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Online Safety Bill demands age check controls for ISPs and adult sites

The Online Safety Bill is the latest attempt by the UK government to get ISPs to block access to adult sites by default. 

The Bill wants ISPs to set up age verification systems to check that no-one under 18 is signing up and wants these systems to be approved by Ofcom. 

As well as this, the Bill is proposing: 

“Manufacturers of electronic devices must provide customers with a means of filtering content at an age appropriate level from an internet access service at the time the device is purchased.” 

Online Safety Bill demands stricter age check controls for ISPs and adult sites
Too much Nanny State leaves a bitter taste for some

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Parental Internet ControlsThe Bill defines ‘electronic devices’ as any “device that is capable of connecting to an internet access service and downloading content,” which means virtually everything these days. Mobile phone, tablet and PC manufacturers would be required to offer a filtering system by default.

ISPs have not reacted favourably to the news. A spokesperson for TalkTalk told us that they don’t offer contacts to anyone aged under 18, which would render an age verification system moot.

A spokesperson for Sky also commented:

“Protecting children from inappropriate content something Sky has always taken extremely seriously.  Online, we offer free parental controls where certain types of websites can be blocked so that kids don’t accidentally stumble across unsuitable content.”

“As part of an industry-wide Code of Practice, we also present customers with an automatic – or ‘active’ – choice to install parental controls when they join Sky.  What’s more, as part of this process we pre-tick the ‘yes’ button, meaning that parents have an unavoidable decision to make about whether they choose to filter out inappropriate content.”

In October 2011, a Code of Practice was launched by TalkTalk and Sky along with BT and Virgin Media. The Code was designed to present parents with an unavoidable choice over whether adult filters were applied.

Every major ISP in the UK offers some form of parental controls, be it in the form of discounted security software or a network-level filtering solution. As well as this, there is plenty of security software available and Windows and Mac OS software comes with built-in parental controls of their own. 

The Online Safety Bill has had its first reading in the House of Lords and will need to pass through two further readings as well a committee stage before it’s passed on to the Commons. The date for the second reading has not yet been scheduled. 

Image credit: Flickr user david.nikonvscanon


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