Internet giant toughens up anti-porn measure

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London - One of Britain’s internet giants is to toughen up its anti-pornography measures – but has stopped short of backing the full ‘opt in’ system demanded by campaigners.

TalkTalk, which provides web access to 4 million subscribers, already offers new customers the option of activating a porn filter to protect their children.

Now it has said it will be the first company to ask both new and existing subscribers whether they want to install the filter.

The filter will, as at present, offer protection for every computer, games console, e-reader or other device accessing the internet via the family broadband connection. TalkTalk predicts that 1million subscribers will have adopted it by next March.

Ministers have already said they want to see internet service providers offering this type of ‘opt out’ system for existing customers as well as new ones.

It means TalkTalk has become the first to bring itself into line with the UK government’s thinking, putting pressure on rivals such as BT to do the same.

But the new system falls woefully short of the ‘opt in’ system favoured by campaigners and backed by the Daily Mail.

This would involve an automatic block on accessing pornographic content, with adults having to ‘opt in’ if they want to view sexual material.

TalkTalk’s filter, HomeSafe, blocks sites categorised as unsuitable for under-18s, including those related to pornography, suicide, self harm, gambling, dating, drugs and weapons.

It has been available to customers since May last year, but only if they requested it. From March this year, new subscribers have been asked to choose whether or not they want the filter.

Now the company wants to force all of its customers to decide whether they want access to adult material, with a view to making them choose their settings once a year. Dido Harding, chief executive of TalkTalk, said the spread of fast broadband means making the internet safe for children is as important now as road safety was in the 1970s when traffic volume soared.

“Our competitors are being dreadfully slow to wake up to the fact that society as a whole cares strongly about this,” she said.

TalkTalk notified the Information Commissioner’s Office of its intention on Friday and wants to conduct trials in the autumn.

Claire Perry, the Tory MP who is campaigning for an ‘opt in’ system, said TalkTalk’s move was a “massive step forward” and would put pressure on rivals such as BT, Virgin Media and Sky. “They are coming kicking and screaming,” she added. At present, BT and Sky offer free filters for three devices. But campaigners say that most homes now have so many internet-capable gadgets that this is not enough.

The HomeSafe system uses technology provided by Chinese firm Huawei, which also runs networks for the Chinese military.

An analysis by Google of five of the most popular adult sites shows they account for 15 million page views a month in Britain – two percent of them by under-17s. - Daily Mail

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