Broadband

Peer calls on ISPs, device makers to block adult content

The UK House of Lords is to debate a proposed law that would force ISPs to block access to adult content - unless a subscriber asks to be able to access it

A proposed UK law that would require people to opt-in to view adult content online is to be debated in the House of Lords.

Under the proposals anyone who wants to access adult content online would have to specifically tell their ISP or mobile phone operator they want to view it when signing up for an internet connection.

The Online Safety Bill also proposes that ISPs and mobile operators be prohibited from providing access to such content if they don’t have to have a mechanism in place to verify the person signing up for the internet connection was aged over 18.

Unless these criteria were met ISPs or mobile operators they would have to install filtering technology that provided an internet connection that blocked access to all adult material.

The bill also proposes that manufacturers of electronic devices provide customers with a means of filtering this content from online material.

The proposal is a private members bill, put forward by Baroness Howe. Such bills do not pass into law without the support of government.

UK foreign secretary William Hague has said that the government does not support default filtering of adult material online, in response to a recent similar proposal from MP Claire Perry.

The government has instead agreed a code of conduct with major UK ISPs that requires them to flag up parental control options to customers.

Dr Mark Watts, partner at law firm Bristows and IT specialist, said that the main difficulty in enacting such a law would be defining exactly what adult material is.
"Trying to write a law that successfully draws a clear line in an area that can be quite subjective is very difficult," he said, adding that it would be better to leave it to ISPs to devise their own approach to filtering online content.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

7 comments
Slayer_
Slayer_

To sign the service contract... you must be 18... this seems like a pointless law.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

paints with a pretty broad brush: a student researching the history of atomic testing finds him/herself locked out of accessing such lascivious info as the existence and/or location of 'Bikini Atoll'. To the arbiters of 'adult content-hood', it's not just 2-piece swimmies that erode civilization from within, but the coral reef from which their name derives. I guess British museums will now have to age-verify their patrons, as well (since, from the day they finish nursing, they're expected to disavow the existence of breasts on humans). Good luck with that.

robo_dev
robo_dev

First of all, the logistics of managing and maintaining what is allowed and not allowed by each ISP subscriber is a monumental task. Second, the task of deciding what is porn, and what is not porn would be a thankless job (or a fantastic job :) ). But it would take tremendous amount of cost and infrastructure to build these 'gatekeepers'. Plus, you would then need an enforcement mechanism, which may not be practical or effective if the violators are in other countries. To make this work there would need to be standards and ratings (think MPAA PG, PG-13, R, etc), however HOW do you then apply those to EVERY image, movie, or written material on the Internet?? Is the victoria's secret catalog porn? What about medical textbooks showing human anatomy? Internet chat rooms can be sometimes totally tame, and other times quite inappropriate...all depends on the users; that's not possible to regulate. It's simple to create such a law, but applying it would be virtually impossible, and circumventing it would most likely be trivial. Finally, there is the practical issue that multiple people in a household use the same Internet connection. There is no practical way to let a parent have access to any material while blocking what children can access.

yorkshirepudding
yorkshirepudding

... with the adult content helpdesk staffed by chatty 50 year old ladies who will chat to them before asking what they would like.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

...and likely to be the best point on the whole topic. Very nice! Thanks

bboyd
bboyd

Not to defend porn, but what the heck UK. I thought the US contained most of the worlds non-Islamic moral dreadnoughts. Oh wait is this the first steps to introducing sharia law in the British isles? This in a nation where the news papers have cover pictures that include virtual pasties. Maybe this is a make work law to increase the job opportunities within BT.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

...stems from its roots as a British colony. (Where did the brits get that big prude stick up the you-know-what?)