Policing the Wild West
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has confirmed that the government is in talks with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) over child protection measures that could include blocking sites featuring adult content. Communications Minister Ed Vaizey told the Sunday Times: "I think it is very important that it's the ISPs that some up with solutions to protect children. I'm hoping they will get their acts together so that we don't have to legislate."
Vaizey is to meet with Virgin Media, TalkTalk and BT, to discuss what can be done. The government's plan is to censor all web connections, automatically blocking any sites that include pornography. Those wishing to view adult material could do so by asking the permission of their ISP. Although broadband companies have previously claimed this approach would be too complex and expensive, some are now volunteering to cooperate.
The matter was first raised in the Commons by Conservative MP Claire Perry in November 2010. According to Psychologies magazine, one in three under-10s has seen pornography online, while 80 per cent of those aged 14 to 16 admitted using their computer to access explicit photographs or videos.
While nobody would question the need for child protection, several commentators have criticised the proposed opt-in scheme. TheNextWeb UK called it "draconian" and said "adults shouldn't be stigmatised for viewing porn", while others wondered who would decide which sites to block and what constitutes adult material. Meanwhile, Mashable asked the question on everybody's lips: "How will British residents feel about adding their names to a list of people who specifically asked for access to pornography?"