Over the past few years we have seen some real progress in our fight to protect children from harmful online material: The Government has worked with Internet Service Providers to come up with a voluntary industry agreement to protect children which being called ‘default-on’. Broadband users now have to make an unavoidable choice as to whether they want to activate family-friendly filters. TalkTalk and Sky have gone one step further and their filters are switched on as a default unless users ask for them to be removed.
However the internet remains a potentially very dangerous place for children.
In its manifesto for the recent general election, The Conservative Party promised:
“We will stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content online,
by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material”.
This was encouraging and yet there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech about implementing the commitment and when asked about how it would be taken forward during the Queen’s Speech debate, the Minister ignored the question.
The opportunity for the Government to honour its commitment will come before the House of Lords on 17th July 2015 with the second reading of Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill.
This Bill (revised and updated for the 2015/6 Parliament) would, should it become law, require a statutory approach to filtering as well as, robust age verification if a user chooses to remove adult content filters. It would also require web sites showing 18 and R18 material (that’s hardcore pornography) to people in the UK (regardless of whether the sites themselves are based in the UK) must put in place robust age-verification procedures.
If you agree that it’s time we offered children the best possible protection from harmful online content please take action.
With the debate on this bill less than a week away we would really encourage you to contact Members of the House of Lords asking them to support the Bill. We have updated our campaign website www.safeonline.org.uk to make this very quick and easy to do. Just go online and you will be given a Peer to write to, together with model letters you can just copy and paste.