Members of the UK’s adult industry have raised concerns that new internet filters introduced at the behest of the Government are causing more harm than good.
The industry is broadly in favour of filters but believes that they are an imperfect solution, blocking legitimate content while leaving adult material accessible.
The group, led by adult content channel and broadcasters Portland TV, has launched its own website, xxxaware.co.uk, to inform parents about the tools that are available to filter online content over a range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, games consoles and PCs.
“This site will give you an understanding of the products and services out there so you can make informed decisions about protecting your children from unsuitable material,” says the group. “Over time each product will be road-tested by a real person who will fill you in on the pros and cons.”
Chris Ratcliff, managing director of Portland TV, told the website Recombu that he was concerned about legitimate content being blocked: “There are better filters available than those offered by the ISPs which are also less prone to overblocking.”
Currently three of the four major ISPs (BT, Sky and TalkTalk) have launched filters with Virgin Media and Plusnet expected to follow suit soon. After their launch, a report conducted by BBC Newsnight found that all of the systems introduced failed to recognise some adult content while blocking educational sites.
Recent reports have suggested that the government is currently constructing a “whitelist” of approved websites to counter overblocking. David Miles, the chair of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety has said that although “the amount of inadvertent blocking is low […] if you are a charity and you deal with teenagers in distress that 1 or 10 matters to you."
The group behind xxxaware.co.uk (which includes two companies who carry out age verification on adult sites) say that there is “no silver bullet” for protecting children from viewing explicit material, but that introducing filters on a device-by-device basis and educating adults is more effective than blanket filters.
“It's simple, if you have children or young adults in your house AND any connected devices you need to consider parental controls,” says the group.
“Young kids may stumble across unsuitable images by tapping buttons randomly. Older kids may hunt them out. Either way, if you want to do your best to shield your child from adult images and videos, you must think about how best to protect them.”