Porn filters need to be improved and possibly opt-in say MPs

A parliamentary inquiry has concluded that better measures are needed to filter out adult content on the Internet.

Current porn-filtering measures are unsatisfactory, according to a group of MPs in a parliamentary inquiry who recommend the government takes further steps to protect the innocent eyes of children.

Seventeen MPs across various political parties were involved in the inquiry, which came up with a set of recommendations, the BBC reports. One key point called for greater communication between the government and Internet service providers (ISPs) in order to better educate parents on the measures they can take to protect their children online.

An opt-in filter was also discussed, which would automatically block all adult content from your computer unless you had specifically told your ISP you wanted to see it. Such a measure has been suggested before, causing an uproar from activists -- and the Internet at large -- who argue that censorship should never be the default option and you should not have to opt-out.

"Our inquiry found that many children are easily accessing internet pornography... this is hugely worrying," said Claire Perry, chair of the inquiry. "While parents should be responsible for their children's online safety, in practice people find it difficult to put content filters on the plethora of Internet-enabled devices in their homes."

"It's time that Britain's Internet service providers... took on more of the responsibility to keep children safe," she continued. It's certainly true that with most kids carrying Internet access in their pockets, it's increasingly difficult for parents to know exactly what their kids are up to, but it's certainly not right to shift that responsibility to the ISPs, and to have the measures carry over to the wider public.

Currently, adult content filtering is offered by all four of the major UK ISPs -- BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin -- ranging from software-based filtering on individual PCs to a wider filter that affects all devices connected to a home Internet connection, although that is currently only offered by TalkTalk and doesn't apply to a child's phone connected to 3G or Wi-Fi away from the home.

The inquiry is the latest chapter in the ever-growing book of online safety in Britain, with most political parties shouting about the terrible dangers of seeing porn online, while it's left to online campaigners to highlight the moral quagmire of censorship. The measures outlined will be taken into account when future legislation is written, although it's unlikely to pass in its entirety without considerable argument.

Where do you stand on filtering measures? Is it the responsibility of ISPs to keep children safe online, or should parents perhaps pay more attention to what sites their kids are on and keep a firmer hand on the controls? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or over on our family-friendly Facebook page.

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About the author

Andrew is a senior editor at CNET and has always been fascinated by tech. When not getting up close and personal with the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

 

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