A recent effort to aggressively push Internet filtering technology by British Prime Minister David Cameron is having an impact on the other side of the Atlantic, judging by the interest being expressed in a citizen’s petition to the White House, and a similar one in Canada.
The petition on WhiteHouse.gov takes advantage of online system set up by the Obama Administration to elicit feedback. The petition for filtering had been signed on Wednesday by 42,322 – not quite half of the 100,000 necessary to merit a response from the White House.
The petition calls for "greater protection and responsibility from Internet Service providers…. We are asking that people who are interested in porn should have to seek it and choose it. They should have to 'opt-in' for it by making arrangements to receive it with their Internet Service Provider.”
In the United Kingdom, Cameron announced in July that he and the nation’s broadband providers had agreed to a measure that would likely curtail pornography use in the country. At the end of 2013, new Internet users in the United Kingdom will begin to receive, by default, web services filtering out sexually-explicit materials. Adults already subscribing to Internet services who want to receive online pornography must affirmatively request – or “opt-in” – get their telecommunication providers to turn off the Internet filter.
A similar petition to the Canadian government has been posted on the web site change.org, which allows petitions to governments besides the United States.
The two sisters from Nova Scotia who started that petition, Amanda Hatt and Kristine Smith-Podeszwa, explained their thinking to Atlantic CTV News: "If you’re walking along the sidewalk in Halifax and someone exposes themselves to you indecently, that’s illegal. But if you’re on your computer in the privacy of your own home and someone exposes themselves to you, that’s not illegal, and we’re seeing a discrepancy there.”
The petition on WhiteHouse.gov was posted by a person identified as M.B. from Greenbrae, Calif. It was created on Oct. 24, 2013, and has until Nov. 23 to reach the 100,000 threshold.
The web site Life Site News compares the recent effort in the U.K. to a similar filtering proposal by Australia in 2010. In that case, the United States State Department “expressed its concern to Australian officials, and released a statement reiterating the U.S.’s commitment to 'advancing the free flow of information, which we view as vital to economic prosperity and preserving open societies globally,'" wrote Kirsten Andersen.
Andersen went on to explain that broadband companies filters aimed at pornography might restrict content that adults wish to view in their home.
Among those who have been critical of Cameron’s filtering approach include the Open Rights Group in England. When British Internet service providers were asked by the group’s Jim Killock about what content they plan to filter by default, the companies said that not only would pornography be blacklisted, but also violent and weapons-related material, extremist and terrorist-related content, anorexia and eating disorder websites, suicide-related websites, alcohol, smoking, web forums, and web-blocking circumvention tools.
Speaking of Cameron’s attitude toward the need for filters, "[Cameron] said he was not trying to 'lecture' adults about what they watch in their homes but said that the Government wanted to give parents an 'opportunity take a more positive role' in controlling what their children can look up online," Georgia Graham wrote at the Telegraph.