from the isn't-this-how-it's-supposed-to-work? dept
Last week Techdirt wrote about the possible introduction of an "opt-in" license to view porn online in the UK. As we noted then, there is nothing to stop parents from installing their own filters to block access to certain kinds of Web sites now. But it seems that soon, they won't even have to do that:
There’s a report in today’s Sunday Times that ISP TalkTalk is planning to offer an "adult" filter to all its customers. The "HomeSafe" system will, according to the report, block websites that are considered unsuitable for the under-18s. That isn’t just porn, but also includes self-harm, drugs and violence. Other major consumer ISPs, such as BT, are working on their own systems but don’t have them ready yet.
This is precisely how the market is supposed to work: if there is demand for something that is not currently on offer, then businesses will develop new products to meet that demand.
What’s interesting about today’s report, though, is that a spokesman from TalkTalk is quoted as saying that offering filters to new customers has increased customer retention. It seems that their customers do want them, and are more likely to stay with TalkTalk if they’ve got them.
That means that rather than incurring costs for imposing censorship on everyone unless they opt out, as the UK government may require, ISPs could instead make money through reduced churn by giving customers something they want.
As the author of the article quoted above, Mark Goodge, points out:
It also gives the lie to two other common claims made by pro-compulsion campaigners: that ISPs are irresponsible and parents don’t care, and the only solution to both of those is legislation. In reality, a lot of parents do care about what their children are accessing on the Internet, and will choose to use a system which does screen out the worst of it if that option is available. And ISPs are responsive to consumer demand, so they’re choosing to offer that to their customers.
It's particularly ironic that it should be the UK's Conservative Party that is contemplating this move. It generally prides itself on promoting business and minimizing government interference in people's lives; here, it is doing the exact opposite.