Confusion reigns over Government porn blocking plans

News 20 Dec, 2012

David Cameron announces plans to introduce content filters on new computers to stop kids accessing pornography.

The Government is planning to block access to pornography by default on new computers just days after a report issued by the Department for Education said there was “no great appetite” for such a move.

The U-turn means that new computers would have to block adult material until a user requests the block to be removed.

As reported by IT Pro on Tuesday, ministers said that the proposals to block adult content were not widely supported.

During the ten-week consultation, over 3,500 submissions were made and the majority did not support an automatic block.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron, writing for the Daily Mail today, said new computers would come with content filters that are left on by default.

Cameron dismissed the idea of having filters at the network level, though.

"There’s a simple reason why we haven’t done this: all the evidence suggests such a crude system wouldn't work very well in practice,” said the Prime Minister.

He said owners of new computers would be forced to make a choice to switch on pornography filters or not.

"With our system, when people switch on their new computer, a question will pop up asking if there are children in the house. If there are, then parents will be automatically prompted to tailor their internet filters,” said the Prime Minister.

"To make this doubly safe, if parents just repeatedly click ‘OK’ to get through the filter set-up quickly, then filters against the most obvious threats – like pornography and self-harm sites – will be left on,” added Cameron.

"So this is a kind of 'default on' for houses with children; it’s just that it adds much more control for parents about exactly what is restricted."

The Prime Minister did not clarify how such controls would be implemented on new computers and who would provide the software.

Claire Perry, the MP who has been pushing for network-level filtering of porn will be in charge of overseeing the project.

IT Pro contacted the Department for Education for a comment but had not received a response at the time of writing.

Jim Killock, executive director of privacy campaigners the Open Rights Group, said the u-turn will reflect badly on the Government.

"Last week, the Department for Education made some broad and sensible suggestions about parental controls for the internet. That was based in the evidence from experts, parents and industry," said Killock in a statement.

"Five days later, the Prime Minister has confused everyone with his efforts to satisfy the Daily Mail's editorial whim.

"We will be asking for clarification as soon as possible. But this reflects extremely badly on the way the government is running its business," he added.

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