IET: Proposals to block online access to pornography will be ineffective

Dr Martyn Thomas from the Institution of Engineering and Technology comments on government proposals to use legislation to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to pornography.

Dr Martyn Thomas, Chair of the IET IT Policy Panel, said: “We at the IET believe that government proposals to use legislation to force ISPs to block access to pornography will be ineffective and harmful. There are better ways to protect children.

“Every illegal image is a crime scene but law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to identify, locate and protect every victim, nor to identify, and charge every abuser. More resources must be provided. That is the top priority and legislation to block access will do nothing to help, whilst making it harder for troubled adolescents to search for information on sexual health and sexual identity issues.

“Protecting children from seeing legal adult pornography, online exploitation and sexting are different issues that are best addressed by parents following the excellent advice provided by GetSafeOnline and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency CEOP, and teaching their children to do the same.

“Universal blocking of websites, search terms and content is a blunt and ineffective tool. Such blocks can easily be circumvented, and children will continue to share ways to access sites that their friends tell them about, whether the content is pornography or music files. The serious criminals are already using encryption and other technical means to hide their activities, which blocking by ISPs will not affect.

“The internet was designed to withstand serious damage and it treats censorship as damage and provides routes around it. There is no quick technical fix that will protect children – it needs education, responsible parenting and more resources for enforcing the laws that already exist.”


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