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Plans to force ISPs to filter content branded 'disproportionate'

Industry bods not keen on Blighty's mandatory filtering

By Kat Hall, 21 Mar 2017

UK government proposals to force internet service providers into blocking content inappropriate for children with filters have been branded "disproportionate" by the industry's representative group.

The report by the House of Lords, Growing up with the internet, published today, called on the industry "to implement minimum standards of child-friendly design, filtering, privacy, data collection, and report and response mechanisms for complaints".

The report said it welcomed the commitment by the four major ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky – to provide child-friendly filters. However, it suggested the current filters do not go far enough with only Sky having a default-on child filter setting.

It therefore recommended there should be "minimum standards for online filters, including a system to manage the over-blocking of websites, and crucially we recommend that filters be required to be 'on' by default".

But the Internet Service Provider Association (ISPA) warned it would be disproportionate to mandate filters for ISPs providing services to business or machine-to-machine services or those who make it clear that they offer an unfiltered service.

ISPA chairman James Blessing said the sector is committed to keeping children safe online. "We believe the most effective response is a joint approach based on education, raising awareness and technical tools.

"The internet industry is constantly reviewing how it helps customers manage online safety and so look forward to being part of the discussions to inform the new Internet Safety Strategy."

Researchers from Oxford University have previously suggested that filtering won't work.

The report also called for lessons about online responsibilities, risks and acceptable behaviour should be mandatory in all UK schools, the Lords Communications Committee argues.

It said: "Children inhabit a world in which every aspect of their lives is mediated through technology: from health to education, from socialising to entertainment.

"Yet the recognition that children have different needs to those of adults has not yet been fully accepted in the online world." ®

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