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Lib Dems reject network-level porn filter proposals

The Liberal Democrats have voted to reject the government’s plans to force ISPs to introduce network-level adult content filters. 

At the Autumn Conference in Glasgow, the party overwhelming voted for Parental Controls in their current form to be scrapped, meaning party leader and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will have to oppose the measures or call for a rewrite. 

The proposals include requiring ISPs to ask new and existing customers if they want network-level filtering applied to their service. This would give parents and carers the ability to filter out specific types of sites including pornographic, gambling and self-harm sites. 

How effective will the Online Safety Bill be?

Read our guide to Parental Internet ControlsThe proposals have previously been criticised as being ineffective at preventing access to unsuitable material in the first instance and illiberal, as it’s understood that all internet subscribers – regardless if they are parents or guardians – would be required to answer a question that could effectively be boiled down to ‘will you be using the Internet to look at porn?’ 

Filtering can also see innocent sites arbitrarily caught in the dragnet, potentially stopping younger people from accessing helpful information about sexual health and self-harm. 

The nature of the Liberal Democrat’s objections to the motion F17 – Protecting Children From Online Pornography, hasn’t been officially announced but according to ISP Review, it’s understood that most of the party have voted against Parental Controls for these reasons. 

The Online Safety Bill has so far only had one reading at the House of Lords and is a long way off receiving Royal Assent. Despite this, the government has set up several meetings with the UK’s biggest ISPs. 

As a result of these meetings, BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk have launched or will have launched network-level filtering systems by 2014 and will ask all subscribers if they want to implement them. 

EE and Plusnet will also be introducing filtering systems of their own, but AAISP has so far refused to offer network level filtering. 

The Liberal Democrats have previously opposed the Communications Data Bill for similar reasons. Proposals of the Bill, known as the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, were criticised for being technically implausible and ineffective in its aims to prevent terrorism. 

Image: David Blaikie/Flickr

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