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Big Four UK ISPs Publish Full Code of Practice to Help Protect Children Online

Posted: 29th Oct, 2011 By: MarkJ
internet security padlockuk stop signEarlier this month four of the country's biggest home broadband ISPs ( BT , TalkTalk , Virgin Media and Sky Broadband ) officially agreed to help protect children online via a new Code of Practice, which among other things would provide customers (e.g. parents) with an "enforced" option to block adult web content at the point of purchase (detailed summary). A full list of the code's complete commitments has now been published.

Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said:

"I am pleased to see industry is taking action to help parents protect their children online. The new code of conduct is a real, practical step to ensure households make a choice about parental controls when opening a new internet account. I look forward to continuing to work with the ISPs and the rest of the industry to help children enjoy the benefits of the internet safely."

Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton, added:

"Parents are quite rightly concerned about their children accessing harmful or inappropriate content online. But many parents don’t always know how to activate parental controls at home. That’s why it’s important they are asked to make a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want parental controls switched on or off.

I welcome the commitment by the four major internet service providers today and I would like to see their code of practice adopted widely. Parental controls are one part of a wider range of internet safety tools. Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety we are working with industry and charities to educate and inform parents and children to help keep them safe online."
UK ISP Child Safety Code Commitments

* Increase awareness of the availability of parental controls.

* Present new customers with an enforced choice as to whether or not to use the tools (network or PC-based controls) provided by their ISP free of charge to filter access to the internet (“Active Choice”) at the point of purchase or installation/activation of their internet service.

* Provide all customers with regular reminders (at least annually) linking to help or advice on using parental controls through a wide range of customer communications channels.

* Make it easier for NGOs, schools, child protection groups and others to educate parents on internet safety, by being clearer about tools available for free from each ISP.

* Promote clear, easily accessible channels for parents to report problems with parental controls to the associated ISPs.

* Work together to produce customer research that provides Government, Parliament and policy makers with a deeper insight into customer awareness and perception of the tools available to families to tailor their online experience.

* Work closely with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) to promote clear, accessible channels for parents to report a suspected incident of abuse or inappropriate online behavior.

* Assess emerging technologies and parental control solutions with wider stakeholders and provide regular updates to UKCCIS about the relative merits of these developments.

* Publish an annual update against the measures outlined in this Code, with the first report being made in October 2012.
Internet providers are expected to begin immediate implementation of the code, although the primary web blocking measure is already available as part of many existing ISP security suits and services (i.e. it's expected that adding a simple option at signup should be done long below the first October 2012 report).

The code's commitments will also be subjected to an independent review, which aims to reveal whether or not the measures have improved awareness and take-up of parental controls. It's important to stress that the government wants to see this "code of practice adopted widely," which means that it may not always be restricted to the big four.
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