Brits Mull Opt-In Scheme For Internet Filth

Dennis Faas's picture

The British government may request Internet Service Providers (ISPs) block all adult-mannered web content. Users could still access the material, but only by specifically requesting that the block be removed.

The idea is to limit the dangers of children being exposed to this type of content when they use the Internet. But the plan has attracted harsh criticism, against both the principle and the practicalities of carrying it out.

Ed Vaizey, the government's communications minister said this weekend that "I think it is very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect [youngsters]. 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." (Source:

Summit Scheduled to Discuss Issue

While there's no prospect of immediate legislation, Vaizey has a meeting scheduled with some of the largest Internet Service Providers in Britain. Just six companies have a combined market share of more than 90 per cent.

It's believed Vaizey's idea would be to build on an existing system by which ISPs automatically block sites known to host distasteful images of youngsters. But critics argue that such a system, which includes a large degree of human control, simply couldn't be scaled to cope with all content in the realm of the adult genre. (Source:

What Counts As Visually Overt Content?

There are also two different problems in determining which sites would be covered by the filter.

One is a simple matter of taste and decency: whereas there are already established thresholds for what counts as illegal material, there are no such official guidelines for what would be classed as mature content.

For example, one national newspaper includes a photograph of a shirtless woman every day: while some would consider this unsuitable for youngsters, it seems hard to believe the newspaper's site would be put behind a filter.

Another problem would be how to deal with sites that host user generated content, such as Facebook or the Google-owned YouTube. Because such sites don't vet content before it goes online, they would theoretically have to be behind any filter. But blocking access to such web giants would affect their business models so much it would be almost certain to provoke a major legal confrontation.

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