THE UK GOVERNMENT has responded to a department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee report from earlier this year that proposed a much less regulated internet environment.
The DCMS suggested that too much internet control could stifle expression and the "free flow of ideas". The government's response agreed with this. The less is more recommendation also won the immediate backing of the UK internet service providers association (ISPA).
The report is wide-ranging and covers issues from child abuse to website filtering. Both the DCMS and the government agree that changes need to be made in some areas, but in the area of net filtering, they agree that less might be more.
"We welcome the committee's acknowledgement that content regulation of the internet could give rise to unintended consequences such as stifling the free flow of ideas and expression that lies at the heart of the development of the internet," said the government in its response.
"The government agrees with the committee that site blocking, while entirely appropriate when it comes to illegal child abuse content, is unlikely to be a suitable approach to restricting access to legal material on the internet. Rather, we believe that the development and implementation of measures that help parents keep their children safe online, such as the free and easy to use family-friendly network-level parental controls [...] filtered public WiFi [...] and raising parents awareness of the risks that exist online is a more effective approach to minimising children's access to such content."
The ISPA was asked to give evidence for the inquiry, and its secretary general welcomed the 'less is more' response from the government.
"ISPA welcomes the government and Ofcom support of the committee's recommendation that 'further content regulation of the internet could give rise to unintended consequences such as stifling the free flow of ideas and expression', and we urge all to keep this principle front of mind when formulating policy in this area," said ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman.
"ISPA argued in its written and oral evidence to the committee that industry takes its role in helping a create a safe online environment seriously through investment, awareness raising and providing free and easy to use tools and services. ISPA is further pleased that government recognises online safety requires a joined up approach with law enforcement, Government and wider society."
Filtering is not likely to disappear though and the government praised ISPs BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk for their work in the area and talked of more to come. A report on the work done by the service providers is due out later this year.
"We agree that other ISPs with domestic customers should consider offering parental control tools and we have been working with the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) to encourage them to do so," it added. We understand a number of the other providers are currently actively working on the development of such tools and we look forward to these being rolled out over the coming year."
Websites that believe that they have been unfairly filtered could expect some formalised system of address, in the future. However, the government said that content producers could do more to metatag their material so that it can be better filtered by ISPs. µ