Legal porn? UK move to block explicit web content may violate EU law

(Reuters/Daniel Becerril)
Britain’s online porn filters championed by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013 could become unlawful under proposed EU legislation, which is due to be voted on in the autumn.

Approved on June 30, the Single Telecoms Market Bill was designed to create a digital single market across Europe. However, British legal experts warn it holds serious implications for internet neutrality and online porn filters in the UK.

Due to be voted on by the European Parliament in autumn, the Bill would scrap mobile phone firms' roaming charges throughout the EU from June 2017 onwards.

It would also enshrine the concept of internet neutrality in EU law. Such a policy shift would prevent the blocking of web-based content, services and applications across the bloc.

READ MORE: Tory plans to block online porn could breach EU law

The legislation will also grant Europeans access to the same web content irrespective of the country they live in. This is not currently possible in Britain, following a government ruling in 2013 that sexually explicit or violent content should be blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

News of the potential clash between UK and EU law first surfaced in May, when a EU policy document was leaked.

Denis Keseris, a lawyer specializing in information and communications technology, backs the proposed reforms. "If you're a German customer who wants specific content, you should be able to access it in the UK as well,” he told the International Business Times on Wednesday.

John Carr, who advises the British government on internet safety, said that the legal changes could be very damaging.

"The risk is that a major plank of the UK's approach to online child protection will be destroyed at a stroke," he told the Sunday Times.

"It all seems a bit sneaky or tacky for this to have come about as the result of a measure which, ostensibly, has nothing whatsoever to do with online child safety."

Others argued that the removal of the automatic filtering process would leave vulnerable children in a precarious position.

In May, the Chairman of Mobile Broadband Group, Hamish MacLeod, said children should not be tasked with the responsibility of filtering online content. The lobby group represents Vodafone, Three and EE among others.

This will undermine the government’s family friendly policy for the internet,” MacLeod said.

Anybody can buy a pre-pay phone so are we seriously saying that children will be given the responsibility to ask for parental controls to be imposed?