Government and ISPs dispute approach to internet filters

The government is campaigning for default-on filters, ISPs disagree

The main internet service providers are meeting the government today to further discuss child safety on the internet, but a leaked letter in advance of the meeting suggests the government wants internet filters to appear to be turned on "by-default" - even though they're not.

Sections of the media have campaigned for internet filters to be turned on automatically for internet services, to help prevent porn and "offensive" content being viewed by minors. Such filters would also make it harder to find illegal child porn.

But others have campaigned against the move, saying it is up to individuals to view whatever legal content they want on the internet unhindered. They also says default filters would give parents a false sense of security about what their children are not watching, as filters can be turned off or bypassed, and basically aren't 100 percent reliable anyway.

A letter sent to the ISPs from the Department for Education, and leaked to the BBC, sets out a list of demands from Downing Street, with the aim of "allowing the prime minister to make an announcement shortly".

The companies are not only asked to fund an un-costed and unspecific "awareness campaign" about the issues, but are asked to promote "default- on" filters in their services, even though none of them have signed up to offer such filters.

ISPs are considering offering "active choice +" filters. The leaked letter suggests they can instead use "default-on" terms instead, "without changing what you're offering".

Such a suggestion will lead some to believing that Downing Street is pandering to media campaigns on the issue.

With "active choice +" customers are instead asked to make informed decisions about the level of filtering they want.

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