The government has rejected demands that internet service providers place automatic filters on pornographic content online to protect children.
Following a joint consultation conducted by the Department and Education and Home Office, ministers have agreed that ISPs will not be required to put default blocks on pornography, with the responbility lying with parents.
There have been calls for a process whereby adults would have to ‘opt in’ to see certain content, rather than being freely available for any users to access, including from UK PM David ‘Dave’ Cameron himself.
According to the report outlining the government’s response to the consultation, ISPs will continue to use an ‘active choice’ system being put in place by ISPs such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. This involves encouraging and allowing parents to set controls on content, rather than being putting it under the remit of the ISP.
A consultation showed that only around a third of parents would back the placement of default blocks to be put in place by ISPs, but this was not deemed high enough by the government to warrant blocking of data for all users.
The report stated: “There was no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the internet by their ISP: only 35% of the parents who responded favoured that approach.”
The report also highlighted the difficulties in actually putting blocks in place, with an overzealous approach also filtering out content pertaining to other topics such as as sexual health, for example, yet failing to block all the pornographic content on the web.
The proposals also came under fire from privacy advocates. Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, one of the campaign groups opposing the filtering, commented that the government has taken measured approach to the situation.
“This is a positive step that strikes the right balance between child safety and parentalresponsibility without infringing on civil liberties and freedom of speech,” Pickles said.
“The policy recognises it is parents, not Government, who are responsible for controlling what their children see online and rightly avoids any kind of state-mandated blocking of legal conten,” he said.
He added: “Companies are already responding to demand from some parents for filters and emphasising that choice is rightly the focus of Government policy.”