UK broadband providers slam new website blocking law

The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), a group representing the major broadband companies in the UK, has strongly criticised the government’s plan to restrict access to websites containing adult content.

Part of the recently passed Digital Economy Bill would require providers to automatically block access to sites that contain pornography or other 'adult' material if they are deemed not to have sufficient age gating.

All providers currently offer network-level parental controls, which block access to sites that may be inappropriate to kids. Customers are offered the choice to opt out of these filters during setup, but the government's new rules will block sites regardless of the user's choice.

The UK's broadband providers have come out strongly against the rules, saying they lack "thought or consultation". James Blessing, the chair of the ISPA said:

"The Digital Economy Bill is all about ensuring the UK continues to be a digital world leader, including in relation to internet safety. This is why ISPA supported the government's original age verification policy for addressing the problem of underage access of adult sites at source.

Instead of rushing through this significant policy change, we are calling on government to pause and have a substantive discussion on how any legal and regulatory change will impact the UK's dynamic digital economy and the expectations and rights of UK Internet users."

The group points out that previous attempts to implement web blocking policies have been shut down by the government as "disproportionate". It also points out that blocks can easily be circumvented in many cases.

Most worrying though, is the potential for legal sites to be blocked - particularly since the language in the Bill is uncomfortably vague. The ISPA is particularly worried about this, saying:

"We are concerned and disappointed it has gone down this path … this change in direction has been agreed without any consultation, with no assessment of costs nor is there any certainty that it will comply with judicial rulings on interference with fundamental rights."

What the group wants is the opportunity to assess the new rules properly so it can judge what impact it will have on the digital economy. It also wants the government to fully consider unintended consequences that may happen as a result of the new laws.

Source: ISPReview

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