David Cameron is set to announce today that internet providers will block pornography for every household in the UK – unless they actively opt-in to receive it. The Prime Minister will state that access to pornography is “corroding childhood” and further steps must be taken to stop it. Furthermore, search engines will be given until October to introduce additional measures to block illegal content.
Interestingly, earlier this month, Twitter quietly updated its iOS and Android mobile app to hide “sensitive material”, including nudity, violence or medical procedures, behind a warning label. This means it will be harder for users to accidentally encounter potentially distressing content whilst using the platform. Twitter’s update is also based on an opt out system – users have to actively change their settings to “view media that may contain sensitive content without a warning”.
Does this suggest a pattern of blocking potentially harmful content online unless the user pro-actively opts out?
Let’s take a look at another major social media platform: Facebook. Last month Facebook, after a sustained online campaign, announced it would remove ads from pages which contained controversial content – a move which would prevent adverts appearing next to offensive material beyond the advertisers’ control. Although Facebook already removes Pages and Groups containing illegal content, there have been calls from activists to improve its process for identifying and removing pages with sensitive content, specifically ones that glorify violence against women. Although Facebook has stated it takes dealing with offensive content “really, really seriously” it also suggests that the goal of their new procedure “won’t be as much content policing as there will be advertising policing”. As such, it seems Facebook is not considering an “opt out” system. Rather, removing ads from controversial pages means that activist groups may find it harder to get advertisers, and the media, to listen to their concerns.
So will social media be subject to further restrictions? Is Britain moving towards a system where users must actively opt-in to view sensitive material? Join the debate: leave a comment or tweet us @iftweeter