Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/27/culture_committee/

Public don't want internet filters, MS tells MPs

Filters understood, but ignored

By John Oates

Posted in Broadband, 27th February 2008 16:16 GMT

The Select Committee looking at harmful content on the internet and in video games was told yesterday that forcing companies to include "internet filters" on equipment was unrealistic.

The Culture, Media, and Sport Committee heard evidence from lobby groups like the Children's Charities Coalition and Childnet International.

Matt Lambert, head of corporate affairs at Microsoft UK, told MPs that adding such filters to internet content would send Britain back to the dark ages. Lambert said it was unrealistic to expect software companies to act in place of parents - they should set limits on their kids' surfing. He said parents needed to be educated about what their kids are doing online and be aware of filters and other controls.

Lambert also said that existing filters in Microsoft products are not widely used even though people are aware of them.

The Committee is preparing a separate report to the Byron Review, on the impact of technology on children - headed up by telly therapist Tanya Byron which is due to report next month. Byron is expected to call for a clampdown on violent video games.

MPs were told that while illegal images or content were relatively easy to define "harmful content" was essentially a grey area which would prove difficult to nail down in legislation.

Several witnesses said the area would be better left to parents provided they were given the information needed to make sensible decisions.

A spokesman for the Committee told the Reg: "We had a good session yesterday with some robust exchanges with children's charities on what is actual harm. It was interesting that there seems to be quite wide knowledge of filtering systems even though they are not used - there is a consensus that we need better education but the tools are often already available." The Committee is hearing evidence until May and hopes to produce its report in June or July before the summer recess.

The committee also discussed ratings systems used for games. Lambert backed the PEGI system for rating video games according to ages.

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