British MP Calls for Online Porn Ban



What happened? 

Armed with a report from 17 MPs from all three main parties, Conservative MP Claire Perry has revived calls to block pornography from the UK web in order to prevent children seeing adult content.

Last year, the government worked with ISPs and others in the web industry to create a system where new broadband customers would be offered free parental-control filtering software, and given advice on how to set it up. Perry has now said that the system - dubbed 'active choice'- isn't being implemented quickly enough and doesn't go far enough, because parental-control software doesn't protect all devices, just the PC it's installed on.

Instead, she wants porn to be blocked at a network level; using filters such as the one TalkTalk already offers its customers, and those used by BT and other ISPs to block illegal material such as child porn. She also wants everyone with a broadband connection in the UK to be asked to "opt in" if they want to receive online porn.

While the government has said little more than it will consider Perry's report, the MP has joined forces with the Daily Mail on a "decency" campaign to push the issue. Faced with complaints from rights campaigners, her response was: "Our kids deserve more than empty phrases like civil liberties."

How will it affect you?

If Perry has her way, your ISP will ask you whether you'd like to receive adult content via your internet connection. If you say yes, nothing should change. If you say no, a network-level filter will attempt to block porn and whatever other content the government deems unsuitable. Sites that encourage anorexia, for example, could also be blocked.

It won't be possible to switch a network-level filter on or off at will, and it won't be clear when something is being blocked. This means it's less sophisticated than existing parental control software, which makes it easy for a user to know when a page has been blocked. It's also easier for parents to use the software to track what a child searches for.

Perry has suggested, by bringing up ISPs' profits, that those making money from broadband should pay for the system, so expect that to be reflected in your bill should such plans come into play.

What do we think?

We need to do more to protect children online, but this plan is expensive, technically complicated, and ethically unsound. The ease with which some children can access such material is a concern; we simply don't know how- or if - it will affect them. But, as many critics of Perry's plans have pointed out, parenting is a personal responsibility. A network-level filter doesn't remove the need to discuss sex with teenagers, nor block any of the other nasty material a child could stumble onto online. Yes, some parents aren't as web-savvy as their children, and ISPs should help them out. And some parents simply don't care if their children search for porn or other adult content. But there's nothing to stop such people from opting in to receiving adult content, even under Perry's plans, so it’s hard to see what will change.

Plus, as many people have pointed out, governments around the world have never been able to resist the slippery slope of censorship. Block porn at our request, and who knows what they'll block without us knowing.




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