The porn database: Ministers propose ‘adult’ households list

By politics.co.uk staff

Internet service providers could gather a list of households which access pornographic material, under proposals being put forward by ministers.

The Department for Education wants to introduce a default ban on access to pornographic sites as part of its drive to protect children from adult material online.

It is suggesting that access to adult websites should be initially blocked, with access only granted if the user specifically chooses to view it.

The 'active-choice plus' option would present parents with an "unavoidable choice" as to whether or not they want filters and blocks installed on their computer.

Its approach ties in closely with 'nudge' theories about public health, which Downing Street is extremely enthusiastic about.

Ministers are suggesting setting up mandatory filters which adults could only remove by notifying their internet service provider (ISP).

"A variation could be to combine these ideas, so that the user is clearly and unavoidably presented with a list of content types that will be blocked unless they choose to unblock them with a simple action such as removing a tick from a box," the consultation document states.

"Evidence shows that giving 'default' answers like this tends to encourage more people to accept the suggested option, and most ISPs do this for things like virus protection, where there's an obvious benefit to ticking 'yes'."

ISPs would hold a list of households which have opted in to accessing a pornographic database as a result.

But the consultation document rejected concerns about this approach, saying that "this system already works in the mobile phone sector without raising such concerns from customers".

Ministers admitted the move against pornographic websites will not solve all the risks children face when they venture into cyberspace.

Other websites which promote suicide, anorexia, self-harm or violence would not be covered by the active choice-plus approach, they conceded.

But the consultation document added: "It is right to look at the role technical solutions can play as part of a package which also includes education, awareness raising, and, if necessary, regulatory measures."