Confusion reigns as Government announces porn ban

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Rights groups fear censorship as Government plans adult content crackdown

Updated at 11:10am Huge confusion surrounds a Government announcement that Britain's four biggest ISPs will be blocking adult content.

BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk have all agreed to put blocks on porn reaching consumers, according to various reports in the national press, with several reports suggesting that consumers will be forced to opt-in if they want to view adult content.

Those reports have been dismissed by the ISPs, who claim customers will be asked to make a choice over whether they want filtering on their connection or not. Adult content blocks will not be implemented by default.

The ISPs will use a variety of a measures to attempt to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content. Some will offer network-level filtering, which prevents any computer or device on the home network from accessing adult content; others will use PC-based software that doesn't protect smartphones or tablets connected to the home Wi-Fi.

While there has been a swelling tide of conservatism in recent months, with MP Claire Perry and the Bailey Report seeking further protection for children, campaigners believe the plans could stray into censorship and warn the industry must guard against heavy-handedness.

ISPs need to keep this to child safety and if it presented as that, then it may be quite acceptable, but if the Government is pushing it as an option to turn porn on or off then that is a completely different discussion

"There is a world of difference between offering sensible child safety, and trying to persuade adults to live with layers of censorship,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.

"The devil is therefore in the detail, and how 'options' are presented. Will adults be asked if they need parental controls, or if they want to switch adult content on? We will oppose anything designed to induce adults to live with censorware, which would inevitably deny them access to commentary, health and medical advice."

PC Pro has been told that the Government plans would involve only new subscribers being offered parental controls when they are connected, which would be acceptable to campaigners, but there are fears the plans could involve retrospective options, too.

“If it turns out to be more like adults being asked if they want to turn porn on, then that's very different,” Killock said. “You are asking people to opt in to censorship, and how does one adult in a house decide what's right for others – suddenly people can't access legitimate contents about issues such as health, sexuality and whatever else it's decided should be censored.

“ISPs need to keep this to child safety and if it presented as that, then it may be quite acceptable, but if the Government is pushing it as an option to turn porn on or off then that is a completely different discussion,” Killock said.

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