Internet provider says government should downplay its focus on online pornography and look at bigger danger.
TalkTalk, one of Britain’s largest ISPs, has told Education Minister Sarah Teather that the government should downplay its focus on pornography filters and try to stop suicide sites instead.
In a meeting with Teather, TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding said: "Suicide is more important to parents than porn, so why mandate [filters against] porn and not suicide?"
According to notes from the meeting in May 2012, released under a Freedom of Information request, Harding said that the government’s plan to make users choose whether to opt in or out of being able to access sites designated as "porn" would be ineffective.
"Active choice by CD is not active choice," she told Teather, referring to some ISPs who offer filter options on installation software sent to customers on CD. "Getting network tools on [the] market needs to happen – TalkTalk is [the] only company with a solution – then worry about [consulting] option or active choice."
A TalkTalk spokesperson said suicide was the most commonly blocked subject matter by customers using its Homesafe content filtering software, followed by self-harm, pornography, weapons and violence in that order.
By 2010, suicide had become the single biggest cause of death for those aged 15-49 in the developed world, accordion to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
TalkTalk, has 4m users for its internet service in the UK, compared to BT’s 6.8m, Sky’s 4.9m and Virgin Media’s 4.5m.
The row over online pornography, and Prime Minister David Cameron’s urging of ISPs and search engines to introduce blocking not just for illegal content, but also to offer the option over access to every user, has led to criticism from ISPs who see it as expensive, and rights groups who see it as a furthering of internet censorship.
Cameron has proposed that by the end of the year, every new internet subscriber will be required to opt in to access porn, but critics have claimed the plans are ineffective because filters can also block material related to education or health, are more easily understood and circumvented by children than by their parents and are ineffective against material shared through peer-to-peer services.