The porn summit: Internet firms confronted by ministers

The porn summit: Internet firms are wary of govt pressure
The porn summit: Internet firms are wary of govt pressure
Ian Dunt By

Internet firms have endured faced a tough meeting with ministers in the Commons, as the government lays down the law on child abuse and access to pornography.

Pressure has built on the government to take action on the issue since images of child abuse and rape pornography were found on the computer of Mark Bridger, who was sentenced to life for the murder of five-year-old April Jones.

But internet firms are irritated that the government is conflating two issues – child pornography and children's access to legal pornography.

There is also concern from some internet campaigners at attempts by rape support groups to get the government to outlaw pornography depicting rape.


Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Vodafone, O2, EE and Three all attended the 90-minute meeting, which was chaired by culture secretary Maria Miller.

They have agreed to provide £1 million to pay for proactive measures to seek out illegal images. The Internet Watch Foundation will be asked for the first time to proactively seek out illegal images of child abuse on the internet.

"What's been agreed today is a fundamental change in the way the industry will approach child abuse images and remove them from public view," Miller told BBC Radio 4's The World At One programme.

She said all operators would have 'splash' pages in place by the end of the month clearly stating images of child abuse are illegal.

All those present have promised to sign a 'zero tolerance' pledge and are set to report back to Miller within a month on how they can support the new approach using their technology and expertise.

Internet firms also accepted a raft of measures which will make it much harder for users to access 'harmful or inappropriate content online'.

They had been under pressure to implement a default porn opt-in function, so that internet users would have to actively unlock an adult filter to watch pornography.

That is now being rolled out for all new customers by the four main internet service providers.

Calls to have pornography banned on public wifi are also being pushed through, with the main public wifi providers now pledging to offer family friendly services in public places "where children are likely to be".

Fleet Street newspapers as diverse as the Daily Mail and the Guardian have recently pushed for harder controls, as has Labour.

The Internet Service Providers Association, which represents UK net suppliers, supports making filtering tools more widely available but opposes default settings.

Internet experts warn that filters are not as effective as their supporters claim and that age-verification tools are also too weak to be reliable.

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