Smoothwall, the UK’s largest supplier of school based website filtering (blocking) solutions, has warned the government not to force broadband ISPs into imposing default internet censorship of adult websites upon their customers. The firm claims that such systems are a “very blunt instrument” and don’t stop young people who “actively seek” such content.
The comments follow shortly after last week’s controversial announcement of a new consultation on whether or not internet providers should be required to introduce a default (i.e. you would have to opt yourself out later) or optional “opt-in” style of adult content filtering system for “all internet accounts” in the country (here).
Richard Moore, Managing Director of Smoothwall, said:
“The challenge of simply keeping up with the sites that have to be blocked would be massive. Our experience in the education sector also demonstrates that simply blocking websites encourages students to find ways to defeat it.
Blocking at the network level is a very blunt instrument. It may help to prevent young people coming across pornography unintentionally, but probably won’t stop those actively seeking it. Many other totally legitimate sites may be caught by the block as well.
It’s unreasonable to expect ISPs to provide a solution to this problem working alone. All the stakeholders in industry and society need to be involved – especially parents who should be encouraged to have an active role in controlling what their children see.”
The fact that a web filtering firm has effectively admitted that such censorship solutions don’t work would, in an ideal world, give the government pause to reflect upon the reality of what they’re proposing. But we suspect that won’t happen.
It’s also worth remembering that sales of commercial Parental Control solutions would suffer if ISPs are forced to enable similar systems by default. Smoothwall itself has a £5 million turnover and employs over 100 staff across its offices in Leeds, Southampton, North Carolina (USA) and California (USA). The firm’s products are used in thousands of UK schools and colleges.