UK Government calls for better porn filters to protect children

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A UK cross-party Parliamentary inquiry into child protection online has renewed calls for the blocking of adult content on the internet.

The Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection found that children were easily accessing pornography online and said that exposure to it was having a ‘negative impact’ on attitudes towards sex, relationships and body image.

It called on the Government to once again consider a compulsory opt-in scheme for accessing adult content online. The inquiry also recommended that all public Wifi networks should have a �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������default adult-content bar’.

The UK’s four biggest ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin have all signed up to a code of conduct, which puscifer v is for viagra requires new customers to choose if they want adult content filtering on their internet account. TalkTalk was in the media recently for failing to block one of the most widely visited porn sites in the world. This was obviously a problem. But, for me the real problem was the fact that it took TalkTalk weeks to block the site.

Conservative MP and chairwoman of the inquiry Claire Perry said:

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.

During the inquiry, MPs heard evidence from ISPs, pornographers and child-protection groups. The final report (direct download of the PDF) documents MetaCert’s contribution. MetaCert provided written evidence alongside organizations such as the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), Facebook, Ofcom and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. MetaCert was also involved in private briefing meetings alongside BT, Apple, Sky, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and Symantec.

Representing MetaCert, my advice was to encourage the implementation of new and improved family safety controls as planned, but to allow parents to opt-out of pornography rather than force ISPs to block it by default, forcing parents to request access. For me, automatic blocking is just another form of censorship. MetaCert doesn’t have an opinion on what is and what isn’t appropriate for adults. We believe everyone should have the freedom to make up their own mind. What we do believe in however, is “encouraging” industry to make it easier for parents to block pornography to help protect their families from potentially harmful content.

Ms Sanders, Agony Aunt for The Sun newspaper, said that people were now accessing pornography at younger ages:

I am hearing from a 13-year-old girl being pressured into trying a threesome; the mind boggles, really. There is certain behaviour I only used to have bald 40-year-olds asking me about it, now under-16s are thinking about it.

Jerry Barnett, managing director of adult-pornography website Strictly Broadband, said that the adult-entertainment industry would ‘love to see the free material vanish’ and sell pornography ‘at higher prices’, thus making it less accessible to children. I’m unsure about this one – I think it’ll just cut down on piracy.

Kids becoming addicted to porn

I’ve been working in this space for more than 7 years and was still amazed by some statistics that I picked up from the The Telegraph, Calcutta, India (thanks to one of our angel investors who shall remain nameless until you read about it on PandoDaily). According to the Telegraph

Counsellors say that schoolchildren as young as nine or 10 are regularly viewing pornography on the Internet.

Over the mobile phone or in corners of the classroom, they swap stories about the onscreen antics of their porn stars. “They also develop preferences within pornography — young man-older woman, threesomes, bondage or same sex couplings,” says Mumbai counsellor Swati Deepak.

Watching or reading pornography, experts say, is part of growing up. But what worries educationists and parents is that many children are going beyond that; they are getting addicted to porn — which may have serious repercussions.

Take Sushmita’s case. The teenager soon decided to replace what she saw on the screen with real life. She went to bed with a college-going male friend and copied the porn stars she’d been viewing. When she missed her next period, she shared her predicament with the school counsellor. Her mother was called to the school, a hasty abortion followed and there was heartbreak in the household.

Or take the case of Vikas, a 14-year-old who has been hooked on porn sites for two years. He also logs on to a chat site, where he poses as an older man and engages in sex talk with other men. But Vikas felt threatened some weeks ago when one of the men he chats with began stalking

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“I get an average of a case a fortnight of adolescents addicted to porn,” says Dr Raj Brahmabhatt, sexologist and marriage counsellor, Mumbai. “Many of them are seventh and eighth standard boys, from some of Mumbai’s top schools.”

With the proliferation of tablets such as iPads and mobile phones such as the iPhone, Online Family Safety is a growing concern. Industry must act because most parents aren’t even aware of the dangerous. Take the iPad and iPhone for example, they have absolutely no parental controls. It’s time industry made serious improvements to family safety controls.

The problem with existing solutions:

  1. Existing family safety controls mainly use keyword checking. You only have to change Google SafeSearch setting to strict to see that it blocks every result for ‘porn’ – including family safety sites that provide advice on the subject.
  2. A quick look at the AVG Family Safety browser for the iPad ($19.99 annual subscription) demonstrates that old methods and technologies are still in play also – a search for “hardcore����� blocks all search results even though, not one pornographic websites appears in the first page of Google���s search results.
  3. Microsoft IE Content Advisor uses a system that was created during the mid 90’s called PICS. It is estimated that there are fewer than 15,000 websites that have self-labeled with PICS. It is technically no pharmacy online longer possible to label a site with PICS as the organization responsible for it, has changed direction http://icra.org and it was formally replaced as a W3C Recommendation with a new method called POWDER (declaration: which I helped to instigate some years ago)
  4. Most ISPs don’t have family safety controls at all.
  5. Family safety on mobile is “all or nothing” and again, is based on keyword checking. There is no way to block pornography only, on any mobile carrier.

You can download the report here (direct download)

If you want to ensure that embarassing sites don’t appear on your screen when a colleague sends you an email with a suspicious link, or if you want to protect young kids from pornography, download one of these two browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome. They are free, easy to use and block more pornography than any other software application on the market. They each block more than 605 million pages of porn.



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