Will We Soon Need To “Opt-In” At Broadband Sign-Up To View Online Pornography?


Under-18s may soon have to pluck up the courage to ask their parents to remove that block on internet pornography if ministers of the UK government get their way in approving a change in the law that would give parents even more control over the type of content their broadband provider provides. If such a move goes ahead, we might soon have to delegate exactly what will and will not be blocked by our ISPs upon sign-up; including the likes of pornographic content, gambling websites, social networks and more.

It’s a move that is driven largely by the often unreasonable and uptight concerns about the openness of the internet. In particular, our attention is being drawn to the relative ease at which minors can get hold of sexually explicit material, engage in or be the victim of cyber-bullying on social networks, and furthermore being alerted to the vulnerability of some such minors when online.

Parents and computer experts are purportedly being asked to choose between automatic filters which, when turned on, would block harmful websites, or instead a more targeted and intrusive system which involves users to choose what they will have access to online at the point of sign up.

But while more traditional safe-guards might have buyers choosing to block certain categories of content by ticking the corresponding box, one of the system's proposed here –- and based on “Nudge” theory, a US concept based on subtle persuasion through understanding human behaviour -- would instead 'nudge' people to block some of the more harmful categories by pre-checking options, urging customers to choose to 'opt-in' if they wish to view it. Conservative MP Claire Perry has even pushed for such restrictions to be taken further, stressing that each ISP ought to block harmful content at base-level, requiring users to contact the company to reverse it. Let the awkward calls commence.

Richard Birkett