Friday, 22 November 2013

Keeing children Safeonline - have your say

This has been another week of good news!

On Monday the Prime Minister hosted a summit at Downing Street which was attended by Internet Service Providers, leading search engines and police agencies.  They discussed the protection of children from harmful online material and the blocking of child abuse and other illegal content.

We are delighted to report that significant progress was made.

Google and Microsoft agreed to measures to make it harder to find images of child abuse online.  As many as 100,000 search terms will now return no results that find illegal material, and will trigger warnings that child abuse imagery is illegal and details of sources of help to those who would benefit from it.

Google and Microsoft also agreed to work with the National Crime Agency and the Internet Watch Foundation to bring forward a plan to tackle peer to peer networks featuring child abuse images.  Mr Cameron said the next stage was to target the "dark internet" - secret and encrypted networks are increasingly being used by paedophiles and other criminals - where people share images online without making them publicly available.

Progress was also announced on plans to protect children from potentially harmful online content.

TalkTalk and Sky announced that they are now automatically switching on filters for all new broadband account holders.  New users are asked, the first time they connect, whether they want to activate family-friendly filters.  These are switched on as a default unless users ask for them to be removed.  The other remaining ‘big four’ ISPs (Virgin and BT) have confirmed they will follow shortly.

These providers also confirmed that all their customers with an existing internet connection will be required to choose whether to switch on a whole home family friendly internet filter by the end of next year.

This is clearly a great step in the right direction but most of the UK’s children’s charities believe that the best way to protect children online is for adult content to be blocked as a default, with adults wishing to receive it opting-in to do so.

We cannot afford to become complacent.  This ‘default-on’ option will not offer the same degree of protection as the ‘opt-in’ option.
  • It is a voluntary arrangement and will have no statutory backing
  • There are very real concerns about the weak age-verification procedures that the industry proposes
  • It is a promise that has yet to be delivered
  • Currently it  only applies to large ISPs and not smaller ones

You can help make these protections much stronger:

As you know, Baroness Howe has introduce The Online Safety Bill with the aim of reducing children and young people’s access to inappropriate, potentially harmful, material online.

This week it was confirmed that the Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords on 6th December 2013.  

The Bill will help parents protect their children from accidentally or deliberately stumbling across inappropriate material by requiring:

  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone operators (MPOs) to provide, as a default, an internet service without access to pornography - with adult subscribers able to opt-in to receive such material.
  • The provision of really robust age-verification procedures.
  • Electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering internet content at the time of purchase.

The Bill will also help parents to deal with online behavioural challenges like cyber bullying and sexting by requiring that parents are provided with information that will help their children navigate these challenges:

  • First ISPs/MPOs are required by law to make available information about online safety - which would be broader than just filtering information - as part of their on-going relationship with subscribers.
  • Second, the Secretary of State is required to provide parents with information to help them educate their children about online challenges.

If you agree that these measures would offer children the best protection from harmful online content
we have updated our campaign website,,
so that you can have your say quickly and easily.

Many of you have already used the website to great effect.  Now that we have a confirmed date for the Second Reading please would you take the time to email a member of the House of Lords in advance of the debate urging them to go along and support the Bill.

The site is very simple to use.  There are tips on what to say in your letter and, if you are really pushed for time, there are also four form letters which you can cut and paste into your email.

Baroness Howe is grateful for all that you have done to support The Bill so far.  Online child protection is a now a really hot political issue, let’s use this momentum to ensure that children really are Safeonline!

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