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Online Safety Act 2012 Private Members Bill seeks to make online porn access opt in

Online Safety Act 2012 Private Members Bill seeks to make online porn access opt inAlongside proposals to monitor internet activity in real time, the UK Government may be debating a separate Private Members Bill that would see ISPs shuttering access to adult content online, unless subscribers explicitly asked for it.

The Online Safety Act 2012 would apply to the whole of the UK and require that a subscriber “opts-in to subscribe to a service that includes pornographic images,” and provide ISPs with verification that they are aged 18 or above.

By “opts-in” the bill means a subscriber notifies the service provider of his or her consent to subscribe to a service that includes pornographic images.

The bill also calls for mobile network operators to place opt-in 18 plus filters on their networks, something which O2 and Orange have already done voluntarily.

Online Safety Act 2012: Opt-in grot spots

By making online grot an opt-in thing, this also behooves ISPs to keep a note of which of their customers is asking for access to pornography and to make sure that information stays safe. Additionally, such a bill would prove incredibly costly, not to mention near unworkable, for ISPs themselves.

A post over on thinkbroadband points us in the direction of Andrews & Arnold (AAISP) boss Adrian Kennard’s blog:

“ISPs have no way to tell what is and is not pornographic at the packet level,” says Kennard.

“Systems to block access to all pornographic images would be technically impossible. Even the existing IWF [Internet Watch Foundation]filtering systems don’t actually aim to block access, just stop people accidentally coming across certain web pages. But this bill calls for actually blocking all access.

I could email you and encrypted file that is a pornographic image, and there is no way the ISP or mail servers can tell. I only have to find one way around it to prove it is impossible, but there are many ways it will not work.”

Private Members Bill on members of the public privately abusing their members

The bill introduced by Baroness Howe of Idlicote is a Private Members Bill. Private Member’s Bills typically get less discussion time than Public bills but have to go through the same ten-stage process before getting Royal Assent.

Though Private Members Bills don’t have priority over Public bills, with enough support this could receive a hearing.

Online Safety Act 2012 Private Members Bill seeks to make online porn access opt in

Clare Perry MP for Devizes has previously voiced support for opt-in porn. Back in February, on Safer Internet Day, Perry said:

“For more than a year I have been campaigning for a safer internet with a large group of MPs and Peers by calling on Internet Service Providers to make access to internet porn an “Opt-In” option.

Our cross-party Parliamentary Enquiry heard compelling examples of the problem parents face in keeping their children safe online and with new evidence showing that only half of Britain’s parents use content filters on their home computers and almost 90 per cent of children reporting no parental controls installed on their mobile phones, it is clear that much more needs to be done.

An Opt-In would preserve access to adult material for those who want it, but protect the families who don’t”.

On that point, Adrian Kennard’s post again brings up the issue of multiple users in once household:

“the block is [at a] network level so affects a whole household. Even if the block was 100% effective, if the parents want access to pornography then the block will not stop the kids accessing it via the same Internet connection. So again, pointless.”

Regardless of whether the bill is feasible or enforcable, there seems to be at least some political will to make this happen. Enthusiasts of hunting may remember that the Hunting Act 2004 began life as a Private Member’s Bill.

News of this bill arrives at a time when a fresh debate has ignited over the Government’s plans to monitor, in real time, people’s web browsing activity. This separate bill, originally set to be announced during the Queen’s Speech next month, has now been delayed.

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