Claranet has launched a network based filtering system that is optional on their Claranet Soho service. The only other provider to offer this level of protection is TalkTalk, other providers are moving towards offering customers a more Active Choice on filtering.
The new option is called Childsafe, and appears to offer a straightforward non-technical solution for parents who want to apply filters to every device using the Internet connection in a home. There are some 140 categories that can be chosen from, and where parents find a site is blocked by mistake there is an option to allow a site through, or add extra specific sites to the block list. An interesting concept is that of the 'Claranet Guardian' that allows an interest group, such as a school, church or other body to create a channel, this may make it easier for parents to block content that aligns with their personal morals, rather than some anonymous remote categorizing service.
The press release carried details of a survey of 1,000 parents who had children under 16 years old in the home, and 84% when asked believe that the Government should have legal powers to intervene if broadband providers fail to self regulate in this area.
The recent consultation by the Department of Education into content filtering, is still offline, though you can download and submit response forms from the website. Conducting a consultation into an online arena that requires an offline response does not bode well for representing a true cross-section of UK society.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the industry, is how to inform and educate parents, without actually frightening them away from the internet. One area that has not been explored (that we are aware of) is the area of parents who are aged 18 to 25, who had access to the Internet in their teenage years, and thus are fully aware of the good and bad sides and how they now intend to control their own childrens access to the net.