It's not for the rest of society to pander to those who won't make an effort themselves.

The existence of 'child filters' is very widely known - and they're available from pretty much everywhere someone would buy a PC or anti-virus package.

A campaign to block pornography is an easy vote-winner that appeals to family-minded people, but as others here say, it does very much feel like the thin end of a wedge:

- If pornography, why not radical religious sites?
- If radical religious sites, why not radical political ones?

Who defines what is radical?

Would Wikileaks be banned? Along with anything that criticises the ruling elite?

Most people when asked consider the BNP to be racist, yet they won over a million votes and are a legal, legitimate political party. Would they they eventually be banned?

Censorship is censorship, and whatever good intentions it initially comes with it usually ends up being oppressive...

By Mr_John_T on 20 Dec 2010

fingerbob69 & big_D, you both beat me to what I wanted to say!

By Mr_John_T on 20 Dec 2010

An audit of Norway's anti child pornography filter after a couple of years found that about 5% of the list was actually child pornography and the rest was just random stuff that someone or other had wanted banned at some point.

It's funny, it's as if once you give people the ability to stop other people seeing things they don't want you to they'll use it.

By steviesteveo12 on 20 Dec 2010

People of Scunthorpe will be no more!

Say it all in the header, (nothing against the place of course, it all in the name)

By BornOnTheCusp on 20 Dec 2010

What a joke.....

Parents are responsible for what their kids get up to on the internet - either supervise what they are doing or get some web filtering. As has been mentioned - the first step to internet censorship - for our own good of course

By everton2004 on 20 Dec 2010

@big_D

OpenDNS is perfectly capable if you put the settings in your router. I think maybe you haven't seen all the new content filtering services they have rolled out this year.

By c6ten on 20 Dec 2010

applet

I also forgot to mention that if you use OpenDNS and have a dynamic IP address (which includes most home users) you should install the downloadable applet on at least one machine on the LAN. That will ensure that OpenDNS have the right IP address to provide content filtering.

By c6ten on 20 Dec 2010

Seriously?

The suggestion from one of the back-bench MPs was bad enough, but not so surprising. Some of them often come up with unworkable ideas & get reported in the press, always good for a giggle.

However, this to be put forward as policy is absolutely unbelievable - yet there are some who think it's a good idea?

Maybe if Ed Vaizey said this censorship is also to be applied to the BBC, ITV and all newspapers - just in case some children saw something naughty - I wonder how many would be in agreement?

By greemble on 21 Dec 2010

@c6ten

Sorry, I thought that 959arn was talking about circumventing the proposed firewall, didn't read closely enough.

Thanks for correcting me.

By big_D on 21 Dec 2010

yes what a joke

basically what the government wants is an official list that someone can hack and put on the web for all your friends to see.

By closencounter on 21 Dec 2010

OpenDNS concerns

OpenDNS also used a service called PhishTank. This is an automated blacklist service fr Phishing sites. However it would be quite easy for malicious users (as well as Governments) to persistently block sites of which they do not approve by adding them to the blacklist.

By milliganp on 22 Dec 2010

@Billhow: "While I have no problem in them blocking illegal site the idea of blocking access to a range of websites as specified by Governement"

Do you honestly think there is any difference there?

My big problem with this is that it makes it harder to crit government policy. "Why is X banned? It's harmless!" !Ah ha! You can only know this if you've seen X! Therefore you must be a criminal and your views automatically have no merit!"

A lot of what is currently banned is stupid and nonsensical. But just try and prove that when merely posessing the evidence is a crime.

By ANTIcarr0t on 24 Dec 2010

REGULATE IT

The easiest answer is for all ISP's to regulate the WWW.
A notice should be displayed:-

"The minimum age for access to this website is 21 years. Users are advised that some rights of expression may be sexually explicit".

There is no way anyone could guarantee total safety for children on the internet and they should be supervised at ALL times.
This is called PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY.
(I also agree some "porn" is displayed too highly and should be behind "XXXX" rated screens with NO PICTURES or EXPLICIT TEXT).

By lenmontieth on 30 Dec 2010

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