Porn Harms Kids has adopted the term Digital Child Protection Buffers, to refer to the various ways in which pornography harms can be prevented. These Digital Solutions form one component out of three, within our Stage 1 Action Plan 2017-2020, detailed in The Porn Harms Kids Report - protecting our kids from online pornography harms is everyone's business. The Stage 1 Action Plan brings together the core components of digital protection buffers, and cross sector, nationwide educational strategies that are fundamentally supported by legislation, policy and national frameworks.
In the best interests of child safety, health and wellbeing, actions to implement Digital Child Protection Buffers are of vital importance. Other important conversations include the regulation and monitoring of Social Media platforms to provide minimum standards to safeguard children.
THE CURRENT DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT AND OUR PROPOSED SOLUTION
Home filters and device apps: These are currently the most readily known and available response to preventing access to pornography. Home filters and device apps are typically provided by organisations who (most often) charge for their product. They can require a certain amount of technical skill to install the product, and have moderate to high effectiveness rates within the home and on devices, depending on the product. However, when children leave the home to interact within community, they are faced with increased vulnerabilities to ubiquitous pornography.
ISP Level Blocks: This level of buffer can be implemented in 2 main ways. Opt-In block makes provision for individual users to request blocking of harmful websites, including pornography (prohibited content) to be implemented at ISP level. Or Default Block, which makes provision for ‘blanket’ blocking of harmful websites, including pornography (prohibited content) to be implemented at ISP level. Individual users could enact an ‘opt-out’ feature, enabling age-verified users to still access content classified illegal by the classifications scheme. This measure is partially available in Australia with Telstra providing an opt-in block (which occurs a cost for existing users). ISPs would be best supported to implement this measure underpinned by legislation.
Age-verification measures: This is a legislative measure (as adopted in the UK) that creates penalties for online pornographers who do not verify the age of their customers, and ISP level blocking of non-compliant sites. Age-verification occurs through utilising a third-party trusted verification process that accesses existing robust data sources (credit card, mobile ID etc.). This form of eID is currently being implemented in European countries and is intended to protect the privacy of the user, with the site accessed not privy to information other than if the user has been age-verified or not. This measure utilises legislation and regulations that force the pornography industry to comply with existing classification and protective measures already implemented across other sectors (i.e. Film and Media). Age-verification measures have been legislated in the UK and will be implemented in 2018; this buffer is not available in Australia. This measure is best supported through the implementation of legislation.
Mobile device restrictions: This buffer requires that every mobile phone number is an account in its own right (irrespective of the device or handset into which the SIM is installed). Every account is assumed to belong to a child and therefore access to content on the prohibited URL list is restricted unless and until the account holder completes an age-verification measure. This measure is implemented in the UK and relies upon a self-regulated Mobile Network Code of Practice. This buffer is not available in Australia. This measure is best supported through the implementation of legislation.
Safe Public WiFi: This buffer is to ensure safety standards for venues or precincts offering free public WiFi. Entities may include public libraries and council spaces; chain stores; individual businesses; workplace environments; ISPs and secondary providers of WiFi products and services. Through an accreditation process, providers of WiFi must provide evidence to ascertain if the service they provide is safe for use within a public space. Upon approval, they receive a ‘stamp of approval’ to be displayed for public consumer confidence. In the UK, this accreditation process is undertaken by an independent accreditor, Digital Friendly WiFi; some organisations have commenced this process in Australia.
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