Friday 19 April 2019

Rabbitte won't force web firms to block pornography

Minister Pat Rabbitte
Minister Pat Rabbitte

Adrian Weckler Technology Editor

THE Government will not ask internet providers to block pornography on home broadband connections, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has said.

The technology to do this may be introduced in Britain by the end of the year, if British government demands are met by internet service providers there.

The anti-pornography web filter technology, aimed at all home broadband connections, is being sought in Britain as part of an initiative to prevent children from seeing adult-oriented imagery.

But the Government here is unlikely to follow suit, despite support for the British position from some child-welfare advocates in Ireland.

"This isn't something that's being prioritised by the Government here," Mr Rabbitte said.

"Illegality is different and if we see an effective strategy against that on our neighbouring island then we might look at that. But as it is, it's not something we're focusing on as a priority."

His view has been welcomed by Irish Internet Service Provider (ISP) firms and their representatives.

"We're happy to hear this approach from the Government," said Paul Durrant, general manager of the Internet Service Providers' Association of Ireland.

"Expecting ISPs to voluntarily introduce web filters on what their customers can or can't see is the wrong approach. We are of a view that this is not an ISP issue, but that the legal adult pornography industry should control its online services in the same way that they control their offline shops."


However, some children's rights campaigners are in favour of the web filters.

"Any measure which would help protect children from inappropriate early sexualisation is to be welcomed," said Maria Corbett, acting chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance.

"However, no one measure alone can make the internet a safe place for children. The most important thing parents can do is to communicate with their children about their internet use and safety online."

Long-time children's rights campaigner and senator Jillian van Turnhout said it was important that people did not confuse anti-pornography filters with "the more serious issue of illegal children's pornography".

It comes a day after an Oireachtas report issued recommendations on how to protect children from cyber-bullying. The report, issued by a cross-party committee of TDs and senators, called for greater supervision of social media access and pre-paid sim cards for children.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has enthusiastically endorsed the web-filtering proposals. On Tuesday, the British government sent letters to UK internet service providers demanding a commitment to making anti-pornography web filters a default measure on all home broadband connections.

Some British ISPs – including Virgin and TalkTalk – have already introduced anti-pornography filters on their home broadband services, but only on an 'opt-in' basis where customers have to choose to switch it on.

Irish Independent

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