UK ISPs urged to censor porn with 'opt in' scheme

Internet service providers have been summoned to meet with the UK Government to thrash out plans for a universal content filtering system aimed at blocking pornography.

Representatives from broadband suppliers including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk will meet with ministers next week to discuss options.

The Government is believed to favour a system in which sex-related content is automatically filtered at ISP level, with users required to verify that they are over 18 in order to opt in to access adult sites.

Communication minister Ed Vaizey (pictured) told the Sunday Times that he hoped the coalition Government and ISPs could "come up with solutions to protect children", but added the warning:

"I am hoping [ISPs] will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years."

The move follows a recent report that suggested one in three children aged 10 had viewed pornography on the internet, while four in every five children in the 14-16 age range admitted to having regularly accessed explicit material online.

The article, in Psychologies magazine, led Wiltshire Conservative MP Claire Perry to call for legislation introducing opt-in access to adult content, during a specially convened debate in November.

Perry told the House of Commons, "As a mother with three children I know how difficult it is to keep children from seeing inappropriate material on the Internet.

"We already successfully regulate British TV channels, cinema screens, high street hoardings and newsagent shelves to stop children seeing inappropriate images and mobile phone companies are able to restrict access to adult material so why should the Internet be any different?

"British Internet Service Providers should share the responsibility to keep our children safe so I am calling for ISPs to offer an 'Opt In' system that uses age verification to access pornographic material."

A number of ISPs including Virgin and BT already offer a variety of parental controls. It appears unlikely that most ISPs will wish to comply voluntarily with Government requests for censorship.