The final report of a cross-party Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection was published on 18 April. The panel of MPs concluded that ISPs and the Government need to do more to keep children safe online.
The Inquiry recommended that:
- the Government initiate a formal review of an Opt-In filter to access adult material on the internet;
- the Government should press for accelerated implementation plans for ‘Active Choice’; the content filtering system proposed for new internet customers by the largest ISPs;
- within 12 months, ISPs should roll out ‘single account’ network filters that provide one-click filtering for all devices connected to the same internet account;
- a single regulator should take lead responsibility on internet safety;
- public wi-fi networks should have a default adult-content bar;
- Government and industry should draw up new guidelines to publicise existing safety settings on computers and internet-enabled devices;
- ISPs should provide more support and signposting for internet safety education.
Commenting, Claire Perry, the MP for the Devizes Constituency who chaired the Independent Inquiry, said:
‘Our Inquiry found that many children are easily accessing internet pornography as well as other websites showing extreme violence or promoting self-harm and anorexia. This is hugely worrying. While parents should be responsible for their children’s online safety, in practice people find it difficult to put content filters on the plethora of internet-enabled devices in their homes, plus families lack the right information and education on internet safety. It’s time that Britain’s Internet Service Providers, who make more than £3 billion a year from selling internet access services, took on more of the responsibility to keep children safe, and the Government needs to send a strong message that this is what we all expect’.
To see a copy of the report, click here.
The ISPA issued a statement critical of the proposals.
Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary General, said ‘Forcing ISPs to filter adult content at the network level, which users would then have to opt out of, is neither the most effective nor most appropriate way to prevent access to inappropriate material online. It is easy to circumvent, reduces the degree of active interest and parental mediation and has clear implications for freedom of speech. Instead parents should choose how they restrict access to content, be it on the device or network level with the tools provided.
We argued in our evidence that ISPs already provide a variety of services to their customers and continually review and improve their offering based on customer’s feedback. A variety of measures are available to parents and carers and a network level filter should not be viewed as a silver bullet.
We agree that education is important and our members offer guides and help to their customers. The Bailey Report published last year also acknowledged that “industry already does much to help educate parents about parental controls, age-restriction and content filters”. Government should concentrate on helping educate consumers to ensure they know about the tools already available to them to restrict unwanted content.
Additionally, the question arises of who decides what inappropriate material is and for whom and whether there is a guarantee that filtering will not be used for other content.’