The United Kingdom will see most of its households have pornography blocked by their internet service provider, it has been announced. The filters will be set up automatically for both existing and new customers.
Stepping up to the plate
In his speech of 22 July UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that in order to fight child pornography and protect children from damaging material online, family-friendly search engine filters would be automatically selected for all new broadband customers by the end of the year.
“Search engines [must] step up to the plate on this issue,” said Cameron, as “you cannot have people searching for child abuse images and being aided in doing so.”
The filters will apply to all devices connected to the home internet account.
After subscribing, new broadband customers will have the option of opting out of the filters should they wish to. Existing computer users will be contacted by their internet providers and told they must decide whether to use or not use “family-friendly filters” to restrict adult material.
The UK’s biggest internet service providers have agreed to the filters scheme meaning it should cover 95% of homes.
Cameron also called on Internet services such as Google create “a list of terms – a blacklist – which offer up no direct search returns”, as “there are some searches which are so abhorrent and where there could be no doubt whatsoever about the sick and malevolent intent of the searcher”.
Sleepwalking into censorship
However, not all are happy with Cameron’s plan.
The Open Rights Group, UK’s leading voice defending freedom of expression and privacy online, has warned that the ‘pornwall’ will cause people to “sleepwalk into censorship”, as people tend to “stick with defaults”:
The implication is that filtering is good, or at least harmless, for anyone, whether adult or child. Of course, this is not true; there’s not just the question of false positives for web users, but the effect on a network economy of excluding a proportion of a legitimate website’s audience. […]
Meanwhile ISPs face the unenviable customer relations threat of increased complaints as customers who hadn’t paid much attention find websites unexpectedly blocked.
Just as bad, filters installed with no thought cannot be expected to set appropriately for children of different ages.
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