I've read with interest the many news stories which have emerged as a result of the government's pact with Internet Service Providers, to block adult content online at the time of subscription. Although a well-intentioned introduction to attempt to protect children from being exposed to harmful adult material, I can't help thinking of the wider detrimental impact the move will have on businesses.
Although reams and reams of news covering the development has appeared there is still little detail on what implications this "mass-filtering" of content will actually have. What is deemed "adult content"? Some may consider lingerie retailers or graphic music or video games under that category - but does that mean the likes of Marks & Spencer or HMV could potentially be filtered out of every day searches?
This also hangs a heavy reliance on the effective "tagging" of "adult content", browsers are only as effective as the pages they are screening so the filtration of harmful material could still be missed, if effective tags aren't in place.
Timeliness is also another consideration. If this introduction is in response to urgent action needing to be taken to protect our children, then why are parents only to be offered the filtering service at the point of subscription? Shouldn't it be offered immediately?
This move seems nonsensical when you consider the devastating impact it could have on UK retailers especially as we work through this elongated recession. But, of course, parents are always going to look at ways of protecting their children, rightly so, and the internet is such unknown territory littered with terrifying tales of child grooming and indecent exposure that this "one size fits all approach" to filtration, on the surface and for those not in the know, seems ideal.
Working in the online sector I know of the hundreds of security measures which parents can implement to ensure that their children are safe online. This year alone sees the introduction of one of the biggest developments in the online adult industry - the release of .xxx domain extensions. The controversially argued extensions have been introduced to satisfy a number of objectives, the most important of which being the added layer of security they bring to removing the inadvertent exposure of adult content to children. Perhaps more should be done to educate parents on what these safeguards are?
When identifying the purpose of introducing this filtration then I have to wonder, what it could be? The government is right to take a stance on the protection of our children, a sentiment I whole-heartedly endorse, but it seems this time the thought process behind the decision is somewhat inconclusive. Is this more about grabbing headlines and promoting the vision of a 'thoughtful' government or really about finding an easy solution for protecting young eyes online?
My advice to parents is twofold. Firstly, seek advice on what measures are already open to safeguarding your children online and secondly, don't leave them on the web unsupervised for any lengthy periods of time.
To the Government I would question their reasoning for the introduction and their proposed outcome, when, as a nation, we see continual drops in consumer spending thanks to a difficult and uncertain economy. The mass-filtration of content will only act as another curveball targeted at retailers.