‘Enforced porn block’ Online Safety Bill criticised

Posted: June 5, 2013

Criticism of the new porn filtering bill has come from numerous areas including broadband service providers, MPs, child protection agencies and the adult industry in general.

The Online Safety Bill would require people to contact their internet service provider to prove they were over 18 and opt in to view adult content.

Campaigners have pointed out that the bill and current voluntary policies do not oblige the ISPs to inform customers who are already signed up that they have options.

Vince Charlton of the adult industry-funded, Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP), said of the bill, “It seems to be recognising the problem but not coming up with any real suggestions on how it’s going to work”. He added that, “The industry is a money making industry and anything that stops people joining websites or paying by credit card for websites is going to hit their revenue stream.”

As unlikely as it is to become law, a government advisor said the bill should “keep up the pressure on” internet service providers. Last year the government rejected an automatic block on internet porn. A public consultation showed 35% of people who took part were in favour of such a move.

The four biggest ISPs in the UK are already signed up to a code of practice on controlling access to adult content, such as TalkTalk’s ‘HomeSafe’ approach, but the companies warned that the approach was “not a silver bullet”.

Conservative MP Claire Perry said ISPs should act without regulation but warned if they didn’t or wouldn’t “then we will have to step in”. BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have so far agreed to increase awareness of parental controls and give customers “an enforced choice” on whether to use them.

Andrew Kernahan from the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) said users were being made aware of filters available to them. “They are being prompted to do something by ISPs,” he said, adding that informing millions of customers was “not a small undertaking”.

Baroness Howe, who introduced the new legislation, said changes to the law were needed. She said: “While I recognise that the government has shown an interest in addressing this challenge, it is far from clear to me that their voluntary approach is working or is likely to.”

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