PM backs ISP-level blocking

Posted: June 8, 2011

Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken about the Bailey Review’s suggestion that adult content becomes an opt-in option online.

The proposal in the report has been backed by the Prime Minister, along with others surrounding the ‘commercialisation and sexualisation of children’. The recommendation that ISPs and mobile providers “block adult and age-restricted material from the Internet” has been warmly received by many that feel such material is far too accessible.

Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Christian charity ‘Mothers’ Union’, has conducted the Department of Education-commissioned review over the last six months. His report entitled ‘Letting Children Be Children: the Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood’ recommends blocking content, asking consumers to “make a decision at the point of purchase over whether they want adult content on their home Internet, laptops or smart phones, rather than receiving it automatically.”

The report adds: “The Internet industry must act decisively to develop and introduce effective parental controls, with Government regulation if voluntary action is not forthcoming within a reasonable timescale.”

How UK law might encourage non-UK sites to voluntarily develop further parental controls seems not to have been explored, nor that the commercial porn industry (as opposed to free tube-sites paid for by advertising, and sometimes featuring ‘stolen’ copyright content) already has effective access control, through age-limited credit-card payments. How ISPs could filter content might follow TalkTalk’s ‘HomeSafe’ system, which features full network-level monitoring, but this could prove costly to update and carries the danger of perfectly innocent sites being ‘bundled in with the smut’.

Speaking in a letter of thanks to Bailey, Cameron said he welcomed any recommendations which “ensure children are protected when they watch television, are on the Internet or use their mobile phones by ‘making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material’ across all media. We need to make sure we hold businesses and regulators to account in a transparent way.”

In a broader review, in October the PM and Bailey are expected to attend a summit which will bring together broadcasters, advertisers, video games manufacturers along with Internet and phone providers. In his letter to Bailey, Cameron added: “We can use this opportunity to ask them to report to us the steps they have taken to address the issues you raise in your report and act on your specific recommendations.”

The full report is free to download at www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationDetail/Page1/CM%208078

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