Web giants gang up to fight online porn block

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US and European authorities said they seized 132 websites in a transatlantic law enforcement crackdown on online sellers of counterfeit merchandise.

London - Britain’s internet giants on Tuesday declared their intention to band together to oppose an automatic block on online porn.

The association which represents internet service providers said it should not be up to them to “police” the net.

But the MP leading the campaign to protect children from hardcore porn on the web said she thought the ISPs were against the scheme because it would hit their commercial interests. Claire Perry added that it was time for the internet to be regulated in the same way as television.

The Daily Mail is campaigning for an automatic block on adult content on the web, with adults having to “opt in” if they want to see it.

But ministers and the ISPs prefer a less stringent “opt out” system under which parents are simply offered the choice to install a filter to protect their children from sexual material.

On Monday, the High Court ruled that the five major ISPs had to block users’ access to an illegal content-sharing website, The Pirate Bay - proving the state could take action against porn if it wanted to.

Yesterday, the Internet Service Providers’ Association launched its fightback on Radio 4’s Today programme. The organisation’s secretary general Nicholas Lansman said it did not believe ISPs should be thrust into the position of “judge and jury” when it comes to combating piracy. “It’s not for the ISPs to be the police of all that content,” he said.

“It’s not down to an ISP to decide what content the people of Britain should look at.

“It is only part of the solution. Determined downloaders will be able to circumvent these blocks.”

On porn, he said ISPs have been taking action. “Blocking is one method but there are lots of other methods the industry has been using,” he said.

“Large ISPs who provide 98 percent of the consumer internet provide services to consumers such as end-user filtering and in the case of TalkTalk, network level filtering that many parents are using to prevent their children from accessing this.”

But Mrs Perry, the Tory MP for Devizes, said the ISPs’ efforts were “just not good enough”.

She added: “I think what we’re seeing with the Pirate Bay decision is a continuum of change that’s going on that says actually internet service providers - who don’t forget make £3-billion a year from access fees, from selling access to British households - have a role to play. We know that 80 percent of people have an internet connection already, we know that only four out of ten households actually use the sort of filters that are supposed to keep our families safe, and, you know, it’s just not good enough.

“We don’t want to ban pornography, we don’t want to make it illegal. But what we want is better protection that preserves consumer choice, and that is where an opt-in solution delivers on both counts.”

The MP said she believed ISPs are reluctant to introduce more stringent content filters because they benefit commercially from file sharing. “I just wonder about the commercial pressures here,” she said. “I’d be interested to know what the revenue looks like from consumers.

“I imagine that accessing illegal file sharing sites is actually a really popular thing amongst consumers, and that may be one of the reasons that the ISPs are reluctant to do it.”

She also said she thought the internet should be held to the same standards as other forms of media.

“I think the time is coming when the internet should not be treated differently. We don’t accept it with any other media, with telly or mobile phones or anything else - why should the internet be different?” - Daily Mail

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