United Kingdom may force Net providers to block pornography

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 21 2010 7:13 a.m. MST

The UK government may soon require internet service providers to block pornographic content.

Associated Press

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The United Kingdom government may soon enforce policies to block all pornographic content from reaching British home computers unless users specifically request access, in a move designed to prevent children from viewing pornography.

British communications minister Ed Vaizey is set to speak with Internet providers in the U.K. next month to implement the changes. Providers would block all pornographic content by default, requiring those who wish to view it to "opt in."

"This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that it's the (Internet service providers) that come up with solutions to protect children," Vaizey said, according to a Sunday report in The Guardian.

Until now, most Internet service providers have left the censoring of pornographic material to parents through the use of "opt out" control options. But British MP Claire Perry believes that isn't good enough any more.

"Even among parents who are Internet users, only 15 percent say that they know how to install a filter, and it is unfortunately also the case that our children know better than us how to circumvent the filters," Perry wrote in an article at politics.co.uk. "Why is the onus on parents, teachers and carers to act as Web guides and policemen? Where is the industry responsibility?"

Internet service providers say they are open to discussion on the matter.

Andrew Heaney of British internet company TalkTalk told the Guardian: "Our objective was not to do what the politicians want us but to do what is right for our customers. If other companies aren't going to do it of their own volition, then maybe they should be leant on."

Other companies, like service provider BT, are less enthusiastic. "There are many legal, consumer rights and technical issues that would need to be considered before any new Web-blocking policy was developed," a BT spokesperson said in a Monday ZDNet UK report.

The U.K. isn't alone in developing policies to combat pornography. Members of the French General Assembly have adopted a bill to "fight against child pornography: the Internet access providers must prevent access by Internet users to illegal content," according to a securecomputing.net.au report.

The bill has received mixed opinions in the Assembly, but it will move on to the French Senate at the beginning of 2011.

These decisions come just as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission prepares Tuesday to approve a new set of rules governing net neutrality.

While these proposed rules do not specify any policy on pornography, they would allow the FCC more leeway to police Internet service providers without legislative approval.

"The FCC has wanted to step in and act as an Internet traffic cop, but Congress has never given it clear authority to do so," reporter Amy Schatz wrote in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

The Deseret News published a series of articles earlier this year on the effects of pornography on families, as part of the Deseret Media Companies "Out in the Light" initiative.

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