Report released by the department for education and the home office claims parents rejected the idea in a consultation
Ministers have stepped back from forcing telecommunications companies to filter websites for online pornography after claiming that parents rejected the idea in a government-sponsored consultation.
A report released on Friday by the department for education and the home office instead said that internet service providers will be asked to advise and steer parents towards making an “active choice” by offering software that blocks out pornography and self-harming sites.
The apparent climbdown follows a 10-week public consultation process. David Cameron had indicated as recently as last month that he wanted firms to follow the lead of TalkTalk, which was the first big name internet service provider to introduce network-level filtering of websites for its customers.
The report, released with little fanfare on Friday, said: “It is… clear that in accepting that responsibility, parents want to be in control, and that it would be easier for them to use the online safety tools available to them if they could learn more about those tools.
“They also want information about internet safety risks and what to do about them. There was no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the internet by their ISP: only 35 percent of the parents who responded favoured that approach. There were even smaller proportions of parents who favoured an approach which simply asked them what they would like their children to access on the internet, with no default settings (13 percent) or a system that combines the latter approach with default filtering(15 percent),” the report said.
The Daily Mail has led a campaign against children’s access to pornography. The newspaper suggested last month that Cameron was about to call for a tightening up of parental controls online.
It is understood that ISPs and advocacy groups have fought a fierce lobbying campaign to face down the measures. The campaign for greater curbs against online porn had been led by the Tory MP Claire Perry, who chaired the independent inquiry into online child protection in April.
The industry responded by saying that Perry’s plans were unworkable. But Cameron’s aides then widely briefed that the government was considering the introduction of new filters for online pornography.
Although internet regulation has consistently proved a sensitive topic for UK governments, the wide availability of pornography has concerned MPs from all political parties.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman appeared to back the No 10 consultation, saying in a statement that protecting children online was a real problem and a concern for millions of parents.
The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) welcomed the move. “Online safety is a shared responsibility between parents and the wider industry, including ISPs, manufacturers and retailers, via providing easy to use tools, advice and information,” the lobby group’s secretary general Nick Lansman told a website.