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Ministers reject automatic block on Internet porn

The 'opt-in' policy on adult content online has been shot down by the government.

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Ministers have rejected an automatic block on Internet porn, the BBC reports.

An automatic block would mean anyone wanting to view adult images or video online would have to 'opt in' by contacting their Internet service provider (ISP). While the ministers rejected this, they did say ISPs should still be doing more to minimise the risk of anyone underage viewing explicit images, including encouraging parents to switch on controls.

In a 10-week public consultation, 35 per cent of parents were in favour of an automatic ban. Another 15 per cent wanted some filters in place, and an option to block material.

The consultation had more than 3,500 responses. According to the report, there was "no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the Internet by their ISP." It said an opt-in approach could lull parents into a false sense of security. There were plenty of areas opt-in wouldn't cover as well, including bullying, personal abuse, grooming, or sexual exploitation arising from online interaction in forums, chat rooms, and on social networks.

Another risk was 'over-blocking', which was categorised as "preventing access to websites which provide helpful information on sexual health or sexual identity, issues which young people may want information on but find difficult to talk to their parents about."

The four main ISPs (BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Sky) have signed up to a code of practice, and received praise for doing so. But not everyone was pleased with the government's reaction.

While praising the report as a "step in the right direction", the NSPCC wanted it to go further.

Alan Wardle, head of corporate affairs, said, "The best option to protect children is for adult content to be automatically blocked by Internet service providers.

"Given that half of the parents who took part in the government consultation wanted this option we are concerned their views have not been heard. Hardcore pornographic videos are just a few clicks away and a quarter of children have been sent unsolicited sexual material online."

The opt-in option was put forward by Conservative MP Claire Perry in a campaign for regulation. She argued the Internet shouldn't be treated any differently from TV, radio or advertising.

I think there were plenty of problems with the opt-in model, starting with how would 'adult content' be defined? I think parental controls, along with keeping an eye on what the young ones are up to online is a much better policy. What do you reckon? Let me know in the comments, or over on Facebook.

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