The reality of the government’s rhetoric on children and pornography has been exposed in a letter leaked by an internet service provider insider to the BBC, and reported in the Independent.
The letter asked internet service providers to change wording for existing internet filtering options they offer customers to make it appear as though they supported and were implementing Cameron’s proposed internet control measures.
Major internet service providers already provide FREE extensive filter and control options to their customers.
Virgin offer a bespoke security feature called ‘Virgin Media Security’ with all of their internet packages. The simple to use software allows parents to automatically restrict access to unsuitable websites. In the default setting, the software already restricts access to over 550 million websites, and is continually updated by Virgin.
BT offers software called ‘BT Family Protection’ which has been developed in association with McAfee. The software is easy to use, can block websites and types of material, and restrict the times the internet is available to other family members.
TalkTalk offers two parental control products, ‘Homesafe’ and ‘Super Safe Boost’, again restricting access to unsuitable material.
Sky broadband users can download McAfee Parental Controls, again restricting access to material parents may feel is unsuitable for their children.
All of these protection measures have been available by the major internet service providers for many years, so controlling access to unsuitable material by children has been an easy and simple process.
If parents are concerned about the content their children have access to then they can easily take responsibility through the existing protection software which is easy to set up and FREE.
Other internet companies, such as Google, have been offering a ‘safe search’ option for a long time, and continually take proactive measures to ensure unsuitable content is either blocked or controlled. By default, searches on Google are set to ‘safe search’. Other search engines such as Bing also offer similar facilities.
The fact is that everything Cameron is proposing is already in place and is being used, and it has been for years. If parents are concerned they can take action to restrict access to computers and content.
To listen to Cameron, one would get the impression that the internet is full of unsuitable content that is force fed to children every time they access the internet. This is far from the truth of the matter.
The leaked letter was sent by the Department of Education on behalf of Cameron, and is clearly a secret attempt to make Cameron look good – he is proposing nothing that is not already available, and using an emotive subject for his own ego.
The letter contained the following:
“Without changing what you will be offering (ie active-choice +), the Prime Minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions [as] ‘default-on’,” the letter says. “Can you consider how to include this language (or similar) in the screens that begin the set-up process? The Prime Minister believes that there is much more that we can all do to improve how we communicate the current position on parental internet controls and that there is a need for a simplified message to reassure parents and the public more generally.”
The intervention has angered ISPs, who have said it mischaracterises current measures. One insider told the BBC the proposed switch was “staggering – asking us to market ‘active choice’ as ‘default-on’ is both misleading and potentially harmful”. Another said: “What this is about is allowing the Government and certain [news]papers to declare a victory.”
Cameron wants ISPs to comply with four major policies:
- For customers to choose whether to keep internet controls on, and controls would be on by default.
- To make customers prove their age and identify before being able to turn filters off.
- To offer a “collective financial commitment” to encourage parents to use filtering.
- To ensure that filters and control software default setting is set to ‘on’.
ALL of these four points are ALREADY in place, and have been for years IF parents choose to use the software already provided by the ISPs for free. The major ISPs understand perfectly well that their customers need to have confidence in their security and online safety, which is why they have offered initiatives long before Cameron saw it as something which could raise his political profile.
ISPs have already made significant efforts without becoming unofficial ‘censors’ for the government.
It would be far better if the government did something which is actually useful – like educating parents to take responsibility and use the tools already available to them to protect their children.
In reality, Cameron does not give a damn and is only using online safety and security for his own political mileage in an attempt to recover some credibility as a politician.
By passing the buck to ISPs, Cameron can absolve himself of all responsibility if there are any protests that he and his government are not doing enough.
Cameron and his government could also use legislation to open a back door to Big Brother control of the internet – something they have been trying to implement through the Data Communications Bill.
With all things considered, this is nothing more than a publicity exercise to inflate Cameron’s reputation and inflate his own ego. The usual devious tactic of using an emotive subject which is blown out of all proportion to induce an ill-informed public response is being used instead of doing the right thing – which is to inform parents of the measures they can already take.