Google against government pornography filters

Not a substitute for good parenting
Darren Allan

May 25, 2012
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Google has thrown its weight into the great adult content censorship debate which has been raging since last month.

It began when a cross-party inquiry of MPs, headed by Claire Perry, called for opt-in censorship of adult web content by ISPs. Such a system would mean that customers would have to contact their service provider to switch access to pornography on, otherwise all such sites (and other adult material) would be blocked by default.

A Daily Mail campaign has got behind this, and forced the government to say it is looking into the issue. However, the government’s preference is for an active choice system, whereby users would get a choice of whether to filter or not when they first sign up with an ISP.

Google, however, has come out arguing that censorship isn’t the right way to go at all, and that it’s a lazy, blanket solution. As other net freedom groups have pointed out, filtering often has unintended victims, who can have trouble trying to contact and persuade ISPs that they are legitimate sites.

Filters are also not a satisfactory replacement for good parenting, either, and never will be. The danger is the measure could make parents feel completely safe, and that they don’t have to worry at all about monitoring their child, who might be clever enough (when they get a bit older) to get around the filtering, anyway.

According to the Independent, Google’s head of public policy, Sarah Hunter, noted: “We believe that children should not be seeing porn online. None of us want children not to be safe online. We disagree with the mechanisms on which we protect children.”

“It is not that easy, a lot of the solutions being discussed are not perfect. We almost de-skill by giving them this simple solution which is not, actually, a simple solution. We think we should be skilling parents up.”


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