Ed Vaizey calls for mandatory filth filter

December 22, 2010 // 7:23 a.m.

Tags: #censorship #communications #ed-vaizey #firewall-of-china #goverment #internet #isp #net-neutrality #porn #pornography

UK ISPs are set to meet with government officials next week to discuss plans for a mandatory pornography filter on all Internet connections - a proposal that's already been attacked from various sides.

The idea of an opt-out blacklist of pornographic content was put forward by communications minister Ed Vaizey this week in an interview with The Sunday Times. During the interview, Vaizey explained that he was looking for ISPs to 'get their acts together so we don't have to legislate.' He also added that 'we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.'

The move, which the government argues is less about censorship and more about protecting children from accidentally stumbling upon adult content, would see ISPs implementing mandatory filtering of all adult content. As such, paying customers would be expected to call and request an unfiltered connection if they wanted to access blocked content; something that many would be too embarrassed to consider.

The plans have been met with scorn from ISPs and civil rights groups alike. Trefor Davies, chief technology officer of ISP Timicio, is quoted by the BBC as stating that it's 'technically not possible to completely block this stuff,' owing to the sheer volume of material on the Internet. 'You end up with a system that's either hugely expensive and a losing battle because there are millions of these sites, or it's just not effective.'

Meanwhile, civil rights campaigners at the Open Rights Group argue that the problem is about moral culpability, rather than technical feasibility. Chairman Jim Killock warns that an anti-porn blacklist is simply 'generalised censorship through the back door.'

With representatives from major UK ISPs due to meet with the government to discuss the plans next week, only time will tell if the UK is hell-bent on getting its very own equivalent of the Great Firewall of China.

Do you think children need to be protected from adult material using this method, or is the government sticking its beak in where it doesn't belong? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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