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Mumsnet founder: Our members are 'very keen' on PORN ...

... But regulators, ISPs should help police content

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Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts piled back into the net-nannying debate yesterday, calling on ISPs to do more to guard their youngest customers while confirming that many of her readers are themselves avid smut fans.

Roberts, who was slated earlier this year for supporting Tory plans for ISPs to impose wider blocks on content some people find objectionable, called on net providers to do more help parents police their web connections. If they didn't do this, she said, regulation should be considered.

Roberts was on a panel discussing "The limits of free speech online" at a Google privacy conference.

While the audience of academics, lawyers and net activists generally struck a hardline laissez faire tone, Roberts was unapologetic about Mumsnet's policy of calling time on some threads, for example attacks on the parents of Madeleine McCann. "It's not what Mumsnet stands for." The site also had a run-in with childcare guru Gina Ford over comments in its forums.

When it came to the issue of porn, Roberts said Mumsnet, and presumably its legion of members, was not suggesting legal porn be removed from the internet.

"Lots of people on Mumsnet are very keen on pornography," she said. Apparently late on Friday night is the best time to verify this, Roberts said.

"We're not saying we need regulation," said Roberts. Rather, she continued, parents needed to be given tools to control what's coming into their homes.

But she recognised that often parents often don't take advantage of the tools already available, such as Google Safesearch.

So, she continued, "I think the regulators should put pressure on the people involved, the ISPs to come up with a solution to this."

Roberts gained some support from John Kampfner, head of Index on Censorship, who said he had no problem with mechanisms to prevent children seeing content not aimed at them. He cited existing examples such as the film classification system, or restrictions on inflight movies.

The right of parents to block what their children see "doesn't impinge on censorship", he said.

David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, said the company had no objection to removing child abuse porn, "which is illegal everywhere".

However, Roberts appeared to be on shakier ground when it came to other questionable sites which affect children, for example suicide or anorexia sites, which are not in themselves illegal.

Nevertheless, she said, "I want children to be protected from this stuff ... I think there should be regulation about sites that encourage kids to commit suicide." ®

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