back to article backs away from ISP level filtering plan to protect kids

The government has decided to stop short of forcing telcos to filter websites at a network level, after discovering that there wasn't a major "appetite" for such a system among parents who want to prevent their kids from accessing supposedly inappropriate material online. Instead, Whitehall wants the ISP industry to advise and …


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  1. wowfood

    Here's a new option

    Opt-IN to the filter so it can be there for those parents who want it, and ignored by those who don't. Win win.

    And not the reverse wording our government seems to love where opt-in actually means opt-out either. Perhaps have some publicly available firewalls or something set to block smut, or at least recommendations for them.

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Here's a new option

      here is a Better Idea, put the filter in the router, let parents have FULL control and allow them to assign different permissions to different devices....

      Something I will be doing soon as my kids are getting keen on using the internet now....

      1. jai

        Re: Here's a new option

        that's all well and fine for those of us technically literate enough to look inside our routers and change the default settings. many many people would never think of such a thing, would be panicked by the idea. witness the vast majority that don't change the password on their routers.

        if i have kids and the internet is still a thing by the time they're old enough, i shall be having two networks in the house. there's the adult wifi and the kids wifi. and the kids one will be heavily locked down and everything will be logged. i've seen too many episodes of Criminal Minds where kids get abducted, the thought of kids on the internet scares the hell out of me

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Here's a new option

          "i shall be having two networks in the house. there's the adult wifi and the kids wifi. and the kids one will be heavily locked down and everything will be logged"

          Been there, done that.

          Not too many coffee-spat-over-the-keyboard moments to report, but some real shockers in there too - mostly innocent mistakes having followed the trails.

          If anything, having been through this already, it actually demonstrated to me that the kids are better behaved (although no less inquisitive) than when I was their age. Either that or that they just did the dodgy stuff at school.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Here's a new option

            "Either that or that they just did the dodgy stuff at school."

            Or got around your protection. :-)

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: "Or got around your protection. :-)"

              Or your neighbours', or their friends', or for maximum points, their friends' neighbours'.

        2. MrXavia

          Re: Here's a new option

          Most people I know are clever enough to follow simple instructions on a web page, and that is all it should be, and on-off toggle, a list of devices and click to turn off filtering for that device...

          Sure technically literate kids will get past it, but then again they will get past ISP filters too by using a VPN

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here's a new option

        Is that after the parents ask their kids on how do they access the router?

        Anyway, for that option to work the parent must know what they are doing and in reality most don't.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Here's a new option

          "Is that after the parents ask their kids on how do they access the router?"

          I'd have thought that most kids of an age where a parent would be concerned about what they might see or do on the internet would have parents of an age where they are likely to have had similar ICT exposure at school themselves. Many of those parents will also have further experience since they left school. So this whole attitude that school age kids know more about "computer stuff" than their parents is a fallacy in many if not most cases.

          This smacks of the same sort of attitude shown on the BBC news website today discussing the "special needs and concerns" of giving new technology to "older parents". It's not as if PCs are something invented by young kids a couple of years ago. Anyone here old enough to remember those articles about "vintage" computers and software that this very website has been publishing? As a grandad myself who has owned a computer of one sort or another since I bought a Video Genie when I was 16, in the same time period Sinclair was selling large numbers of ZX80/81's and later 10's of 1000's of Spectrums, not to mention all those C64/Dragon/BBC/Atari 400/800/Amiga/Atari ST etc etc etc etc.

          Next thing you know, we'll be seeing comments from readers worried about whether their elders and betters might not know about this new thing just discovered known as "sex" and how to install anti-virus protection.

      3. Mike Bell

        Re: Here's a new option

        You can look forward to a smut-free web, courtesy of your tech-savvy children filtering your browsing capabilities, whilst giving them full access to all the naughty stuff.

      4. Chris007

        Re: Here's a new option @MrXavia

        I've decided that If my kids prove to be as half as adept as their dad at bypassing such filters then it will be pointless exercise.

        I speak to them about the Internet and if they see anything they don't like / understand etc then to come to me. And they have both done that when those pesky pop-out ad's have gone up on screen.

        icon? For your suggestion and the, at present, 5 people who up-voted it

    2. Vimes

      Re: Here's a new option

      At the risk of repeating myself:

      Here's another thought: we already teach kids, but perhaps given the rapidly evolving nature of technology it may be a good idea to offer lessons to adults too to teach them how to control the technology being used by their children - proper lessons, not just random hints and tips from ISPs that might not tell them everything they need to know.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I'm more curious about is how does an ISP know its customer has a child / a number of children?

    I don't recall needing to provide such information when I signed up for broadband...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Whitehall said: Government will not prescribe detailed solutions"

    Or, to put it another way, 'We are totally clueless. We have no idea how you will implement and fund all of the half-arsed ideas we concoct (this one included) and, quite frankly, we really don't give a toss.'

    Anyway, for those parents unable buy and configure a half-decent decent router what's wrong with OpenDNS or similar. More than enough options for parents already exist. Why the need for more?

    1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

      Re: Or, to put it another way

      The "we're totally clueless" argument might highlight the truth, but has never stop the gubberment taking aim at both of its feet in the past.

      I think the more likely explanation is that someone has pointed out that all the false positives are going to cost them lots of real money. Even if they don't get sued they'll spend their lives having to chase around verifying objections. But of course they would get sued. There would be a constant stream of companies pursuing their arses all the way to the European courts of daft decisions.

      All very expensive

      But the lawyers would love it.

      If they mandate it, then they own the problem.

  4. Chris 3

    I'd certainly quite like the government encourage the ISPS to offer some form of opt-in filtering for those who want it. When my kids started playing with portable devices, I thought 'hmmm let's see what VirginMedia has to offer in terms of a bit of filtering'. Answer; not a sausage other that some software that runs on Windows boxes.

    The only suggestion was to point the portable device DNS at OpenDNS; which is reasonable but a bit beyond some parents, I suspect.

    I was rather surprised how rubbish Virgin was in this regard.

    1. ed2020

      @Chris 3

      Some advice from a long term VM customer - never, ever be surprised at how rubbish VM are, in any regard. :-)

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge


      Point your home router to OpenDNS and set that up, easiest way to control all home devices on DHCP. Otherwise you get in to per-device configuration, either OpenDNS again, or filtering software and with a typical range of devices (Window PC, iPad, Android phone, etc) you won't get any software uniformity for filtering and a whole life of pain in tending to them.

      Better still, talk to them and educate them about the risks on-line. Not easy to do I accept, but much better for their long term development.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OpenDNS

        "Otherwise you get in to per-device configuration"

        Which is probably what the kid is going to get into anyway and change their local DNS servers to Google or someone not blocking their quest for porn.

        "Better still, talk to them and educate them about the risks on-line."

        That I believe is the proper solution. Well said.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: OpenDNS

          "Which is probably what the kid is going to get into anyway and change their local DNS servers to Google or someone not blocking their quest for porn."

          So you (or your ISP) also have to block DNS at your (or their) firewall. I think we're *way* beyond the average parent now, but it probably isn't beyond the average ISP. However, I think you are right about the proper solution because the real flaw is that no-one has defined what it is we are trying to block. Since children range in age from 0-18, and parents range in political views from "Mary Whitehouse" to "Larry Flint", I'm not inclined to believe in a "one size fits all" definition, and I suspect that "Call me Dave" has realised this, too.

          1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

            Re: OpenDNS

            Was going to add your point - if you want to enforce OpenDNS you also need to configure the router's firewall restrict port 53 to only the OpenDNS IP addresses ( & which some, but probably not all, home routers can manage.

            But it is true the setting up a home router to implement this properly & securely is not trivial even for a reader of El Reg, let along Joe Public.

            I also made in my submission the same point raised by Ken Hagan about what exactly should be blocked? Who decides and monitors this?

            The consultation asked about 'blocking' but gave no indication of what would/should be blocked, and how much it would cost us, and who would pay when (not "if") it screws up and the innocent are blocked. Thankfully sense has prevailed for now, and they (the government, not necessarily certain MPs) appear to have canned the idea.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: OpenDNS

            " I think we're *way* beyond the average parent now"...

            If the parent doesn't know how to use the net (inc. hardware) and protect their sprog, then they should not be allowing it to access the internet! Simple as that really.

            Of course the 1,000,000's of parents out their would rather endanger their sprog, than cut off Facebook!

            Hardly example parents?

  5. splodge

    I'd love to know who changed the rules to allow hard core porn in every corner shop of the land. But, obviously, we're only supposed to get upset about the online stuff

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: hard core porn in every corner shop

      I'm pretty sure that was an EU freedom-of-trade thing a few years back.

  6. Jon Green

    UKG showing common sense? Surely not?

    Sir Humphrey: Bad news, Minister. Apparently, the Internet Service Providers are up in arms about your new censorship initiative.

    Jim Hacker: Censorship?

    SH: The, um, sensitive-site blocking proposals?

    JH: Oh, the child protection measures!

    SH: Quite so, Minister.

    JH: Well, what are they complaining about this time? The last time I spoke to them, they were whinging about how porn was using so much of their - uh -

    SH: Bandwidth?

    JH: Bandwidth, yes - that they couldn't afford to pay their electricity bills!

    SH: The last time you spoke to them, Minister, was just before the previous Election.

    JH: That's as it may be, Sir Humphrey, but I wish I knew why they've changed their tune so suddenly.

    SH: Bandwidth has become cheaper in the past few years Minister, but then you - sorry, the present Government - introduced legislation to force them to record and store every web search, email and file request for every user, for a decade. I think they might have taken it a little personally.

    JH: Heavens above! It's not that big a thing, surely, blocking all the porn unless the customer opts in?

    SH: It might be wise not to antagonise the ISPs, Minister.

    JH: Why on Earth not?

    SH: That new legislation - let us imagine a situation, Minister, where a Minister's internet use records were obtained by, say, a journalist friend of the head of an aggrieved Internet Service Provider? And published?

    JH: I see what you mean, Sir Humphrey. I'm sure my own records would be quite unimpeachable -

    SH: An interesting choice of words, Minister.

    JH: - yes, well, um ... but there might be others...

    SH: Indeed.

    JH: So what do we do? If that's what's at stake, how can we stop it now? It's policy!

    SH: Perhaps, if I might suggest ... a public consultation? There's already something of an upswell of opinion against the proposals. Canvass the public, gather the opinions, then cancel the policy as a demonstration of popular democracy in action.

    JH: Sir Humphrey - that's ... genius! Make it happen!

    SH: Yes Minister.

    1. dogged
      Thumb Up

      Re: UKG showing common sense? Surely not?

      And fire Claire Perry.

    2. FoamingToad
      Thumb Up

      Re: UKG showing common sense? Surely not?

      Spot on. Well done Sir.

  7. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Predictable really ...

    The second it dawned on our lords and masters that this meant *they* would need to "opt out" of a porn filter, this was a dead duck.

  8. Christoph Silver badge

    This is terrible!

    Do you realise that parents can buy the Daily Mail at any high street newsagents without being asked whether they have children and what measures they are taking to ensure that those children will not be exposed to it? Something MUST BE DONE!

    "Will somebody take care of the children!" - Herod the Great, circa 4 BC

  9. NomNomNom

    "after discovering that there wasn't a major "appetite" for such a system among parents who want to prevent their kids from accessing supposedly inappropriate material online"

    wait what? But I thought the Daily Mail spoke for the country...

    Tabloids often cite popular appeal to justify their editorial slants, eg by starting a story with the phrase "There was widespread anger last night as..."

    Widespread anger? Measured how? Did they really have time to conduct a proper opinion poll before going to press? Okay sure they are reporting their own perception which can be valid. But I wonder how many people open the paper in the morning and read little intros like that as a fact and then think shit I wasn't actually outraged but if everyone else is outraged about this I better be outraged too. So it becomes some a self-fulfilling bullshit. And then before you know it politicians think shit we better set up some inquiry about this if so many people are outraged about it.

    And then dare you say things in public like:

    "all this Jimmy Savile stuff is getting a bit over the top isn't it?"


    "I don't think the DJs are to blame at all"

    Interestingly the day after the prank call the papers did not attack the DJs as being irresponsible but attacked the hospital (and so indirectly the staff) as being incompetent. You don't hear the much more plausible blame theory that perhaps the nurse might have read the front page of the tabloids...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i keep my children in a kennel

    so they dont use the porn

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: i keep my children in a kennel

      Won't someone just think of the canines?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: i keep my children in a kennel

      and the way these child rapists are in all the churches and care homes, the kennel is probably the safest place for a child

  11. nigel 15

    what is better than free boobs?

    Opt out porn filter piousness. Why would you presume people don't want access to porn.

    it's shocking moral superiority. we love porn. obviously. what is better than free boobs. @claire4devizes mind fingers.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    russian porn is better than american porn

    american porn is usually lots of plastic surgery, lots of bouncing and noise, but no sex

    i think when parents complain about porn they mean the US shit. well duh, its not even sexy. its insulting to porn aficionados. dont block the good stuff too.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blocking it

    Only sends it underground

    Figure it out, whilst there is porn there will always be people who want it, not always over 18 years old.

    It was a growth industry in my old school to sell used playboy's and fiesta's

    1. Vimes

      Re: Blocking it

      It is interesting how nobody seems to ask why children should have unsupervised access in the first place, only what to do when they get it. Take smartphones for example: why do they need them? Surely a basic phone without a camera ought to be enough to give them the ability to text and make phone calls? Why not place an age limit on the sales of smartphones, especially given the widespread sexting reported recently on Channel 4 news?

      Or would this place too big an obstacle in the way of the phone companies that like the idea of making money from children? These are phone companies after all that seem more content to lull parents into complacency. The telcos seem to prefer to encourage a false belief that any technology could do the job of parenting on behalf of the parents instead of providing any real protection by limiting who can buy smartphones from them.

      Incidentally if there aren't that many models now that fit the criteria above I can pretty much guarantee that phone companies will come out with such models if it ever becomes clear that this will be the only way that they will be allowed to make money from children legally.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Blocking it

        Surely a basic phone without a camera ought to be enough to give them the ability to text and make phone calls?

        Don't forget to block the SMS number(s) for twitter too! Most people seem to have forgotten the association between SMS message size and Twitter message size.

      2. Old Handle

        Nobody NEEDS a smart phone

        What we now call smart phones have only been on the market something like 5 years, and people got by just fine before. They're a luxury, not a necessity. But that doesn't mean children shouldn't have them. It just means asking "why do X need smart phones" is a silly question. Unless you are of the opinion that people, per perhaps children in particular, should never have any fun and useful but potentially dangerous tool unless they absolutely need it... Sadly many would agree with that.

  14. JaitcH

    Parents should be playing their part

    When people have kids, it is incumbent upon them to teach them what they think is wrong and right.

    If there is unsuitable movies down the road, they don't expect the cinema to close/

    And different viewers have different needs. Two children, sitting in different houses an having different rules best illustrate the point. No one rule fits.

    Why should I be denied my vicarious delights just because some lazy parent won't do their job?

  15. Busby

    You know what would help? If the BT home hub let me use open DNS. That way me and the Mr's can look at everything we want as consenting adults on our devices but I can filter what my kid looks at on his tablet.

  16. bag o' spanners

    I use an organic filter called free will to determine what I wish to see or not see on teh interwebs. If it could be monetised or taxed, this gubmint would have done it by now.

    When gubmints fail in their attempts to drive public opinion through choreographed scare stories, they inevitably struggle to understand that opinion isn't a monolithic entity with a single dogmatic worldview.

    With luck, Theresa May is about to get her opportunity to flip-flop gracelessly on the gibbet of political hubris.

    1. The Original Cactus

      "...flip-flop gracelessly on the gibbet of political hubris."

      Have a pint and/or an upvote for that delicious turn of phrase.

  17. Josh 15
    Thumb Up

    This seems like a rare outbreak of common sense from our usually legislation-happy government (although the present bunch don't seem half as trigger-happy as New Labour were on their frankly unfettered law-making spree whilst in office). I agree with others who have said that issue of online porn should be a matter for parents to deal with; parents should be given an 'opt-in' (for 'safe surfing' counter measures) rather than the reverse whereby the entire population gets clobbered with a government censor in the name of 'safeguarding' (whatever that is) the children. In these hysterical times, a welcome move.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is a disgrace...

    Think of the children!

  19. Great Bu

    Once again the needs of the silent majority are callously ignored

    No mention of ISP's being able to provide a 'porn only' service which filters out all that shopping and news crap that I get very time I ty to get some naked lady action going on........

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