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Government urges ISPs to block access to porn

The government will soon pressure Internet service providers to block access to online pornography, in a bid to prevent children being exposed to wanton sauce.

The government will soon pressure Internet service providers to block access to online pornography, in a bid to prevent children being exposed to wanton sauce.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, communications minister Ed Vaizey said he will hold talks "in the near future" with BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to discuss changing the way pornography is accessed in the home.

Ministers are aiming for a system whereby ISP customers would have to opt in to gain access to smutty sites. In the event that ISPs fail to devise a system voluntarily, legislation could be on the cards. 

Quoth the honourable Vaizey thus: "This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children. I'm hoping they will get their acts together so that we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years."

ISPs have previously deemed such plans too expensive and difficult to implement, but TalkTalk now seems to be in favour. The company's executive director of strategy and regulation, Andrew Heaney, told The Sunday Times that, if ISPs don't voluntarily restrict porn access, "then maybe they should be leant on".

Virgin Media said that it blocks access to porn on mobiles but not in the home, where children can be monitored by parents. BT said its Cleanfeed system already prevents access to illegal sites, while a spokesperson told the BBC, "There are many legal, consumer rights and technical issues that would need to be considered before any new Web-blocking policy was developed."

"ISPs currently block child abuse content which is illegal and widely regarded as abhorrent," Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the ISP Association, told the Beeb. "Blocking lawful pornography content is less clear cut, will lead to the blocking of access to legitimate content and is only effective in preventing inadvertent access."

In November, Conservative MP Claire Perry claimed that 60 per cent of 9- to 19-year-olds had accessed Internet porn online, while only 15 per cent of computer-savvy parents knew how to set up filters on a PC -- not that filters are particularly difficult to get around.

What do you think? Can parents realistically prevent their little blighters from accessing filth on the Internet? Is this kind of censorship of the Web a slippery slope into a 1984-esque dystopia? Will newsagents experience a surge in top-shelf sales if the plans go ahead? Let us know in the comments section below.