Cameron hardens stance on UK web filth block

PM to hold talks with broadband barons on 'default' smut filters


Prime Minister David Cameron has again waded into the debate about protecting kids from pornography online by personally stepping up pressure on ISPs to block smut websites by default.

His intervention comes during a torrid time for the Tories, with the party suffering heavy loses in local elections across the UK today.

The PM has also undergone plenty of haranguing from Labour MPs calling on the Conservative leader to sack his Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has kept his job despite the resignation of one of his special advisers, Adam Smith, who apparently exchanged more than 100 emails with lobbyists at News Corp over Rupert Murdoch's bid to buy BSkyB.

Hunt, of course, is also the Cabinet minister responsible for overseeing the allocation of government funds to help upgrade the country's broadband infrastructure across most of Blighty.

According to a story in the Times this morning, Cameron is expected to consider whether telcos should cut off access to pornography and other adult material online "by default" for their broadband customers.

It's understood that Cameron will meet ISPs including Virgin Media and BT in the next few weeks.

In April, the industry lambasted an independent Parliamentary inquiry into online child safety by saying that its recommendations were unworkable.

At the time, the PM indicated his support for the proposals, which had been backed by the chair of the independent Parliamentary inquiry, Tory MP Claire Perry.

But telco trade outfit ISPA said that filtering such adult content at the network level and making customers opt in to allow them to access porn websites was a bad idea.

"It is easy to circumvent, reduces the degree of active interest and parental mediation and has clear implications for freedom of speech. Instead parents should choose how they restrict access to content, be it on the device or network level with the tools provided," ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman noted last month.

A Downing Street spokesman told the Times that No 10 was "consulting" on such a "default option" but added that "nothing" was "ruled in or out at the moment".

Privacy campaigner Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch questioned the plausibility of such a system.

Web-blocking is a crude tool that does not prevent determined users accessing content. The broader consequences risk damaging legitimate businesses and undermining cyber security while further perpetuating the myth that this is an easy technological solution to a complex problem.

Ultimately the risk is that ISPs will be expected to monitor everything their customers do online to ensure they are not doing something they should not be. Indeed, it is almost inevitable certain groups will call for this when web blocking is exposed as the ineffective and easily avoided instrument it is.

Big Brother Watch believes the solution lies with greater device-level controls and law enforcement action aimed at those storing data or funding services that contravene the law. It would be unacceptable for the failure of technically naive policies to be used as justification for detailed monitoring of our internet use.

Earlier this week, ministerial plans to block supposedly unsavoury websites received something of a fillip, after a High Court judge ordered some of the country's biggest ISPs to cut off access to BitTorrent tracker site The Pirate Bay.

Sadly for Britain's lawmakers, anyone with an ounce of tech knowledge knows exactly how to evade such an online blockade – a fact seemingly lost on some politicians. ®


Other stories you might like

  • These Rapoo webcams won't blow your mind, but they also won't break the bank

    And they're almost certainly better than a laptop jowel-cam

    Review It has been a long 20 months since Lockdown 1.0, and despite the best efforts of Google and Zoom et al to filter out the worst effects of built-in laptop webcams, a replacement might be in order for the long haul ahead.

    With this in mind, El Reg's intrepid reviews desk looked at a pair of inexpensive Rapoo webcams in search for an alternative to the horror of our Dell XPS nose-cam.

    Rapoo sent us its higher-end XW2K, a 2K 30fps device and, at the other end of the scale, the 720p XW170. Neither will break the bank, coming in at around £40 and £25 respectively from online retailers, but do include some handy features, such as autofocus and a noise cancelling microphone.

    Continue reading
  • It's one thing to have the world in your hands – what are you going to do with it?

    Google won the patent battle against ART+COM, but we were left with little more than a toy

    Column I used to think technology could change the world. Google's vision is different: it just wants you to sort of play with the world. That's fun, but it's not as powerful as it could be.

    Despite the fact that it often gives me a stomach-churning sense of motion sickness, I've been spending quite a bit of time lately fully immersed in Google Earth VR. Pop down inside a major city centre – Sydney, San Francisco or London – and the intense data-gathering work performed by Google's global fleet of scanning vehicles shows up in eye-popping detail.

    Buildings are rendered photorealistically, using the mathematics of photogrammetry to extrude three-dimensional solids from multiple two-dimensional images. Trees resolve across successive passes from childlike lollipops into complex textured forms. Yet what should feel absolutely real seems exactly the opposite – leaving me cold, as though I've stumbled onto a global-scale miniature train set, built by someone with too much time on their hands. What good is it, really?

    Continue reading
  • Why Cloud First should not have to mean Cloud Everywhere

    HPE urges 'consciously hybrid' strategy for UK public sector

    Sponsored In 2013, the UK government heralded Cloud First, a ground-breaking strategy to drive cloud adoption across the public sector. Eight years on, and much of UK public sector IT still runs on-premises - and all too often - on obsolete technologies.

    Today the government‘s message boils down to “cloud first, if you can” - perhaps in recognition that modernising complex legacy systems is hard. But in the private sector today, enterprises are typically mixing and matching cloud and on-premises infrastructure, according to the best business fit for their needs.

    The UK government should also adopt a “consciously hybrid” approach, according to HPE, The global technology company is calling for the entire IT industry to step up so that the public sector can modernise where needed and keep up with innovation: “We’re calling for a collective IT industry response to the problem,” says Russell MacDonald, HPE strategic advisor to the public sector.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021