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October 28, 2015

European Union Rules U.K. Porn Filters Violate Consumers' Rights

BRUSSELS, Belgium—According to new rules adopted by the European Union (EU), internet service providers (I(SPs) must treat all internet traffic "without discrimination, restriction or interference," and any ISP committing such violations must cease doing so by the end of 2015. In effect, this would put and end to the "opt in" provisions required by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, which require all internet users to affirmatively tell their ISPs that they wish to view hardcore sexual and/or very violent content on their computers. The rule was put in place by Cameron in 2013 after an extensive campaign by the religio-conservative Daily Mail (U.K.) newspaper, "Block Online Porn." Cameron, himself very conservative, sold the campaign as a way to "protect children" from seeing such material, and supporters of the campaign charged that the new ruling "had left children at serious risk and said it proved Britain had lost control over key decisions on matters of sovereignty," according to an article in the Daily Mail. Cameron, however, claims that he'll be able to keep his censorious system through legislation. "It's absolutely vitally important that we allow parents to protect their children from this material," Cameron told the House of Commons yesterday. "I can reassure her [sic] we secured an opt out yesterday so we can keep our family-friendly filters and will legislate to make this the law of the land." However, as a member of the European Union, such legislation would run afoul of the "net neutrality" ruling and would likely be struck down by judges of the European Court of Justice—a possibility that added more fuel to a growing "Vote Leave" campaign, whose objective is to withdraw Britain from the EU. According to the Daily Mail, "The new rules were passed by the European Parliament as part of a new deal designed to cut mobile phone roaming charges across the bloc. The regulation spells out the rights of users to 'access and distribute information and content … via their internet access.' "It requires internet firms to 'treat all traffic equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference' regardless of the 'content accessed or distributed'," the article continued. "It also prevents providers of internet access from blocking or restricting access to specific content. There is an exemption for illegal content, but this would not apply to vast numbers of pornographic sites." The Daily Mail also suggested that the new rules might not kick in until the end of 2016, but other sources put the implementation to be in effect by the end of this year. The EU ruling was also opposed by Christian Action Research & Education (CARE), a religious U.K. lobbying group affiliated with the American conservative religious group Focus on the Family. "It is shocking that the EU would show such obvious disregard for the clear benefits of online filters," said CARE's CEO Nola Leach. "This ruling is extremely troubling because it could jeopardize the safety of thousands of children and households across the U.K. and mean many more children are exposed to online porn. You would have thought, in light of the all the reports showing how many children are already accessing porn in the U.K. and across Europe that the EU would have pursued more sensible options." On the other hand, the millions of viewers of online adult material in the U.K. can rejoice, since they will no longer have to admit to their ISPs that they want to watch porn.

 
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