UK Confirms Intent to Block Adult Sites at ISP Level
Ashley Allen / 3 years ago
Last week, the UK was hit by the news that the Investigatory Powers Bill – nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter and described by UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy Joseph Cannataci as “worse than scary” – was set to become law, and now the government has confirmed that it intends to push through legislation that will force the country’s internet service providers (ISPs) to block all content marked as “adult” by default as part of the new Digital Economy Bill. The move is a potential breach of net neutrality and risks legal and family friendly sites from being unfairly blocked.
“The Government is committed to keeping children safe from harmful pornographic content online and that is exactly what we are doing,” Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said (via ISPreview). “Only adults should be allowed to view such content and we have appointed a regulator, BBFC, to make sure the right age checks are in place to make that happen. If sites refuse to comply, they should be blocked.”
One of the main concerns over the legislation is what exactly, beyond pornography, is classed as “adult content,” who decides on that classification, and how are blocks on such content implemented. Such a broad scope, open to interpretation, is ripe for being abused; for example, the current UK parental controls system blocks sites designed to support young LGBTQ people who fall victim to bullying and abuse on the grounds that anything related to sexuality is the realm of adults only.
“This could lead to tens of thousands of websites being blocked, despite their content being perfectly legal,” Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, said. “In no way should this proposal be legislated for in this bill. There has been no thought or consultation, and the government has not even begun to define how blocking might be attempted.”
“They have no idea if it would work well or badly, or whether there is serious enough harm to justify such a massive restriction on UK adults access to legal material,” Killock added. “We do however know that over 90% of parents manage their children’s activities online, according to OFCOM, and that 70% of households do not have children.”