ISPs reiterate "active choice" stance on adult web content

Online and offline sign

Virgin Media has reinforced its commitment to letting customers make an "active choice" about accessing explicit web content.

The company was responding to national news reports over the weekend that claimed it was one of several internet service providers (ISP) planning to rollout an opt-in system for customers that want to access explicit content by 2014.

We are certainly not going to filter content without people's knowledge or understanding.

However, a Virgin Media spokesperson played down the reports during a conversation with IT Pro, and said the ISP will not block content by default.

"The bottom line is, all of the major ISPs signed up to something last year called Active Choice. A principle by which as a customer you have [to decide] do you use parental controls?

"That's what we did last year, we're not going to filter stuff ahead of people making that decision, we are certainly not going to filter content without people's knowledge or understanding.

"They must make that decision and depending on what that decision is, we will act accordingly," the spokesperson added.

Talk Talk was another ISP name-checked in the weekend's articles. It recently started rolling out Home Safe, an Active Control-like service to its existing customers, that allows them to choose if they want to block adult content or not.

The company introduced the service to new customers back in early 2012.

Dido Harding, the company's chief executive, said one-in-three of its customers have opted to block adult content.

"[In June] we became the only company to begin asking all our existing customers to make the same unavoidable decision," said Harding.

"Currently about 6,000 more homes each day are choosing to use our HomeSafe scheme and to help keep their children safer online as a result."

In a statement to IT Pro, Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA), said these Active Choice schemes should also be backed by education to help users to make informed choices about the content they want to view.

"Whilst filtering has a role to play, it should not be viewed as a silver bullet, and in agreement with a majority of respondents to the government consultation, we do not support a default filter," Lansman added.

Last month, Claire Perry MP, David Cameron's special advisor for the prevention of childhood sexualisation and commercialisation, announced that ISPs will be forced to offer parental filters that block pornographic content by default to new and existing customers before the end of 2013.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.