The issue of parental controls and Government sanctioned blocking is once more back on the agenda, this time it appears that Wi-Fi hotspots are the focus, as there is the perception that children are accessing illicit material on their smartphones, tablets and laptops in the thousands of locations around the UK that offer free Wi-Fi.
If the press coverage of comments made by the Prime Minister are correct, we can expect to see some form of regulation requiring Wi-Fi providers to implement a system blocking pornography, though frequently when blocking pornography the filter systems used also block other adult (18+) material.
"We are promoting good, clean, WiFi in local cafes and elsewhere to make sure that people have confidence in public WiFi systems so that they are not going to see things they shouldn’t."Prime Minister, David Cameron
The Wi-Fi hotspot industry has been implementing voluntary blocks for a while now so it is unclear what big difference regulation would make. The blocking plan is also seen as a way to re-invigorate local high streets, but if the viewing of porn is so much of a problem in coffee shops and other locations it may lead to teenagers finding new places to hang out, and lets not forget the reason they might be accessing porn over Wi-Fi is that the parents already have blocks in place at home and via the mobile providers data network.
"BSkyB supports the Government’s efforts to safeguard children from inappropriate content on public WiFi networks. The Cloud already automatically filters adult content in public places. This is something we are proud to have led the way on. We believe that parents want peace of mind that their children cannot inadvertently access adult material when out of home. That’s why we were the first WiFi provider to apply content filters as default across our entire network."Vince Russell, Managing Director of public WiFi provider
If the Wi-Fi networks do manage to implement blocking successfully and with out doing things like blocking large chunks of the Internet by accident, then the argument that over blocking will result from filtering that is used with respect to fixed line broadband will be weakened.
At the end of the day common sense should tell adults that viewing pornography is not something that should be done in a public place and part of parenting and schooling should be to instill this level of common sense on the younger generation. The biggest problem is that society has very wide range of what it considered pornography and with the internet are specific pages on large websites blocked, or specific content, e.g. is all of YouTube blocked because there are trailers for 18 rated films on it?