Brits Reject Porn Filtering Mandate

Bob Johnson

LONDON — British citizens have shot down a measure that would have given the government the green light to force ISPs into providing mandatory porn filtering, killing an aggressive campaign by conservatives aimed at blocking adult websites.

After a 10-week public consultation only 35 percent of about 35,000 respondents favored the filtering proposal, prompting Ministers to reject automatic filtering. Only 15 percent said they wanted some kind of content filtering and the option to block other material.

About 13 percent of those who responded said that they preferred "a system where you are automatically asked some questions about what you want your children to be able to access.”

The government is now urging ISPs to push parental control.

This decision falls in line with the country’s major providers including TalkTalk, Virgin Media and British Telecom (BT) that submitted papers to the Department of Education last September stating that they agreed that children should be protected, but believed a parental control “active choice” option is a better solution.

The public's decision also dashed a constant campaign by Britain’s Daily Mail backing filtering and its claim that Prime Minister David Cameron was on board with the restrictions and actually campaigned on a platform of  "the most family friendly government we’ve ever had in this country.”

Particularly disappointed was PM Claire Perry who spearheaded the movement under the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry on Online Child Protection and initiated a petition with more than 115, 000 names under the banner of protecting children.

Perry told the BBC, "Clearly that [the opt-in option] was not the preferred choice of the 3,500 people who responded to the consultation and we have to base policy on what's been received not what we want."

And Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), although disappointed that the government hadn’t gone further, said putting the onus on ISPs is a step in the in the right direction.

"The best option to protect children is for adult content to be automatically blocked by Internet service providers," spokesperson Alan Wardle said.

"Hardcore pornographic videos are just a few clicks away and a quarter of children have been sent unsolicited sexual material online." He called “vital new measures” to be offered to new and existing customers "quickly."

But Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch — an orgainzation that opposed the filtering — echoed the sentiments of a majority of British citizens who fear widespread government Internet censorship and that filtering would have blocked helpful sex education for young people who are uncomfortable asking their parents.

"This is a positive step that strikes the right balance between child safety and parental responsibility without infringing on civil liberties and freedom of speech.

"The policy recognizes it is parents, not government, who are responsible for controlling what their children see online and rightly avoids any kind of state-mandated blocking of legal content." Pickles told the BBC.

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