Britain Opts to Filter Internet Porn

David Cameron

Cleaning up the net: David Cameron. Photo: Bloomberg

Adam Turner

Internet pornography will be blocked in all British homes next year, unless customers opt out of the filtering scheme, in a move that could reignite Australia’s own internet filtering debate.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has called on internet service providers to make ”family-friendly” filters the default setting for all customers by the end of 2014, with account holders having the right to opt out. The ISP-level filtering will automatically apply to all wired and wireless devices connected to a home internet service, rather than requiring the installation of filtering software on each device.

The government has also reached an agreement with Britain’s biggest public Wi-Fi hot-spot providers to enforce family-friendly filters ”wherever children are likely to be”, Cameron said.

The British filtering scheme is part of a wide range of measures designed to protect children from exposure to online pornography, with plans to teach children about online safety at school as part of the national curriculum. Meanwhile, an advertising campaign will also educate parents regarding online child safety.

Search engine giants Google, Yahoo! and Bing must also do more to combat child pornography, Cameron said. The British government plans to issue search engines with a list of banned search terms, with threats of legislative action if the bans are not implemented.

Cameron’s announcement came eight months after former Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy abandoned a three-year campaign to introduce ISP-level internet filtering. Rather than adopting far-reaching pornography filtering, Australian ISPs instead block Interpol’s list of about 1400 child-pornography sites.

Australians were not offered the option to opt out of filtering, and limited oversight of the scheme led to concerns regarding censorship. Critics also claim family-friendly filtering can give parents a false sense of security, saying filters are not 100 per cent accurate and can be easily bypassed, even by children, using free proxy servers and virtual private network tools.

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