The government plans to change the way broadband providers filter Internet access to help stop access to pornography. The step follows existing plans that ISPs have used to help block inadvertent access of child pornography websites. The government want providers to use the same technology to block pornography unless adults have opted in to viewing it. This should help stop children from gaining access to inappropriate material that is currently freely available on the web. TalkTalk are already in the process of implementing a system which scans websites for malware and will introduce parental controls that can be configured for all users of the connection.
"This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children.
I'm hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years."Ed Vaizey, Communications Minister
On hearing of the proposals, industry came back with mixed responses. BT said it would be happy to discuss the implementation of such a system but there are many 'legal, consumer rights and technical issues' that need to be evaluated before it could go live. Trefor Davies of Timico was less keen on the idea and questioned how well a system like this could work. There are millions of sites that would need to be blocked and these are changing all the time.
"You end up with a system that's either hugely expensive and a losing battle because there are millions of these sites or it's just not effective.
"The cost of putting these systems in place outweigh the benefits, to my mind. If we take this step it will not take very long to end up with an internet that's a walled garden of sites the governments is happy for you to see."Trefor Davies, Timico
This would obviously please some industries who could piggyback on the system and use it to help stop access to illegally downloaded music and films for example. This is however likely to turn into a long debate much like the Digital Economy Act which, whilst rush through parliament, is now heading to the courts after the two largest ISP's in the UK, BT and TalkTalk, appealed against it.