Google opposed to government proposals to introduce filters blocking internet pornography

  • @kevinJrawlinson

Google has said it is opposed to government proposals to introduce filters blocking internet pornography because they will amount to censorship and risk encouraging lazy parenting online.

Instead, the firm's head of public policy Sarah Hunter said it believes educating parents on how to keep their children safe online should be the focus.

Speaking at a conference hosted by Google, she said: "We believe that children should not be seeing porn online. None of us want children not to be safe online. We disagree with the mechanisms on which we protect children.

"It is not that easy, a lot of the solutions being discussed are not perfect. We almost de-skill by giving them this simple solution which is not, actually, a simple solution. We think we should be skilling parents up."

Calls have been growing to block pornography online as standard, with the option for people to opt-in if they want to view such content. The government is now consulting on the proposals, although one Internet Service Provider Talk Talk has already introduced a system under which parents could request that adult content be blocked on their home networks.

The Daily Mail has been at the forefront of the campaign to force government to go even further. During a debate in Hertfordshire today at Google's annual Big Tent event, its writer Amanda Platell said she researched some well used sites and described some of the content as "disgusting".

But she came under fire from the audience over the record of her own paper's website. Accusing the newspaper of hypocrisy, one audience member said the website, one of the world's most popular, regularly runs picture stories centred on sex.

The Irish television writer Graham Linehan added that the site runs stories about teenage celebrities who are "all grown up", which he said was a coded reference for their coming of age sexually.

Ms Platell defended the newspaper, saying that she would be happy to let her own children read it. But Ms Hunter said it should not be up to firms to decide what is or isn't appropriate for children. "If we pretend all families are the same, we get into very difficult territory," she said.

Andrew Heaney, TalkTalk's executive director of strategy and regulation said his firm was not "over-selling" its filter and that ISPs should not be forced into blocking content. "Once you censor, you step over a rubicon. You move into censorship," he said.

Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said the government's proposals amounted to the "privatisation" of freedom of expression and said: "We are talking about the likes of Syria and China when we talk about internet censorship."