Disappointment over Government refusal to back porn opt-in

CARE has criticised the Government for rejecting an opt-in system aimed at protecting children from adult content on the web.

Instead, the Government outlined plans to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to verify the age of the person setting controls on all new computers.

It announced that ISPs will block access to pornography via public Wifi from next year, meaning that children and young people will not be able to access adult content on their mobile phones in public spaces.

However, CARE said it was disappointed that the Government did not approve the opt-in system that would have given parents greater control over what their children are accessing in the home.

It said that parents find installing their own content filters to be "a real challenge" and that the difficulty involved in putting them into place "acts as a significant disincentive".

In 2011 an OFCOM report found that only 39% of parents of children aged 5-15 using the internet said they had controls or filtering software in place.

CARE said an opt-in system was the most simple and least labour intensive way for parents to filter adult content.

Nola Leach, Head of Public Affairs said, "The Government's justification for rejecting an opt-in system seems to be based on the argument that opt-in is not a fix-all solution. Specifically they claim that it is not 100% foolproof and does not deal with sexting, cyber-bullying and grooming – but in truth anyone who knows anything about opt-in could have told them that from day one.

"Rather than assessing its utility on the basis of what it was not designed to do it would be better to assess it on the basis of what it is designed to do: make accessing robust filtering easy for parents."

Dr Dan Boucher, CARE's Director of Parliamentary Affairs, said that a voluntary approach by internet service providers to promote parental controls was "not sufficient" to protect children online

"The opt-in model constitutes a key part of any credible online safety strategy working in tandem with an educational strand for parents and children," he said.

Although the Government has rejected an opt-in system, CARE is hoping that it may still win the approval of Parliament as it is one of the provisions in Baroness Howe's Online Safety Bill, currently awaiting its Committee Stage.

In addition to an opt-in system, the Bill makes it a requirement for device-level controls to be a part of any new device that is internet enabled.

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