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Lib Dems could force Cameron to drop automatic porn filters

The Liberal Democrats are demanding that David Cameron drop plans for automatic online porn filters to be turned on in every British home. 

Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrat party and champion of rural broadband in Cumbria has called for a revision on the government’s current plans. 

The plans, which the Lib Dems voted overwhelmingly against in Autumn 2013, see adult content filters turned on by default and internet subscribers, regardless of whether they are parents, asked whether or not they want to use them. 

Lib Dems could force Cameron to drop automatic porn filters
Proposed parental controls would be turned on for everyone – even non-parents

Speaking to the Independent, Farron says that ISPs should be free to offer network-level parental controls, but they should not be forced on to customers. 

Farron said: “Essential sites on sexual health, gender and sexuality, domestic violence and LGBT rights are being blocked by these filters, whilst pornographic content is still available. 

“Our motion is designed to strengthen Lib Dem ministers’ hands in challenging this nonsensical policy, which has yet to be brought before the House of Commons.” 

Surveys of filtering measures on public WiFi networks undertaken by Adaptive Mobile and the BBC show that the approach isn’t perfect. Elsewhere, Sky’s Broadband Shield ended up blocking file sharing news site TorrentFreak and Chester Cathedral (of all places) was providing unrestricted access to popular adult video site PornHub via its WiFi network. 

A motion to challenge the Conservatives’ porn filtering plans has been drafted for the Lib Dem’s Spring Conference, held between March 7-9. 

A recent report by Ofcom suggests that most parents currently choose not to make use of ISP-provided parental controls and trust their children to stay safe online. 

That said, a proportion of parents also claimed that they did not use parental controls because they didn’t understand how to install them. 

Talks the government has held with the UK’s leading ISPs has seen BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk launch (or agree to launch) whole-home network level filters. These don’t require customers at home to install any software and have been designed to be as user-friendly as possible. 

A Conservative party source is quoted by the Independent saying: “Tim Farron clearly does not want to prioritise the safety of our children online or support our efforts to prevent anyone accidentally accessing illegal material.” 

The Liberal Democrat wing of the Coalition government has proved effective in thwarting the Conservatives plans to regulate the internet in the past. Last April Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vowed to veto laws which would require ISPs to keep a record of all subscribers’ online activity, dubbed the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ by critics. 

Image: arawatari/Flickr

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