Internet providers offer parents bar on porn


David Cameron said parents could feel ''it is a jungle out there''

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Four leading web providers are to offer customers the option to block adult content at the point of subscription.

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin will offer the protection for smartphones, laptops and PCs.

It comes as David Cameron on Monday met industry representatives amid concern over sexualisation of children.

The prime minister also launched Parentport - a website to help parents complain about inappropriate content.

And he backed a ban on billboards displaying risque images near schools.

Mr Cameron said there was a "growing tide of concern" amongst parents who were concerned about children being exposed to "inappropriate advertising and sexual imagery".

"I welcome the progress being made, including the Parentport website being launched today that will give parents a strong voice and a single hub to air their concerns about inappropriate products, adverts or services.

Start Quote

Let's just get on and do this - because internet's coming to our TVs, it's coming to our sitting rooms”

End Quote Claire Perry Conservative MP

"But we must do more, so today I call on businesses and industry to go further and in the new year I will again review progress because I am determined we are really making changes that support parents and protect our children," he said.

"There's no doubt that the sort of pressures - what you see on television programmes and advertising hoardings and sort of a mixture of pester power problems but also just the sense that our children are being forced to grow up too quickly," he said. "We don't want to see always the answer as a regulatory legislative answer - so what can we do showing some social responsibility."

The new measures, aimed at helping parents protect their children from internet porn and other explicit sites, follow a report earlier this year by the Mothers' Union Christian charity known as the Bailey Report.

The four ISPs said in a statement that they: "have worked closely with government and a range of stakeholders to swiftly introduce measures addressing recommendations set out in the Bailey Report."

They said they would talk to parents about how to activate and administer parental controls. The tools to limit what children can see and do online are already available but, before now, have not been offered to customers as they sign up.

The Conservative MP Claire Perry, who's been leading a Commons inquiry into online child protection, said she welcomed the moves.

But she said she was concerned it was only for new customers and would not be introduced until 2012.

"We know the technology's already there. We know that people want it, so why the wait? Let's just get on and do this - because internet's coming to our TVs, it's coming to our sitting rooms," she said.

The BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said the industry was a bit wary of these plans as it did not want to be seen as censors.


Parents will welcome the new controls on pornography although, with children accessing the internet from a variety of devices, including mobiles, it will not entirely solve the problem.

Kids are also very smart and have proved themselves more than capable of getting around the filters set up in schools so it won't be long until there is widely-available "advice" online about how to avoid the home versions.

From the ISPs point of view there is a fine line between providing customers with the filters they need to feel safe and policing the internet.

The latter is something they have vehemently backed away from when it comes to requests from the content industry to block access to illegal music and films.

Blocking porn, they will argue, is just responding to customer demand but those opposed to filtering net content are likely to see it veering towards censorship.

Web providers currently offer packages which enable certain websites to be filtered out, he added. However this was an "imprecise art".

TalkTalk offers users network-level filtering software, which means it protects all devices used on the home internet connection.

This is seen as important as more families surf from a variety of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Some 150,000 TalkTalk customers have so far opted in to the HomeSafe service, according to the firm.

It blocks a variety of websites, including suicide and self harm, violence and weapons, dating sites, gambling sites and filesharing. Parents decide what sites they want to include on a blacklist.

Increasingly ISPs are offering more sophisticated filters for customers.

"The major service providers are accepting that their customers expect them to play their part in helping to ensure children are able to use the internet in a safe way," said Sebastien Lahtinen from Think Broadband.

"It's worth noting that those determined to get around a filter will find a way of doing so, often quite trivially," said Mr Lahtinen.

Some critics are concerned that such filters represent the thin end of the wedge when it comes to censoring the web.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "We should tread very carefully when developing state-sanctioned censorship of the internet.

"Let alone the quagmire of deciding what should be censored, it is a dangerous path to go down to expect technology to replace parental oversight and responsibility," he added.

Critics of filters argue they often block access to innocent sites and never shield people from all inappropriate destinations.

Age restrictions

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones: "It's a fairly blanket blocking of all sites that may be unsuitable"

Mothers' Union's head, Reg Bailey, warned that childhood was being wrecked by the "commercialisation and sexualisation" of children on TV, amongst advertisers and on the web.

He said he was pleased businesses and regulators were not just "paying lip service" to his recommendations, but said the areas tackled so far were relatively easy to implement.

"I don't want the more complex technical issues facing businesses to get in the way of them making changes.

"Over the next year I will be working with voluntary groups to hold organisations and government to account. The outcome we are seeking is far too important to slip off the agenda."

The changes proposed in Mr Bailey's review include restricting steamy pop videos to older teenagers and later television slots and covering up magazines on shelves that feature sexualised images.

Organisations behind Parentport

  • Advertising Standards Authority
  • Authority for Television On Demand
  • BBC Trust
  • British Board of Film Classification
  • Office of Communications
  • Press Complaints Commission
  • Video Standards Council/Pan-European Game Information

Source: Ofcom

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom said the launch of Parentport would make it easier for parents to complain about material they had seen across the media, communications and in retail.

It said the website had a "have your say" section where parents could give informal feedback and comments and also offered advice on keeping children safe online.

Chief executive Ed Richards, said: "Seven UK media regulators have come together to develop a single website, with a single aim - to help protect children from inappropriate material.

"Each regulator shares this common purpose and is committed to helping parents make their views and concerns known."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    It's okay everyone - disaster has been averted at the last minute - once again the BBC has managed to get everyone wound up with half a story. ISPs reported as saying users will notice no difference in service & that only new contracts will be given the option. As said previously, we should wait until things happen rather than getting upset about what we read here.
    And this is before the cuts.

  • Comment number 430.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    How about the government release information on where sexual predators live or if a partner has a violent background?

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    426. Rosskirkbride

    Thanks for the clarification. However one cannot demand it be banned because they view it as immoral. Immorality is often personal & is to be avoided by those it offends. However, if one makes claims that it causes genuine harm to the user, then it is up to them to back such a claim up. If I were to say that Dubstep is "harmful", I'd be asked to prove it. This is no different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    410.Alastair No weird beard or regalia. Funny imagination u have!
    Maybe your grip on reality is warped through too much porn. Hope not. Certain truths & standards of moral conduct are eternal; not old fashioned, historic etc. eternal means ever-new i.e. life giving or valuing. sin kills u bit by bit
    sin is serious, that's what porn is. it is sin today as much as it was in the 50s or 1000 yrs ago

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Mr Max

    My previous post refers post 398. To rephrase, if you like, you cannot claim any superiority of thought or reason or rationale if you deny truth. Try and justify democracy or the principle of autonomy without reference to the superiority of one principle over another. Saying 'Back you claim up' and citing an obscure cult denies a self-evident truth: pornography is a counterfeit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    I would like to point out to the confused among us that from reading a number of articles I see that this is not an "opt-in to blocks" service, it is "opt-in to graphic material"; this means that if I want free access to all websites (as I might for any number of legitimate reasons) I have to call my ISP and ask them for access to the "inappropriate material." Unnecessary and embarrassing for me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    I would just like to point out to those who said that the blocks are an "opt-in" service, that actually, you have to "opt-in" to graphic material. Thus, if I want to make sure that I can access all of the internet sites which might be necessary for my work in a university, or my partner's health service job, I will have to call my ISP and ask them for permission to access "inappropriate sites".

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    421. Mark Cosens

    not only is pornography immoral, but it is addictive.. the indulgence of those who subject themselves to its allurement is destructive to them psychologically and spiritually (and maybe even physically)."


    And your evidence comes from....?

    And "immoral"? Don't use it then. I can't abide The Only Way Is Essex and get around this by not watching it. I don't force it off TV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    407. StatedIndicator

    Like someone said will all sites about Essex be filtered because it contains the word "sex", will all application forms by filtered because they use the word "sex" instead of a similar meaning word like "gender"?


    When I was at school, I couldn't access "Hotmail" because it contained the word "hot". No, I'm not making that up either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    not only is pornography immoral, but it is addictive.. the indulgence of those who subject themselves to its allurement is destructive to them psychologically and spiritually (and maybe even physically).

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    Trying to shield children from the real world is futile, and in the end results in children just bypassing their parents entirely. Not to mention that these sorts of filter are inevitably crude and porous.

    I for one also think that of all the things children and subjected and exposed to, nudity, sex, porn, and the like are the least harmful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    I see this whole thing as a stupid idea? Mainly due to simple honest websites being caught up in content filters.

    What happened to .xxx?? why not forcibly move all adult sites to that domain, its easier tenfold to have a blanket block on a domain than it is to moderate thousands of sites.

    If the ISP's want our info while we're on the internet why don't they have our DNA while they're at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    Everyone distracted from the NHS bill and our collapsing economy by this non-announcement? Good, mission accomplished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    One word: torrents. ISPs are going to have a hard time regulating access to those. Oh. File-upload websites. How are you going to filter them? If someone wants porn, it can be found on the Internet -- I don't care how many filters you have in place. ISP blocks can never replace good ole parental monitoring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    I don't know where 409 Johnny P lived but where I'm from pornography was rife. Passed round at school and at homes. Personally, I find watching people having sex pretty weird, but I'm no prude. Education is best here. By banning it you drive it into even harder to find reaches of the internet that aren't accessed via http or even https. Get it in the open so at least we know what's going on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    A quick look on the internet shows other 'news' providers reporting that the ISPs are offering customers the option to 'opt-in if they wish to view sexually explicit websites.'
    Do you think we should all wait until it happens before we start fighting?

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    402. Melchizedek
    This may throw light on the subject; and many porn watchers don’t want that. A lot of people are quite ready to carry out their dirty deeds in secret or ‘in the dark’"


    You seem absolutely obsessed with what other people do in their own homes. Why is this?

    Why are you so convinced that your way is "the way" and everyone else is dirty? Have you nothing else to do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    @ 101. Karl Teviotdale

    Funniest thing I've read in ages.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    I have no problem with the concept of an optional service, but no confidence whatsoever that it would be sensibly implemented.

    But one thing has made me laugh here - those claiming that access to porn helps to Educate teenagers.

    I suppose that they would also claim that the way to teach someone how to lose weight is to surround them with images of chips, burgers, cream cakes and so on.


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