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MPs call for default internet censorship of “adult” content that you have to opt out of

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:21 pm on 18 April, 2012.
Categories freedom of speech, British politics, censorship.
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The BBC reports:

The inquiry said that internet service providers (ISPs) and the government should work together to draw up guidelines to make it clearer to parents what safety settings were available on their home computers and other internet-enabled devices.

And:

Other recommendations included:

  • A government review of an opt-in filter to access adult material on the internet
  • Accelerated implementation of content-filtering system Active Choice for new internet customers
  • ISPs to roll out within 12 months network filters that provide one-click filtering for all devices connected to the same internet account
  • Public wi-fi networks to have a default adult-content bar

The report itself can be accessed here, and clearly favours a system where you have to opt-in to see what the filters deem to be “adult” content (which means you have to opt out of the censorship) and calls for the government to run a consultation on the idea.

It seems to me that:

  • In a free, democratic society, adults should not be required to opt out of censorship of otherwise legal material.
  • Once you have “network level” filters that censor out adult content by default, then assuming the filters work, you have built an infrastructure that can be easily (ab)used for censorship per se in place.
  • It is far better to educate parents and guardians about what tools are available to help with supervising children’s access to the net than it is to implement such filtering.
  • If this goes ahead, it will inevitably be worked around by those who know how and it will inevitably block content that should not be blocked.

See also: The Open Rights Ggroup’s press release on these proposals.

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