May 21, 2012
-- A new ISPreview.co.uk survey of 728 internet access subscribers in the United Kingdom has revealed that the majority of respondents (84%) are against any proposals which might force broadband providers into imposing mandatory adult website blocks by default. The introduction of such a system, which would be applied to all internet accounts in the UK, was recommended by the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection (Claire Perry MP).
Many ISPs already offer Parental Control features and mobile phone operators impose similar restrictions by default. On top of that there are also plenty of third-party solutions available and many can be had for free (e.g. MS Windows Live Family Safety, OpenDNS.org's network level filtering etc.). In fact there’s no shortage of options for anxious parents.
Similarly nearly all of the biggest domestic ISPs have, since last year's agreement with the government, started to adopt an 'Active Choice' system that provides customers (e.g. parents) with an "enforced" option to block adult web content at the point of purchase.
Some 74% of respondents to the survey said they were in favour of ISPs offering optional parental control solutions. But, when respondents were asked whether or not they thought ISPs had done enough to protect children online, more than half (55%) said "Yes", 23% gave a flat "no" and 22% were "not sure".
"It's encouraging to see ISPs offer customers more options to filter out adult content and we'd like to see that continue," said ISPreview.co.uk's Founder, Mark Jackson. "But at the same time we should be careful not to impose mandatory opt-in internet filters, which risk lulling parents into a false sense of security and encouraging state sponsored censorship through mission creep. Parents must be given more trust to act on their own initiative. Sadly some MPs are already proposing stiffer measures, before the 'Active Choice' solution has even been given chance to work, which only adds to the ever growing burden of new legislation that internet providers are being asked to shoulder."
"We must never forget that website blocking measures are also easy to circumvent (children often know the best methods), can restrict legitimate sites (clothing retailers, sex education/medical content etc.) and cost huge amounts of money to develop. BT is alleged to have spent £500k developing its Cleanfeed solution and that's enough to put smaller ISPs out of business. We should instead be focusing on education and awareness, as well as boosting the availability of 'Active Choice' so that the industry can adapt through self-regulation."