"Preselected" parental filters are now official policy, and should extend to small ISPs, according the the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) new strategy paper.
Announced without fanfare, this is the result of several years work on a Communications Bill, now parked, it seems.
The strategy says "we need good filters that are preselected to be on ... the settings to install family friendly filters will be automatically selected; if you just click next or enter, then the filters are automatically on"
They state that "We expect the smaller ISPs to follow the lead being set by the larger providers".
Finally, DCMS demand ISPs give them magic beans (“We want industry to continue to refine and improve their filters to ensure they do not – even unintentionally – filter out legitimate content”) and threaten them with regulation if they do not answer to future demands, or “maintain momentum”.
Currently 91% of children live in households with internet access and a greater proportion of children aged 12-15 own smartphones than adults. While consenting adults should be free to watch the legal content they choose, children and young people are important consumers of digital content and their ability to access harmful and age inappropriate content should be limited as far as possible.
The Government has been working through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), which brings together more than 200 organisations across the information and communication industries, law enforcement, regulators, academia, and charities – to pursue a voluntary approach to child internet safety and has called on industry to make the right tools available to allow parents to protect children online.
We are seeing good progress in this area:
• Where children could be accessing the internet, we need good filters that are preselected to be on, and we need parents aware and engaged in the setting of those filters. By the end of this year, when someone sets up a new broadband account, the settings to install family friendly filters will be automatically selected; if you just click next or enter, then the filters are automatically on.
• By the end of next year ISPs will have prompted all existing customers to make an unavoidable decision about whether to apply family friendly filters.
• Only adult account holders will be able to change these filters once applied.
• All mobile phone operators will apply adult filters to their phones.
• 90% of public Wi-Fi will have family friendly filters applied to wherever children are likely to be present.
• Ofcom will regularly review the efficacy of these filters.
But we are clear that industry must go further:
• We expect the smaller ISPs to follow the lead being set by the larger providers.
• We want industry to continue to refine and improve their filters to ensure they do not – even unintentionally – filter out legitimate content.
• We want to see mobile network operators develop their child safety services further; for example, filtering by handset rather than by contract would provide greater flexibility for parents as they work to keep their children safe online.
And while Government looks to the industry to deliver, through the self-regulatory mechanisms already established under UKCCIS, we are clear that if momentum is not maintained, we will consider whether alternative regulatory powers can deliver a culture of universally-available, family-friendly internet access that is easy to use.