UK Politics

PM backs 'clean wi-fi' porn block in public places

Girl browsing the internet on a laptop computer at home
Image caption Parents are able to restrict what their children see at the home but not in public places

David Cameron has pledged to promote "good, clean, wi-fi" in public spaces.

It follows a campaign by a number of children's charities to get sites with adult content restricted in public areas with wi-fi internet access.

Mr Cameron told the Telegraph he wanted people to "have confidence in public wi-fi systems so that they are not going to see things they shouldn't".

The Children's Charities Coalition on Internet Safety welcomed the comments and said any deal was "long overdue".

Last year a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into how safe children are online concluded the government and internet service providers needed to do more to protect children from online pornography.

Since then government officials have been in discussion with wi-fi providers about filtering adult content by default on the services they provide directly to the public.

Rapid rise

A Downing Street spokesman said discussions were "ongoing" with companies and no decision had been taken about new rules or a code of conduct.

He said the dialogue was part of the prime minister's efforts to revitalise town centres and ensure family-friendly wi-fi was available on High Streets.

Speaking during a local elections campaign visit, Mr Cameron said: "We are promoting good, clean, wi-fi in local cafes and elsewhere to make sure that people have confidence in public wi-fi systems so that they are not going to see things they shouldn't."

Parents are able to restrict what their children see on the internet in the home, but campaigners are concerned this means they are more likely to access inappropriate material outside the home using smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Wireless internet access in public places such as restaurants, cafes, hotels and pubs has grown rapidly in recent years.

Figures from The Cloud, the UK's biggest high street wi-fi provider, show that 10.6m people log on to wi-fi in public venues every week.

'Heavy-handed legislation'

The Children's Charities Coalition on Internet Safety, which includes the NSPCC, Barnardo's and the Children's Society, has called for a blanket ban on access to adult sites via public networks.

Its secretary John Carr told the Telegraph: "We welcome any deal which is long overdue.

"Public access to the internet is a modern reality and we have to find a way of dealing with this growing problem."

Conservative MP Claire Perry, who led the parliamentary inquiry into online child protection, said the biggest providers of public wi-fi networks, such as Virgin and BT, have already agreed to offer the option of a block on adult porn.

Many of the bigger retailers, such as Starbucks and Mcdonalds, have taken up the option, she said, and some hotels have decided to put adult content behind paywalls.

She told the BBC: "We are making progress on family-friendly internet access. We have done it without heavy-handed legislation."

Ms Perry said she hoped that blocking adult porn in public spaces would become universal by the end of the year.

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