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ISPs under pressure to control online porn

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Campaigners will meet with the internet minister, Ed Vaizey, to lobby for ISPs to be forced to control access to pornography.

Vaizey issued the invitation to Tory backbencher Claire Perry, who said the availability of sexual material online is "a fire is burning out of control".

The minister offered to act as an "honest broker" between campaigners and ISPs in the hope that action will be agreed.

"We are talking about preventing children from having access to inappropriate content, and how we can work with ISPs to make it that little bit more difficult for them to do so," Vaizey said.

The issue raised by Perry in a Commons debate on Tuesday is separate from that of blocking child abuse material. She wants tighter controls on material that is legal for over-18s to access.

"The current way of controlling access to pornographic material on the internet is via safety settings and filtering software, installed and maintained by users-parents, teachers and carers across the country," she said.

"Unfortunately, however, through technological ignorance, time pressure or inertia or for myriad other reasons, this filtering solution is not working."

Expressing concern that the meeting will not prompt action from ISPs, Perry added: "We need to say, 'Clean up your house within a certain time, or we will come and clean it for you'."

While emphasising his preference for a self-regulatory approach, Vaizey said he had "a huge amount of sympathy" for Perry's views. His statement will concern ISPs, who always resist attempts to make them police the internet on cost and liability grounds.

Perry indicated that she will press for the industry to introduce systems that block porn sites unless users opt in to access them, after verifying their age.

Her ideas appear similar to Australia's highly controversial "Great Firewall" censorship proposals, under which adults will opt out of filters to view legal pornography. ®

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