A meeting was held at the Home Office on January 19th to discuss the topic of Regulation of Adult Material on the Internet. Approximately 35 people attended the all-day meeting, which was a lively debate.
The original letter sent out to ISPs included the following:
The Internet and similar computer networks are a new and rapidly growing medium for the exchange of information. The Government is committed to promoting their use and encouraging people to exploit the commercial and other opportunities which are offered by the latest information technology. However, there is considerable public concern about the availability of pornographic material on the Net. We are concerned about the protection of children and the control of unsuitable material, but also that the use of the Internet will be discouraged if it is tarnished with an undeserved reputation as a major purveyor of pornography.
At present, apart from the general application of the criminal law, there is no control on the material available on the Net and indeed, given the nature of the system and its world-wide reach, any regulation of such material would pose considerable difficulty. Nonetheless, the Government considers that the risk of children being exposed to harmful material is sufficiently serious to justify careful consideration of the options.
Our present position is that we would want to encourage the industry to develop a system of self-regulation which might address these areas of concern, rather than considering statutory options.
The meeting was organised as a series of presentations and discussions. While there was some digression into the area of illegal material, particularly after Laurie Kelleher's talk, the main topic of discussion was "adult" material and keeping it away from children.
My overwhelming impression was that the government people there had called the meeting with open minds about the Internet and what control it needed. However, they have a real perception, whether or not founded, that there is a need to at least classify the material out there. I think that they would be happy with a code of practice set up by the ISPs, rather than wanting to land themselves with the problem.
All 5 presenters have been kind enough to give me permission to place their slides on this web site. In some cases I have typed or scanned in the contents of a handout, while in others the material in its original electronic format has been emailed to me. Comments added to the material are my own, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the presents; I have been careful to distinguish the two.The first presentation.
Following some discussion on various newsgroups, David Fenton looked at all the child porn groups. This is a good indication of the actual size of the child porn "problem".
One possible technology mentioned at the meeting was PICS.