The idea of how to police the internet has always been a complex one, and striking a balance between protecting those who use it, in particular those who are not yet adults, remains something that we have not achieved. The idea of restricting what ISP (Internet Service Provider) subscribers can be allowed to access has been debated as long ago as the turn of the century, and over the last fifteen years we’ve watched our legal system frantically try to modernise to keep up.
Most recently, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to make filters blocking adult material to be the default experience for ISP subscribers. Predictably, this has not gone as planned, and in December there was widespread media coverage of mistakenly blocked websites restricting the subscribers access to sex education, and the websites of several LGBT organisations. Oddly enough, this was an improvement from the prior attempt to turn on the filters which blocked access to Childline, and suicide prevention websites.
Many healthcare professionals will have experience of filtering and blocking, and some of you may well have had the unfortunate experience of phoning your IT service attempting to convince them that you’re not in violation of their policies, but just doing your job. This blogger had the misfortune to be on call one weekend, when the employing trust’s filter reset itself to the full default settings, rendering access to all abortion related content impossible. This was rectified as soon as IT were back in office, but children wishing to access impartial advice about sexual health, seeking help and advice about relationships or worse, those in crisis who need urgent access to information to keep themselves safe, may not have that option.