Government wants to block internet porn

20 Dec 2010
broadband cable

Ed Vaizey says adults should have to opt-in to view pornographic material

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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