Is 2,000 consultation responses representative of public opinion?
In the UK it is not uncommon for millions to not bother voting at Election time, and it seems the public consultation into what form of parental controls should be implemented to help protect children has followed a similar pattern.
The BBC is reporting that on the eve of the deadline over 2,000 responses had been received in the ten week consultation period, which hardly seems representative of the views of the nation. There has been high profile campaigns calling for mandatory blocks on pornography, and some lower profile campaigns from those trying to highlight the flaws and problems that may occur. If the response to the consultation is actually as low as it appears, then the pro-filtering campaign appears to have not mobilised many supporters.
What no one knows at this time is what the actual outcome of the consultation will be, but if a system is to be implemented that affects over 90% of broadband connections in the UK (assuming the chosen system only applies to major providers), basing the decision on 0.004% of the adult population responding seems very dangerous.
Of course there are many polls appearing weekly, and during elections national results are projected from surveys of around 2,000 people, but these surveys are in theory conducted with good sampling methodologies to ensure that all layers of the UK population are represented.
If we want the facts on what parents, and the large number of adults who are not actually parents, perhaps the only way is to conduct a national referendum. This may not be cheap, but then implementing one of the three options from the consultation is not going to be free. The TalkTalk HomeSafe system may be seen as an example of what can be implemented for minimal cost, but TalkTalk, by being first to market with a network based filter, has gambled on attracting the concerned adult who favours network level filtering.
Interestingly much of the opposition to default network based level filtering is not actually against parents having the option to filter but they want it to remain a persons choice. Very importantly for such a culturally diverse nation as the UK by placing parents in control, you cater for the very wide variation of what is considered inappropriate content for children, and the ability for parents to vary this as their children grow older.