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Internet: Children

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN HL12217, tabled on 18 January 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to develop an internet service provider children protection policy; and what plans they have to require British telecommunications companies to demonstrate that they are taking steps to block child pornography wherever they operate or invest.

Answered on

26 January 2021

The government has no plans to develop a specific internet service provider child protection policy.

Tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse is a priority for the new online safety regulatory framework. All companies in scope will need to ensure that illegal content is removed expeditiously and that the risk of it appearing is minimised through effective systems.

Internet service providers will not be in scope of the duty of care. This is because they do not directly host user generated content or provide search engine services. It would not be proportionate to impose duties on such companies as they do not control if, or how, content is hosted or promoted. Subjecting them to new duties could incentivise broad blocking or removal of websites or apps, which would pose significant risks to freedom of expression and users’ ability to access services. However, they will have duties with regard to enforcement action and Ofcom will be able to require these services, where appropriate, to cooperate with business disruption measures.

Furthermore, the government will produce voluntary best practice guidance for infrastructure service providers, setting out where their actions can help identify and prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse. This guidance will be separate from the online harms regime.

Pornography is a legal activity amongst consenting adults. Children cannot consent to sexual activity under UK law, and “child pornography” is an inappropriate description of illegal sexual abuse. The terms used in the UK are indecent imagery of children (IIOC) or child sexual abuse material (CSAM).