Should government make internet service providers do more to restrict adult content?

Claire Perry

I chaired a cross-party group of MPs that this week concluded that ISPs need to do more to keep children safe online and that an industry-led opt-in system for adult content would protect choice while improving safety. For years we have known that people are concerned about what children see online and that the main source of protection – device-level content filters – was inadequate. But any discussion of the problem often turns into a battle, pitting open internet campaigners against those that would censor porn. We are neither. When technological convergence is blurring the boundaries between broadcast and online content, and fixed and mobile access, and when we accept protections like TV watersheds, film ratings and adult content bars on mobile phones, we could find no evidence that the internet should be treated differently. The time for ideology is over and the time for practical common-sense solutions is here.

Claire Perry is Conservative MP for Devizes.

Dominique Lazanski

These proposals by the cross-party committee looking at child safety online make a number of assumptions that aren’t true. It’s not technically easy to filter content online, ISPs are not content editors and regulators (they provide internet access), the “harmful material” in question is legal, and ISPs have been working with government stakeholders on raising awareness and educating consumers. Also, it assumes that the government knows how to parent better than parents do. The UK promotes a free and open internet internationally while these proposals would create a government-managed internet at home. It is a attack on the media conduit of this generation, and we have seen the same in generations past with VCR tapes and newspapers. These proposals are yet another example of the growth of the nanny state.

Dominique Lazanski is an independent consultant and head of digital policy at the TaxPayers’ Alliance.