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Bill to block online porn debated

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Bill to block online porn debated
The opt-in for adults is aimed to protect children from hardcore pornography


Published: 12:08pm, 9th November 2012
Updated: 1:37am, 14th November 2012

A bid to block children's access to hardcore pornography on the internet or through mobile phones has been launched in the Lords.

The Online Safety Bill requires internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile phone operators (MPOs) to provide services free of pornography. Adults over the age of 18 would be able to opt in if they wanted to access such material.

Opening debate on her Bill, independent crossbencher Baroness Howe of Idlicote denied it was a move towards censorship, insisting children needed protection from harmful pornography. She said the development of the internet was "one of the big success stories" of her lifetime but that it also posed "significant child protection" risks.

Lady Howe, former chairwoman of the Broadcasting Standards Commission, said there was increasing concern about the impact of pornography on young people. She said: "We have to ask ourselves the question why on earth a whole series of protections that pertain to children offline are spirited away when they move to the online world. I believe children need and deserve the same protections online as apply offline."

She added: "It's right that responsibility for bringing up children should be with parents but they need help and it's surely society's role to help them."

Children are not allowed to buy pornographic films or go to cinemas to view adult-rated movies. "We shouldn't make it easy for them to access pornography online by accident or on purpose," she said.

Lady Howe said the Bill was "patently not about censorship" as adults would still be able to access pornography if they wanted to opt in. "This is simply about helping parents protect their children. The provision may loosely be equated to putting pornography on the top shelf of the corner shop."

Tory former government spokesman Lord Lucas said that as the father of a 10-year-old girl he agreed with the need for controls. But the Bill did not provide a "practical" solution to the problem.

"If you give the responsibility to ISPs to decide what is pornographic and what is not, you are recreating the office of the Lord Chamberlain," he said. "These things should be dealt with by parental choice and not by impositions through an ISP."

But there was strong backing for the Bill from a string of other peers, including the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James. He said the move would help create a "healthier and safer internet culture" but that teaching young people to be "vigilant online" must also remain a priority.

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