UK to start Internet filtering

Joe Mullin at Arstechnica writes:

Save the children! UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants porn filters to come on, by default, in any British houses that have children in them.

“A silent attack on innocence is underway in our country today, and I am determined that we fight it with all we’ve got,” wrote Cameron in today’s Daily Mail.

The system Cameron promises will be in the works by February, when British ISPs will have to present plans for how they will present the filter options. Every owner of a new computer will be asked when they log in through their Internet service provider if they have children in the house. If they answer yes, it will immediately prompt them to set up filters blocking content, individual sites, or restricting access at particular times of day, according to the Mail.

If those options just get clicked through rapidly, filters that keep out porn and “self-harm” sites will be “on” by default.

The kids will probably be the ones setting up the Internet accounts!

I’m all for parents protecting kids from nasty stuff on the Internet – but it should be parents – not the Government.

It could be worse though:

Cameron’s promise to filter Internet traffic by default replaces an earlier suggestion in which, rather than prompt parents to set up filters, the filters were simply already turned on. “All the evidence suggests that wouldn’t work very well in practice,” said Cameron. He gave the example of one parent who tried to access things like TV stations on demand, but found they were blocked as well. These “blanket filters” will just get turned off, he said.

That automatic block was rejected by Cameron’s ministers earlier this week. Opposition politicians accused the government of “bow[ing] to pressure from the Internet industry, which is opposed to restrictions on the lucrative porn sector,” as reported in the Daily Mail. “The fight MUST go on: Furious charities hit out after ministers refuse to order an automatic block on Internet filth,” read the headline.

But it sounds like it will be a bureaucratic montrosity:

Conservative Member of Parliament Claire Perry will take charge of making sure the system gets implemented. She said the age checks would probably involve using credit card numbers and electoral rolls to make sure kids can’t get around the new system.

It’s so silly. The kids will probably also all have prepaid mobiles probably that will have full Internet access on them.

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