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Perry's porn campaign takes small step forward

ct children from internet pornography took a small step forward today when the prime minister announced that in future subscribers to four of the UK's biggest internet service providers will have to "opt in" if they want to view sexually explicit websites.

David Cameron told a meeting of Christian group the Mothers' Union at Number 10 today (Tuesday) that BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin would start limiting access to pornographic websites, unless subscribers opted to view them.

By October 2012 the four internet service providers, or ISPs, will offer all new internet customers a service called Active Choice, where subscribers must choose whether to restrict the web content that their computers can receive.

All of the companies already offer this filtering technology, but currently subscribers do not have to choose whether to install it.

The group will also sponsor a media campaign to encourage existing customers to install the technology.

The key word in the agreement is “new”. During a typical quarter, fewer than five percent of the big four's 19 million customers switch providers. Anyone who sticks with their provider, therefore, won't have to opt in to access to websites with adult content.
 
Commenting on the news, Claire Perry, who is leading a cross-party Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection said: “I really welcome today’s announcement as it shows the British Internet industry are finally taking seriously the problem of children accessing adult content on the Internet."

But Mrs Perry said there were three very important questions for the ISPs to answer: how the product would be rolled out to existing clients, when BT, Sky and Virgin would follow Talk Talk's lead in offering a one-click solution, and why implementation would take a year, given that the technology already exists.

In May the MO took her campaign to the London headquarters of BT, where Mediawatch UK and the charity Safermedia erected a 10 foot high message asking BT to 'Block Porn' and also handed in a letter to chief executive Ian Livingstone asking BT to make access to internet porn an opt-in option.

In August, the MP told Marlborough News Online: "Parents are understandably worried about the ease with which children can view pornographic content on the internet and this inquiry will provide the ideal platform for all interested parties to discuss how best we can protect our children online.



"This is not just about internet access in a bedroom with a PC. Families from poorer backgrounds are still able to afford mobiles, Wiis, Playstations and all these devices can access the internet via the home network.



"A default clean network level filter would ensure protection for children from all backgrounds. What’s more, of those parents who can afford to buy their children personal computers, 54 per cent use parental controls or others means for blocking or filtering websites."

She pointed out that 73 per cent of UK households now have access to the internet while 52 per cent of children say they use the internet alone in their bedrooms, thus making it difficult for parents to monitor effectively their activity.


And she warned: “Eleven per cent of children in the UK have seen sexual content on websites and 24 per cent have seen sexual content online or offline.”

A YouGov survey conducted earlier this year found that 93 percent of women and 73 percent of men believe that the easy availability of pornographic content on the internet is damaging to children.

It is estimated that around four percent of the internet consists of pornography websites, and that 13 percent of all enquiries on the most popular internet search engines are for 'erotic content' of some kind.

A Google search for “porn” will result in around 1.3 billion results. 

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