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UK gov’t to ask Internet users to opt in for pornography in future?

In an attempt to cut down on the availability of material online that could corrupt, hurt or offend children or the easily upset, the British government is said to be considering what could be an interesting twist on censorship by asking Internet users in the United Kingdom to opt in to receive adult content when signing up with ISPs in future.

The Guardian newspaper reports that the government is considering the move in response to complaints that it is currently too easy for children to access explicit content on their personal phones and computers, and that current safeguards that allow parents and other users to opt out of services providing such content are too lax.

Support for the potential move appears to be widespread, with a recent report finding that 77% of all women in the UK would support such an opt-in system and default ban on adult content. Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman has described the idea as necessary to deal with the “real problem” of keeping children safe online, adding that “We need to work closely with the industry to develop blocking technology, which is easy to use and effective so that parents have the control they need to protect their children.” Such an attitude is potentially better for future co-operation than that of Conservative Party MP Claire Perry, who describes British ISPs as “dragging their feet” in addressing the issue and being complicit in the exposure of children to unsuitable material as a result.

Surprisingly, even civil liberties groups seem to be open to the idea, with Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles saying that the government’s desire to work with ISPs on the issue is a “positive step,” suggesting that it can lead to a more successful resolution than other countries’ approaches: “Mass blocking of websites was rejected in the US for breaking Internet security and in Holland because it doesn’t work and drives criminals underground. The government should make clear they will not consider a policy that will make it harder to catch child abusers and put consumers at risk when shopping online.”

Plans are still in the early stages, and it’s possible that consultations between government bodies and ISPs will significantly change, or even outright doom, the opt-in idea. If it doesn’t, though — how many people in the UK will find themselves going cold turkey from their secret porn habits because they didn’t want to admit to opting in in the first place…?

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