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U.K. Government Wants to Block Internet Porn

U.K. Government Wants to Block Internet Porn
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Dec 20, 2010 6:00 AM PST    Text size: 
LONDON — In an effort to protect children from viewing adult material, porn could be blocked on every computer in the U.K. if conservatives in the British government have their way.

The country’s Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey has reportedly asked some of the U.K.’s biggest broadband companies including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk to attend a meeting next month to hash out a plan. Vaizey and his Ministers hope the idea will stop children being exposed to sex at an early age.

Concern has been raised since more porn is apparently being viewed by children in the U.K. since the advent of web-ready TVs.

"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,” Vaizey said.

He added, "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."

A proponent of the controls, Miranda Suit of non-profit group Safermedia said, "In the past, Internet porn was regarded as a moral issue or a matter of taste. Now it has become a mental health issue because we know the damage it is causing. We are seeing perverse sexual behavior among children.”

She maintained that legislation is both justifiable and feasible.

Conservative Minister Claire Perry told the U.K.’s Sunday Times, "We are not coming at this from an anti-porn perspective. We just want to make sure our children aren’t stumbling across things we don’t want them to see."

TalkTalk executive director Andrew Heaney said, "If other companies aren't going to do it of their own volition, then maybe they should be leant on. Legislation is a sledgehammer but it could work."

A spokesperson for Virgin Media said, "We're able to block sites, so it would be possible to do the same on the Internet. It is just a question of finding the right approach."

But a number of tech experts — including the U.K.’s Internet Service Providers’ Association — said the plan wouldn’t work even if the ISPs were behind it because it would rely on the government or the ISPs themselves to have an up-to-date list of porn operators.

Some critics are also decrying that the move is backdoor censorship that could restrict access to legitimate sites singled out by the watchdogs for other reasons.

Despite the government’s pressure, questions like what kind of technology will be used and who would pay for it, and how people would feel about putting their names on any kind of porn list are potential stumbling blocks being raised by opponents of the action.

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