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ISPs baulk at Department of Education request

Not keen on unknown campaign
Mon Jul 15 2013, 12:50
Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament in London

THE UNITED KINGDOM Department of Education (DoE) has earned itself a black mark from internet service providers (ISPs).

The DoE sent ISPs a letter, the BBC reported, in which it asked them to commit to some industry changes and give a timeline for their rollout.

"I am emailing to ask for some specific action which the prime minister plans to announce shortly. This follows a meeting yesterday at No 10 yesterday to discuss a range of child internet safety issues including parental controls and filters," said the letter.

"The prime minister would like to make some further specific requests of industry and his office have asked us to ask you when you could deliver the following actions."

These actions would include nudging people in the direction of parental controls, adopting age verification, and switching the term "active choice" for the less ambiguous "default-on".

"We are all aware of the really excellent work that you are doing and but there are a number of specific areas that the prime minister thinks need further immediate action," it added.

"You are likely to receive a further message from colleagues in DCMS and the Home Office regarding tackling illegal images but given the short deadline for this work we thought it better to give you some time to work on these issues in the meantime. I need to report back to No 10 by the end of the week on these points so I would be grateful if you could consider this request as a matter of urgency and respond by midday Friday. Apologies for the very tight deadline and grateful for your help with this work."

When we spoke with the Department of Education it said that it wasn't sure that the letter would have come from it. We are waiting for more information from the department.

However, we have heard from Virgin Media and BT. A Virgin Media spokesperson told The INQUIRER, "We're committed to ensuring every Virgin Media household makes a clear and informed choice about implementing parental controls and we continue to work closely with Government, law enforcement, expert organisations and the rest of the industry to tackle this issue and keep families safe online."

A BT spokesperson added, "We can confirm that major ISPs are meeting Ms Perry today as part of routine dialogue with government on online child safety."

Where ISPs have commented to the BBC, they have expressed shock at the suggestions, saying that changing "active choice" to "default-on" is "both misleading and potentially harmful".

The firms are also not keen on the idea that they should have to fund some sort of educational campaign to inform parents that there is more to the internet than ponies, unicorns and sherbert.

"The prime minister would like to be able to announce a collective financial commitment from industry to fund this campaign," added the letter.

"I know that it will be challenging for you to commit to an unknown campaign but please can you indicate what sum you will pledge to this work that the PM can announce." µ


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