Tory Porn Block Encroaches Further on Internet Freedoms and Parental Responsibility

Tristan Kitchin December 16, 2013 21
Tory Porn Block Encroaches Further on Internet Freedoms and Parental Responsibility

We reported back in July of David Cameron’s plan to implement an on by default opt-out porn filter nationwide, and how naïve his plans were. Cameron’s line was if ISPs did not voluntarily block access to adult content by default, new legislation would be implemented that would force them to do so.

ISPs have so far been reluctant to block adult content, rarely censoring anything without court order. The UK’s largest ISP however, BT Broadband, has decided to take the initiative and is following Cameron’s advice, revealing last Friday its plans to introduce an on by default porn filter for new customers signing up to its services.

When setting up a connection for the first time new customers will have these parental controls enabled by default, and will have to actively confirm they want to opt out should they not want BT’s filters active on their Internet connection. Any user who does not opt out during the set up process will see the range of content accessible through their broadband connection severely limited.

BT may believe it is doing what is best for children, and David Cameron will undoubtedly take the company’s plans as a big win. Implementing such a filter, and by default, is not the best way to go about protecting children online however.

With uProxy, a plugin developed by Google, it will be simple to bypass any block put in place by an ISP or the government.

With uProxy, a plugin developed by Google, it will be simple to bypass any block put in place by an ISP or the government.

First off, children of today are extremely tech-savvy; they likely know more about how the Internet works than you do, and definitely much more than Mr Cameron. Internet filters are extremely simple to bypass; all you need is access to a proxy, which are available in abundance. Soon, access to a proxy wont even be necessary; with uProxy, a plugin developed by Google, access to the entire internet will be possible without any hiccups and there is nothing a porn block can do about it.

It must also be noted Internet filters are well-known to be generally very poor at what they are designed to do; unsafe content will slip through the blockade. Furthermore, child-protection filters have been known to be over-zealous and will regularly filter out legitimate and safe websites; a recent study found a third of WiFi hotspots throughout the UK were actually blocking non-pornographic webpages as a result of such filters, including sexual education, video streaming, and religious websites.

BT’s new default parental filters will only serve to make ill-informed parents complacent when it comes to protecting their children online, especially considering pornographic images are not by any standard the worst thing a minor can view on the Internet. The best line to take when it comes to a child’s safety online is not implementing a nationwide filter, but education. Teaching parents the importance of being aware of what their children browse online is infinitely better than simply putting in place a filter that has no guarantee of working as described.

There are a number of ways parents can better supervise their child’s browsing habits; simply keeping the PC in the living room in order to keep a closer eye on them would be a good first step. Unable to do that? Look at their browsing history from time to time; it is relatively easy to access through any browser. Still worried? Install a third party Internet filter, such as the ones offered by the likes of Norton or McAfee; they will undoubtedly function more effectively than any block set up by BT or the government, and will give those installing it much more control over the filters being implemented on their Internet connection.

The Tories, the party of individual responsibility, wants to implement nanny state measures in an area they really do not have a clue. Even worse, they’re threatening ISPs with legislative measures should they not take the initiative. The responsibility of keeping minors safe online lies with the parent; they shouldn’t rely on the government, David Cameron, or BT to do their job for them. Uninformed parents will trust this system to keep their child safe online, but as already noted Internet filters do not always work as intended, and are extremely easy to bypass. They’re named parental controls for a reason; maybe it is time parents took control?

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