U.K. ISPs Say Online Adult Opt-in Rules Apply Only to New Accounts

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — The four U.K. Internet service providers that plan to adopt opt-in rules to receive online adult content said in a joint statement Tuesday that the provisions only apply to customers taking out new contracts.

In a statement, the ISPs said: "BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are pleased to have developed and agreed a code of practice, including measures to ensure that customers are provided with an active choice as to whether to activate parental controls in the home."

The four ISPs account for 17.6 million of the 19.2 million broadband customers in the U.K.

"The four ISPs have worked closely with government and a range of stakeholders to swiftly introduce measures addressing recommendations set out in the Bailey report," the ISPs said.

The Bailey report refers to proposals made by Reg Bailey, the CEO of the Mothers Union, a group that has been warning that sexualized imagery is making children grow up too fast.

Bailey spent six months coming up with proposals after he was commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron, who is set to announce the new rules today at a Mothers Union event.

"The ISPs have committed to improve the way they communicate to customers, enabling parents to make simple and well-informed choices about installing and activating parental controls and other measures to protect children online," the ISPs said. "The four ISPs are working with parents' groups and children's charities on this important initiative and will continue to do so."

Two of the ISPs also announced new offerings that are related to the proposal.

BT said new customers will be offered a package of parental control systems provided by security company McAfee, while  TalkTalk will use a service called HomeSafe.

As implemented by TalkTalk, every web location that a customer connects to will be recorded and checked for malicious software, even if they have not opted into the "parental control" system.

Bailey's recommendations in his report go way beyond the Internet, and target TV programs, products, advertisements and services.

Some ideas his report proposes include putting age restrictions on music videos and ensuring retailers offer age-appropriate clothes for children.

Bailey's report asked for government and business to work together on initiatives such as ending the sale of "inappropriately sexy clothing for young children," including underwired bras and T-shirts with suggestive slogans.

He recommended that if retailers do not make progress on selling the "inappropriately sexy clothing" they should be forced to make the changes in 18 months.