Online measures to protect children from porn ‘flawed’

Children will be able to change filter settings without having to prove their age under the plans. Picture: Contributed

Children will be able to change filter settings without having to prove their age under the plans. Picture: Contributed

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Online protections encouraged by the government could allow thousands of children to “freely” access adult material without their parents’ knowledge, peers have been warned.

Former children’s TV presenter Floella Benjamin said she was aware that internet service providers (ISPs) have agreed an e-mail alert must be sent to the account holder should filter settings – designed to restrict access to pornography and other adult material – be changed.

But the Liberal Democrat peer labelled such a measure “completely unsustainable” and said the person seeking to lift the filters must be required to prove they are an adult.

She warned that research suggested many people do not do not check their e-mails, especially ones from their ISP, meaning parents may not realise filters have been lifted by their children.

Lady Benjamin, who presented Play School, raised her concerns as the House of Lords debated the Online Safety Bill.

She said: “Most people would find it very odd that the government should have encouraged the industry to provide adult content filters but in a way that makes it perfectly possible for children, as well as adults, to lift them.”

Lady Benjamin said this 
results in a “dangerous situation” and one that needs addressing.

She added: “In the first instance, the whole point about age verification is that it is something you do before, not after, allowing an age-restricted activity.

“In the second instance, the means of providing retrospective protection through this system is in any event very weak.

“Even if someone reads their e-mails very quickly, it will probably take several hours before they can do anything about it. During that time, their children could be freely accessing adult material.”

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