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Internet safety - new plans unveiled

(32 Posts)
KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 11-Oct-11 08:59:43

Hi All

Interesting plans by the 'big 4' isp providers on internet safety announced today here and here. The details are a bit hazy at the moment, but know it's something there've been lots of MN discussions on, so would be good to know your thoughts.

wannaBe Tue 11-Oct-11 09:04:05

well that's all very well, but what constitutes as adult content can be very subjective.

I know that orange used to block mn for instance because it's considered to have adult content, presumably because of certain word usage etc.

So would be interesting to see what actually constitutes as adult content and what doesn't.

Snorbs Tue 11-Oct-11 09:19:23

a) If it's only going to block pornography then the Internet will still not be a safe place for children to use unattended. Eg,, 4chan, et very much cetera. It will give a false sense of security to people who can't be arsed to learn don't know the real risks.

b) If it's going to block everything that's not child-friendly then most people will end up turning it off as it will block adults from accessing non-porn but non-child-friendly sites such as mumsnet.

c) It makes parents as a whole sound like they're simpletons. "I don't know how to protect my child on the Internet so rather than put the effort in myself, I want the government to force ISPs to do it for me."

niceguy2 Tue 11-Oct-11 09:28:19

I welcome the idea of ISP's providing a blocking service but the devil is in the detail. I like the idea of having choice but ultimately I fear many parents will not understand the realities and naively live on the assumption that their ISP will protect them.

Aside from the news headlines, whether or not this works will depend upon how "Adult Content" is classified and what options parents have.

One size does not fit all. My children are aged 15 to 4. So let's say I have the porn block on. What if my teenager googles "How to bypass parental controls" and quickly learns how to use a proxy server? Do we now classify proxy servers as "adult content"?

What about sex education? Will the restrictions mean my teenager cannot research anything about sex education without me unblocking porn at the same time?

In practice any ISP block will only have an impact on casual surfing of porn. It may stop say my 4 year old accidentally stumbling onto porn. But I hope no parent thinks this is some sort of magic bullet solution for a teenager.

BadgersPaws Tue 11-Oct-11 14:51:56

Quite ridiculous...

Either this filter will not block efficiently enough and you'll still be forced to maintain your own protection for your child's safety.

Or it's going to block too much, you'll find sites like this blocked (some of the topics can be a bit racey) and have to face the embarrassment of phoning up Sky and asking them to turn the Porn filter off ("Yes of course it's for Mumsnet madam, we believe you, you don't need to keep saying it). Once again you're family is still unprotected and you're still forced to provide your own protection.

Australia and China prove that this sort of thing just doesn't work.

However here's something very worrying....

A few years ago BT got in a lot of trouble for working with a company called Phorm. They wanted to spy on all the content that you were looking at or sending on the internet. So not just the address you look at but what is actually being sent back and forth. So every email and every web page. Imagine the postman reading each and every letter that you receive or send.

They got slapped over this as it was basically hacking and done without people's consent.

And so when this ridiculous plan fails and you're all paying extra money every month to your ISP to keep it going the ISPs could very well turn around and say "see, we need to have the rights to open the envelopes you're sending over the internet, we need to inspect what's inside in order to block efficiently." And they'll get the right to read, analyse and store everything that you do on the internet.

Thinks this is far fetched?

Three of the four named ISPs who are said to be doing a porn switch are BT, TalkTalk and Virgin.

Three of the four ISPs who wanted to work with Phorm, read all your private communications and sell your details to advertisers were BT, TalkTalk and Virgin.

Funny that...

SuchProspects Tue 11-Oct-11 17:01:49

I think this might be handy for ver technologically challenged parents of young children. It doesn't seem like the best approach, but the current situation is really poor, so I think any non-mandatory option is probably useful at this stage.

I don't see it as a useful tool for older kids, nor a good choice if parents in the house are confident about setting up there own controls (which is what we intend to do).

I don't think there is an ethical, surefire way to protect teenagers who are looking for dodgy content. It seems to me that people who are looking for that level of "protection" are unrealistic about both technology and human behaviour.

Andrewofgg Tue 11-Oct-11 21:54:13

In many households it will be the older children who set up the controls!

A reminiscence although it may be an urban myth. It is said that in the early days of the Internet when blocking mechanisms were cruder the entire website of the town of S*CUNT*horpe fell foul of some ISPs!

Tigerbomb Tue 11-Oct-11 22:45:02

Interesting that it is only going to be offered to new customers and from 2012.

Looks like a marketing ploy.

niceguy2 Tue 11-Oct-11 23:14:40

In practice the ISP's know fine well that blocking will never be 100% effective and that there are great big holes in the plan.

But I suspect the plans being unveiled serve two purposes:

1) They hope to keep the government off their backs. The worst thing for everyone is for the government to mandate blocks because this simply will not work. See Australia's attempts for a good example of how to waste a lot of money on a chocolate teapot.

2) It's marketing and a PR exercise to convince customers that they care. The ones who will fall for this are presumed to be too stupid to know any different so will accept what they are told and pony up cash without question.

Andrewofgg Wed 12-Oct-11 06:54:58

Tigerbomb it is probably not technically feasible to apply it to existing accounts.

niceguy2 Wed 12-Oct-11 08:25:58

It is technically feasible.

They've probably elected to only apply to new customers as part of marketing and also to avoid their helpdesk being inundated with calls from people who suddenly cannot access Mumsnet, sex/drug education sites, gambling as well as of course porn.

Trust me, the ramifications of such blocking is massive and your average punter will not understand the impact until it stops them accessing what they want.

All put in place under the cover of child protection. Brilliant.

Snorbs Wed 12-Oct-11 08:46:13

niceguy2, I think you're right. The Government has already said that if the ISPs didn't do something voluntarily then they'd step in and force the issue.

Filtering services are a potentially huge bottleneck (he Australians found that out the hard way). You wouldn't want to turn it on for all your customers at once and then find out that it's brought your network to its knees. Applying it only to new accounts does at least mean that they get a relatively slow and gentle roll-out.

greentown Wed 12-Oct-11 09:45:58

One of the difficulties with the ISP plans is that many parents will obviously want to access adult material for themselves, while preventing their children from accessing same material. Parents cannot have their cake and eat it - they can't place responsibility for good parenting in the home on ISPs or government bodies.
The simple solution which parents don't want to hear or do, is to properly parent and monitor access to the internet in the home - it's nobody elses responsibility.
I suspect the new ISP products will not sell because they don't address what consumers want.

Ryoko Wed 12-Oct-11 10:03:15

I am very much against this idea, the internet should be a place of freedom with no censorship, today they may say opt in for porn but where will it end? I don't trust the government and will it block any websites about sex education?, STI info?.

Adults buy PC's, adults pay for the internet, if you are not savvy enough to know how to block content on your PC or allow your children to use the net unsupervised then thats your own fault. I grow so very bored of bad and lazy parents wanted the state to bring the children up for them, got off your arses and be responsible damn it!, learn to say no and stop breeding a nation of spoiled brats with PC's in there bedrooms and contract mobile phones.

niceguy2 Wed 12-Oct-11 10:32:53

Greentown, that's my biggest fear with this. Is that most people are not technically savvy so will assume the ISP filters are foolproof. They'll give their child the laptop now to hide in the bedroom falsely assuming they are protected whilst their child is happily watching porn & chatting to undesirables over the Internet.

I welcome an optional ISP based service rather than a government mandated system simply as the lesser of the two evils. Ideally I don't want to see anything as it simply adds cost and gives only a false sense of security to the very people who it's dangerous for.

Lastly I also agree that given the choice, few parents will actually pay for it. Broadband has become very much like your utility bills. Most people care more about the cost than the bells & whistles. I know I can go to British gas and they will do x,y,z more than a small cheap company but in current climate, cheap wins.

JLK2 Wed 12-Oct-11 23:22:41

Stupid idea. Every teenage boy will know how to bypass it within a couple of days.

BadgersPaws Thu 13-Oct-11 08:23:56

"Stupid idea. Every teenage boy will know how to bypass it within a couple of days."

More worryingly every child will still be exposed to porn when the filter either doesn't block it or their parents have to turn off the filter because they find Mumsnet and Wikipedia blocked.


Still those four ISPs will get you to pay for it and will then move to sell all of your internet activity to advertisers. So someone wins out of this.

Sevenfold Thu 13-Oct-11 15:52:51

this has me puzzled.
why is this being done?
why can't parents actually look after their own dc's and keep an eye on them when on the PC?

SuchProspects Thu 13-Oct-11 21:58:03

^"why is this being done?
why can't parents actually look after their own dc's and keep an eye on them when on the PC?"^

That's spectacularly arrogant and blinkered.

If I have to physically monitor everything my DCs do on the Inernet until they are mature enough to be making their own decisions completely unsupported, they will not develop the skills they'll need to thrive in the digital world they're a part of until they're much older than they need to be.

I won't be letting my kids free on the internet straight away, I'll start off watching everything they do and directing them, then giving them free access to specific sites, then using blocking and monitoring that gets looser and looser. With lots of discussion and involvement, but plenty of freedom to explore and make some mistakes.

We use all sorts of technology to keep our DCs safe in other environments - car seats, seat belts and licensing, not to mention things like crumple zones, with cars; maps, no go zones, curfews, public transports, buddy rules and a host of other tricks, for the physical environment - why are parents suddenly supposed to be on their own with the Internet?

Now I won't be using this offering, I'll be putting my own controls in, but both my DH and I are very tech savvy. I think a lot of parents are concerned that they won't be able to develop good judgement in their DCs without external help. I don't think this sort of offering is particularly good, I don't think a one level filter really supports development of judgement. And I think the idea you can keep teenage boys away from porn using technology is laughable.

But I can understand why parents want something. Many of them feel totally lost and few have the skills to make the most of the technology themselves. Why would anyone expect them to feel confident they can do that for their DCs'?

Sevenfoldedbloodybodies Thu 13-Oct-11 22:03:19

That's spectacularly arrogant and blinkered.

excuse me, I have a 19 year old son, I some how managed to make sure he wasn't watching porn when he was young, simply by having one pc in the lounge.

How is it blinkered prospects ?

Since when has it been a hassle to watch what your own children are viewing ?

Totally agree with Sevenfold who didn't deserve such a patronising response btw.

BadgersPaws Thu 13-Oct-11 22:19:57

"We use all sorts of technology to keep our DCs safe in other environments - car seats, seat belts and licensing, not to mention things like crumple zones, with cars; maps, no go zones, curfews, public transports, buddy rules and a host of other tricks, for the physical environment - why are parents suddenly supposed to be on their own with the Internet?"

Car seats are a great example.

The Government could have insisted that every car is sold with a generic car seat fitted. As I'm sure we all know not all car seats fit in all cars, so this generic "one size fits all" car seat wouldn't be effective in all cars. But parents wouldn't know this, they'd trust what they'd been given, after all if it were pointless why would they have been given it.

So children are being driven around sat in this generic car seat that just isn't that reliable or safe, the parents thing they've done their job and the car companies are trousering the money they've made charging for those generic car seats.

Is that what happens?


Because it's daft.

Likewise with a one size fits all internet filter that won't be effective in most cases and will just mislead parents into thinking their children are safe.

So what do we do with car seats?

Parents are educated, it's made abundantly clear not having a seat is dangerous. Shops that sell the seats will come out and check that it fits properly in your car and that your child is really safe, you're not left with something that won't do the job you think that it will.

Why not do the same thing with internet safety? Raise awareness and educate people rather than mislead them with something generic just isn't going to actually work. Why are we trusted when it comes to the life threatening danger of putting children in a fast moving vehicle but not when it comes to porn?

I know nothing about cars, they stop, they go, that's about it. The level of awareness has been raised to a sufficient level to let me know that I need help in sorting this out properly. The same can work with computers where by chance I'm much better informed but many parents are as in the dark about them as I am about cars (actually that's pretty hard, I'm very dim about cars). Make sure people know they need help.

Why do I think this is happening?

Well the ISPs don't make an awful lot of money, and this is something that they can charge for so it can increase their profits.

And, as said before, three out of the four ISPs have shown an interest in spying on all your internet activity and selling it to advertisers. That was ruled illegal, it's constant phone tapping basically. However if they can turn around and say that they need to do that level of intrusion to protect your children from porn then they're more likely to be able to do it. And then it's just a small step to selling that data on to advertisers. The advertisers know everything you do and say on the internet and the ISPs trouser even more money for the privilege of spilling the beans on what you're up to.

Very neat.

SuchProspects Fri 14-Oct-11 03:41:20

Sevenfoldedbloodybodies Thinking all parents should just do it your way is pretty arogant and blinkered. Having one computer in the lounge is not going to provide sufficient access to build the sort of tech skills I'd like my daughters to have and that I think will be important to thriving in the future. It's less access than I had as a child and my computer skills have given me a very secure financial foundation, not to mention made me comfortable with a digital information age. It's not unreasonable for parents to want their children to be able to do their homework or develop a passion for programming without having to constantly be in their presence - especially if they have more than one child.

Also, if you think the only place teenage boys look at porn is on their home computers when their parents are home you are being a bit naive.

BadgersPaws I agree that what the ISPs are offering is poor (I also think our current car seat set up is a fairly poor solution too), and I think take up will be low. I'm saying it's better than nothing for some parents and I can see why some would want it. I think niceguy2 is more on the mark re: motivation though. ISPs aren't going to make much money off this (they'd have done it long ago if that were the case), they want to keep legislation off the books and look like the good guys.

niceguy2 Fri 14-Oct-11 08:54:50

Personally I like the example of filters being a bit like a safety catch on a gun.

We all know that guns can be very dangerous but they also serve a very useful purpose used correctly. And what we should do is if our kids are using guns, teach them and supervise them.

But now along comes someone saying "Hey, we've invented a safety catch which will stop kids from shooting someone by accident". Only an idiot would now say "Ok son, here's my gun. Off you go". As a parent you'd still need to supervise and teach.

And therein lies my point. The very people who don't understand how filters work would be like the very people who don't understand how safety catch works and assume they are foolproof.

You don't NEED to have the computer in the lounge but you do need to educate your child to appropriate use, keep an eye on them and guide them.

That is something which these filters are sending out the wrong signals for. We're in danger of parents thinking their child is safe when in fact they are far from it. I can just see in a years time posts in the Geeky section of MN complaining that their child has bypassed the porn filter and how could this possibly be, they'll sue the ISP etc etc.

BadgersPaws Fri 14-Oct-11 10:12:39

"I'm saying it's better than nothing for some parents"

No, no it's not really.

That's like saying that leaving some parents with the ineffective generic car seat that misleads them into thinking their children are safe is better than nothing. And that misunderstanding will further reduce the chances that the parents will take the proper precautions and protect their children.

Putting something in place which is little more than a chocolate fireguard simply is not the answer.

There needs to be an effective and immediate campaign of education and awareness raising in exactly the same way that there is with children and car seats.

"ISPs aren't going to make much money off this"

They will make some money, they will make much more money if they are finally able to do what they wanted to do a while ago and spy on all of your communications and sell your details on to advertisers. That link with advertising is where the big money lies.

There must be dozens of ISPs in the UK. Only four of them began work with a company in order to exactly what I describe, one (BT) took it as far as trials without the consent of their users.

Three of the four companies who are talking about this filtering are the same as those companies. That's a very odd coincidence to begin with.

Then consider that the level of spying they wanted to do upon their customers (think of a postman opening up and reading every single letter that goes into or out of your house) could easily be put forward as another way to help stop "porn".

And then remember again that big juicy pool of money that advertisers are ready and willing to pay out. BT has absolutely no qualms about sharing your data with them, they've already gone and done it for some of their customers, and it's just the pesky law that's stopping them getting their hands on that money. If people start complaining that the filters are ineffective (and they will be) then oh how easy it will be to justify pushing for that law to be changed, "won't somebody think of the children!".

I'm not happy that the overlap of the companies involved is just chance.

Google Phorm, and then consider carefully who your ISP is if this goes ahead.

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