We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Web porn ban: what does it really mean?

ISPs block porn sites as PM launches Parentport website

ISPs BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin are to offer web users the opportunity of banning pornographic websites from their smartphones, laptops and desktop PCs. But it's not clear exactly what this means in real terms, as web providers all currently offer packages enabling known pornography sites to be blocked. This is, of course, something of a dark art, as not even the most solitary teenager knows where all the pornographic sites reside on the web. The four ISPs are promising that parents will be able to block all pornographic sites, forever.

(There's no mention of tablets, incidentally, which may offer for hope for iPad-owning porn fans, trapped within the puritanical confines of the App Store.)

Today's announcement comes as Prime Minister David Cameron announces a raft of 'child protection' plans, including the launch of a website called Parentpoint. Parentpoint will offer parents the opportunity to complain about inappropriate web content. Ofcom welcomed Parentport, saying it would make it easier for parents to complain.

Cameron will also back a ban on advertising billboards displaying adult images near schools, and meet with internet industry representatives in response to concerns over the sexualisation of children.

Web porn ban: why is it happening?

The government is driving all of these actions in response to a Mothers' Union report from earlier this year, that attacked the use of sexualised images and other children to market products to children. (It's also hoping for some Daily Mail-friendly headlines that distract attention from the fact that the economy is going to Hell in a handcart and eveyone apart from the close personal friends of the Secretary of State for Defence is feeling the pinch.)

Commenting on the report the surprisingly gendered head of the Mothers' Union Mr Reg Bailey said that UK childhood was now beset by "commercialisation and sexualisation", on TV and the web. Bailey will enjoy his Mary Whitehouse/Lord Longford moment in the sun later today when he goes to meet Mr Cameron at Downing Street. 

At the industry summit Bailey will demand that what he refers to as 'steamy' pop videos to be restricted to older teenagers on the web, and post-watershed slots on television. He will suggest covering up magazine covers on shelves that feature sexualised images. Rumours that Mr Bailey will also demand 'spectacles that don't steam up' are almost certainly not true.

Responding the Bailey's report earlier this year, Cameron said: "As you say, we should not to try and wrap children up in cotton wool or simply throw our hands up and accept the world as it is.

"Instead, we should look to put 'the brakes on an unthinking drift towards ever greater commercialisation and sexualisation'."

Web porn ban: what does it really mean?

It's fair to say that the Mr Cameron's government is not looking to gain votes from the tech savvy readers of PC Advisor. This type of announcement - thin on policy, high on headlines and gimmicks - is aimed squarely at people for whom the internet remains a scarcely presence on the outside of their daily lives. People whose children are much more web savvy than they are.

It's virtually impossible to block an entire genre of websites, unless you completely unhook from the web. Most parents who have been through this process suggest that education and openess is the only way to address these concerns, as terrifying as the content on the internet can be. And although Parentport is - on the face of it - a great idea, the concept of simply blocking out unwanted material is a dangerous panacea.

See also: Govt to force ISPs to block porn sites

IDG UK Sites

Nexus 6 vs Sony Xperia Z3 comparison: Lollipop phablet takes on KitKat flagship smartphone

IDG UK Sites

Why people aren't upgrading to iOS 8: new features are for power users, not the average Joe

IDG UK Sites

Free rocket & space sounds: NASA launches archive of interstellar audio on SoundCloud

IDG UK Sites

iPad Air 2 review: Insanely fast and alarmingly thin. Speed tests, camera tests, beautiful...