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UK’s Growing Problem: Child Access To Online Porn

April 19, 2012

Brett Smith for Redorbit.com

A UK parliamentary inquiry into children´s access to illicit materials online has revealed some eyebrow-raising statistics.

According to a parliamentary report, 80 percent of 16-year-olds regularly access pornography online and 33 percent of ten-year-olds have seen explicit material. Members of Parliament have expressed concern that these children viewing pornography are also seeing other potentially dangerous materials as well.

“Our inquiry found that many children are easily accessing internet pornography as well as other websites showing extreme violence or promoting self-harm and anorexia,” said Claire Perry, a member of parliament who launched the inquiry in August.

The inquiry panel recommended that the government take up stronger internet filtering legislation, like an “opt-in” policy where internet service providers (ISP) must make adult-oriented websites inaccessible by default. Customers would be allowed to view the sites only after placing a request with their provider. Many UK mobile phone providers have already installed such filters voluntarily, citing the ways in which people typically use their mobile devices.

Similar legislation might be more difficult to pass in the US because of this country´s proclivities for freedoms of speech and the protection of privacy.

In the UK, there is a concern that the current systems are inadequate for preventing children from accessing these sites.

“ISPs currently offer their customers  device-level filtering tools and internet safety education but  the  use of  existing content filters, which by and large customers have to choose to install, update and maintain on each internet-enabled device in the home, has dropped 10 percentage points in the last three years and we are now at a point where almost six out of ten children can access the internet without filters in their homes,” the report said.

Inquiry researchers found that 60 percent of adults would support an “opt-in” filter service from ISPs. Women were more likely than men to agree with such policies, with 77 percent saying they would like the service. Only 37 percent of men said they would be in favor of the recommended filters.

Further restricting internet access has never seen much support from privacy advocacy groups or ISPs.

“Technology is not a substitute for parenting or a quick fix for social problems,” Nick Pickles of the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch told The Telegraph.

As expected, there has been significant resistance to the inquiry´s recommendations by the industry´s lobby group, the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA).

“Forcing ISPs to filter adult content at the network level, which users would then have to opt out of, is neither the most effective nor most appropriate way to prevent access to inappropriate material online,” ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman said.

“It is easy to circumvent, reduces the degree of active interest and parental mediation and has clear implications for freedom of speech. “

British ISP TalkTalk has been the only company positioning itself in favor of more robust internet filters, having become the only telecommunications company in the UK to have implemented network-level anti-malware blockers on its service in May 2011. Unsurprisingly, TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding welcomed the inquiry’s findings.

“It is good to see the continued Parliamentary and Government focus in this area. I´ve always believed that as one of the UK´s largest ISPs we have a duty to help our customers protect themselves online,” Harding wrote this week on his company´s official blog.


Source: Brett Smith for Redorbit.com



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