opinion

ASACP Declares Victory in U.K. Filtering Debate

Tim Henning

The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) is delighted to declare a victory for personal freedom, as changes to the U.K.’s new Internet filtering scheme ease access to lawful online adult entertainment for those that wish to both make use of the filtering technology services, being offered by some U.K. ISPs, to protect their children online and still continue to have access to their own legal content viewing choices.

ASACP’s work with the Cameron government and other stakeholders has been of immeasurable help to the legitimate online adult entertainment industry in ‘saving’ the U.K. as a viable market. Participation in numerous meetings with Cameron government reps including Claire Perry and ATVOD, plus U.K. ISPs, U.K. child protection organizations and experts as well as digital media business owners has allowed ASACP to better reach the European region and beyond, with tireless campaigning on behalf of the association and the industry at large, bringing a message to stakeholders of proactive responsibility in lieu of stringent regulation.

The U.K.’s adult content filtering program will now have no more impact on the legitimate adult entertainment industry than do current parental filtering technologies.

The U.K.’s move to implement a strict mandatory opt-in regimen for accessing online erotica made many headlines this year — receiving cries of “foul” from many in the adult entertainment industry, which objected on the grounds that those who do not want to receive this material should be allowed to opt-out, rather than requiring those who want porn to opt-in. In response, ASACP has been working with a variety of stakeholders in the U.K. and beyond, to help develop a range of thoughtful solutions for preventing minors and adolescents from accessing legal adult sites and to improve the efficacy of current parental filtering technologies.

ASACP is on the forefront of Internet parental filtering technology, which it has facilitated through its award winning Restricted To Adults (RTA) website meta-data labeling system, which enables accurate parental filtering while reducing the instances of over / under blocking issues. RTA’s proactive adoption by the legitimate adult entertainment industry shows these businesses’ commitment to helping parents prevent children from viewing age-inappropriate content — but these technologies still fall short in fully protecting children in their digital lives.

Following a range of initiatives, ASACP made progress in developing solutions that protect both the interests of the legitimate online adult entertainment industry while also increasing children’s safety on the Internet, leading to victory for both industry and children everywhere. The reasons that ASACP is declaring victory in this battle includes a switch from government mandated and controlled filtering requirements to a voluntary system by which Internet service providers (ISPs) may offer their own brand of parental filtering services to customers that want it. The new system, embraced by the U.K.’s four largest ISPs, is available to new customers today, with existing customers eligible to enroll in their ISPs parental filtering services in 2014.

Another major victory, which boosts the effectiveness of online content filtering, is the improved granularity of the parental filtering systems being employed by U.K. ISPs. Whereas the original U.K. initiative mandated basic on/off filtering at the ISP level, these new systems provide the parent / account holder with much more control over the filtering system. This includes the ability to turn the filter on or off, to specify the strictness of the filtering to eliminate unwanted blockage, and it is customizable — in short, the service that the government has encouraged ISPs to offer to its customers will function much like existing home installed parental filtering solutions.

The difference is that it covers all devices within a household and not just per device home filtering solutions which can be burdensome and costly for parents to maintain. Because the technology is installed, maintained and supported by the ISP — not the parent — it not only makes parental filtering easier for tech challenged parents but also more attractive as there is no time or monetary investment required in installation, setup and maintenance.

The U.K.’s new filtering regimen is not mandatory, but voluntary and customizable, despite the early aims of the program, which sought to make the restrictions mandatory. ASACP won on all points and did so in consistent support of its official stance. The U.K.’s adult content filtering program will now have no more impact on the legitimate adult entertainment industry than do current parental filtering technologies. It also better enables parents to protect their children without limiting their own legal content viewing choices.

ASACP bases its objections to mandated government controlled filtering technologies on limitations, which include over-blocking and under-blocking of web content, allowing inappropriate material or blindly blocking appropriate material. These filters also do nothing to block access to inappropriate content located in other areas of the Internet such as UseNet, chat boards and file lockers, and are easily defeated by motivated and tech savvy youth. Filtering technology also does nothing to protect children and adolescents from other serious dangers including cyber-bullying, child luring, cyber-stalking, and the inappropriate sharing of personal / private information.

Instead, ASACP advocates a more holistic approach that employs technology, education and parental involvement. To that end the U.K. government is now funding education programs aimed at both children and parents as part of these ongoing initiatives aimed at better protecting children in their digital lives. ASACP’s consistent message is that parental controls only work in conjunction with parental engagement, not instead of it, and that government mandated filtering by ISPs only creates a false sense of protection for parents and children. The best option is clearly education and technology, coupled with parental involvement, which is essential. You simply cannot adequately protect children’s best interests in the digital age without all three.

For more information regarding ASACP, sponsorship opportunities and how your business can help, please contact tim@asacp.org or vince@asacp.org.

ABOUT ASACP

Founded in 1996, ASACP is a non-profit organization dedicated to online child protection.

ASACP is comprised of two separate corporate entities, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection and the ASACP Foundation. The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. ASACP manages a membership program that provides resources to companies in order to help them protect children online. The ASACP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The ASACP Foundation battles child pornography through its CP Reporting Hotline and helps parents prevent children from viewing age-restricted material online with its Restricted To Adults (RTA) website label (www.rtalabel.org). ASACP has invested nearly 17 years in developing progressive programs to protect children, and its relationship in assisting the adult industry’s child protection efforts is unparalleled. For more information, visit www.asacp.org.

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