Internet pornography could be blocked from entering the homes of people with children, under plans being considered by the Government.
Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, has called a meeting with the country’s biggest broadband providers, including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, to explore changing how pornography gets into homes.
Instead of using parents having to choose to stop access to explicit websites, through parental controls, a block will be placed at source, meaning adults will have to specifically opt-in to receive the images.
The move is designed to prevent children from being exposed to sex at an early age and follows warnings about the hidden impact of pornography.
However many technology experts said the plans were unworkable even if the broadband providers signed up to a voluntary code.
It relies upon the Government or the internet service providers themselves having a comprehensive and up-to-date list of pornographic websites.
Critics also argued that the move would be "censorship through the back door" and could end up restricting access to many legitimate websites.
The attempt by Mr Vaizey to curb access to online pornography comes as an increasing number of televisions are being sold which allow viewers to watch internet sites through the screens.
Mr Vaizey said: “This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that it’s the ISPs (internet service providers) that come up with solutions to protect children.” “I’m hoping they will get their acts together so we don’t have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.”
A spokesman for Virgin Media said: “We already have an opt-in approach on mobiles. We’re able to block sites, so it would be possible to do the same on the internet. It is just about finding the right approach.”
Daily Mail: Porn, keep out! Parents to be allowed to block computers from receiving sexual imagery
Internet pornography sites will be automatically blocked from home computers unless households request access under an ‘opt-in’ system.
Ministers want to reverse the current situation in which such sites are accessible to anyone surfing the internet, including children, unless a lock is installed.
Under the plans, those who want access to pornography sites would have to ask their broadband firm to make them available.
The Coalition is hoping to persuade Internet firms to devise this system voluntarily, but would legislate if they fail to comply.
The move, under discussion at the Business, Innovation and Skills Department comes as families are increasingly using the family TV set to view websites.
Ministers are to meet broadband providers including BT, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk in the new year.
The plan is to allow parents to 'opt out' of the sites and they will then be blocked at the source, rather than using conventional parental controls.
Adults who wish to view the material would have to choose to 'opt in'.
Following their decision, homeowners would then be able to choose what sites they receive in a cinema style guide, such as U for all ages, or 18 for adults.
The move comes as some of Britain's biggest broadband providers prepare for talks with Communications Minister Ed Vaizey.
Representatives from TalkTalk, BT and Virgin Media are to meet Mr Vaizey to discuss how they can stop pornography being seen by youngsters.
The Communications Minister told the Sunday Times: ' This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) come up with solutions to protect children.
'I am hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.'
The initiative comes following a successful trial by British ISPs to stop innocent people accessing child pornography websites.
Ministers now want companies to use the same technology to stop children accessing adult images. A survey earlier this year said one in three ten-year-olds has viewed pornography.
Tory MP for Devizes Claire Perry, who has campaigned for restrictions said: 'Unless we show leadership, the internet industry is not going to self-regulate. The minister has said he will get ISPs together and say "either you clean out your stables or we are going to do it for you".
'We are not coming at this from an anti-porn perspective. We just want to make sure children aren't stumbling across things we don't want them to see.'
Previously the providers had said implementing the scheme would cost too much and be technically difficult.
However some internet providers now seem happy to implement the scheme voluntarily.
Andrew Heaney, TalkTalk's executive director of strategy and regulation, said: 'Our objective was not to do what the politicians want us but to do what is right for our customers.'
'If other companies aren't going to do it of their own volition, then maybe they should be leant on.'
A Virgin Media spokesman said they had already implemented the technology on their mobile service, as they can leave the home, but said that parents can control what their children see at home and online.
And a BT spokesman said they had a 'clean feed' system to stop access to illegal sites.
The Internet being what it is, I find it unlikely that online pornography can be eradicated any more than music and film pirating. E.g. here is a tale of a company which produces online adult films, and is ecstatic that its movies are being pirated, because it actually allows them to make more money.
Also, I completely fail to see the link between protecting children from sexual abuse and the prevalence of adult pornography. I can't be the only one, can I?
And naturally, there is a lot of hang-wringing about the 'violence' and 'exploitation' inherent to pornography, and how any man who watches it is some kind of crazed sex fiend who shall surely be inspired to act out what he sees on the screen.
Yes, this is surely the first step onto a slippery slope - while men may be ashamed of having to 'opt in' under the proposed law, how long until this is not even an option any more?
No restrictions on erotica (porn for women), I notice - only images.
Strange, because erotica can get very explicit indeed, and if we were really hoping to protect children, I'd think this would be just as high a priority.
Perhaps it's time to stock up on free porn while it's all still out there and available for easy download; for Men Going Their Own Way, it will help you through the tough times ahead.
I intend to purchase several external hard drives for the purpose. LOL!