The UK government is considering an opt-in rule that would automatically bar all internet users from accessing adult material until they choose to access it. The measure is one of several under review as a possible means of shielding children from pornography, along with content relating to drug use, self-harm and anorexia.
Prime Minister David Cameron indicated back in May of this year that a blanket ban might be the preferred option, when he said: “I want to fully explore every option that might help make children safer – including whether internet filters should be switched on as the default, so that adult content is blocked unless you decide otherwise.
“TalkTalk lead the way in off-premises internet filtering with the May launch of their HomeSafe Filtering system; but TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media and Sky have all signed up to a code of practice that offers customers a choice of whether or not to apply filters. The technology to do this is still developing, however. A study by PC Pro magazine has already found fault with the TalkTalk filter, having discovered that pornographic images could still be accessed through Google Images even when the websites themselves were blocked. TalkTalk responded to PC Pro’s findings by pointing out that the service is a responsive solution rather than an absolute block: “We note the PC Pro searches and will look at the results in question. If a customer finds a site that they think should be blocked they can alert us so we can take action.
“Current technology is not 100% effective and the government is trying to establish which is the best approach to protect underage users. “Growing numbers of parents do not feel in control of what their families are exposed to online,” children’s minister Tim Loughton said. “Many want to take responsibility, but all too often they do not how know how because they find the technology too difficult to use or their children are more technically advanced then they are.” Illustrating the difficulties faced, he added: “No filter can ever be 100% foolproof. There is a cottage industry of people, mostly operating outside the UK, continually creating and proliferating ‘proxy’ websites that provide links to adult and harmful content. Automatic filtering on its own risks lulling parents into a false sense of security and there can never be any substitute for parents taking responsibility for how, when and where their children use the internet. The answer lies in finding ways to combine technical solutions with better education, information and, if necessary regulation further down the line.”