Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to you about your proposals for default filtering of the Internet.
You have promised parents 'one click to protect the whole family'. This is a dangerous and misguided approach. Focusing on a default on filter ignores the importance of sex and relationship education and sexual health. Worse, you are giving parents the impression that if they install Internet filters they can consider their work is done.
We are individuals concerned about the development of healthy sex and relationship attitudes in young people and adults. We believe that the Internet is not simply a danger to children and young people. "Content meant for adults" is not something young people simply need shielding from. Rather, the Internet needs to be an environment in which young people feel safe to develop their opinions and attitudes to sex and gender, especially where they may not feel comfortable talking to authority figures.
So there is also a broader responsibility, faced by the Government and parents, to ensure children and young people are offered consent-based sex and relationship education.
Simply blocking adult material by default will have three negative consequences. First, it will most likely block too much, especially as the filters will cover far more than pornography. It is likely that the filters will unintentionally block important sites related to sexual health, LGBT issues, or sex and relationship education. This will be very damaging for LGBT young people, for example, or vulnerable adults who may be cut off from important support and advice, in particular those with abusive partners who are also the Internet account holder.
Second, it distracts attention away from the need for consent-focused sex and relationship education and support for young people struggling with challenging issues. Third 'one click to protect the whole family' offers a false sense of confidence and does nothing to combat the real harms that children face, such as stalking, bullying or grooming.
We were extremely concerned, for example, that the Government voted against compulsory sex and relationship education so recently. This would have done far more to improve young people's ability to develop healthy relationships than your ineffective Internet filtering proposals.
We would like you to drop your proposals for default on filtering. We urge you instead to invest in a programme of sex and relationship education that empowers young people and to revisit the need for this topic to be mandatory in schools. Please drop shallow headline grabbing proposals and pursue serious and demonstrably effective policies to
tackle abuse of young people.