eSafety, Blocking search terms, blocking adult content – Will our young people then be safe online? 1

Well, what a week!

I spent the weekend in Daventry with other adults in Scouting from across the UK, discussing eSafety and how as an organisation we can further empower our young people to make the best decisions in the online world.

Together it was very much decided that we have to push CEOP’s (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) ThinkUKnow training to as many young people in Scouting as possible. Everyone at the weekend is now a CEOP Ambassador and we can all train other adults to deliver the training to young people.

I look forward to working with everyone from the weekend, including Sam Marks and Steve Reeves from The Scout Association’s Safeguarding Team to further develop a strategy suitable for the biggest co-educational youth movement in the UK.


It wasn’t until I got home that I fully read the articles in the media from David Cameron about how he was going to stop child sexual abuse images being displayed in search engines when people search for them.

Lets just think about this for a moment, people actively go to Google and search for images showing the sexual abuse of children?

Now… I some how doubt that Google is at fault here… I very much doubt that offenders use popular search engines to find images. The data held by the search engines would make tracking this user very easy.

I’m not saying lets not block exact search terms provided by the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) of known images and videos to stop them appearing in search results, but I do not agree that this will actually stop any abuse of young people.

In-fact, if offenders are being so ‘stupid’ to use search engines, why are we not tracking them and putting them through the justice system?


But let’s not just stop here, lets announce plans for blocking all adult content on the internet by default.

Now, Yes I agree that young people should have filters on the equipment that they are using, but putting a filter on the ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) is probably one of the worse ideas possible.

How do the ISP’s decide what goes on these lists?

I had a default filter on my mobile phone internet a couple of years ago, the number of times it falsely identified websites as containing adult content was unreal! Things like news sites, search results and even my own Scout site where the only content aimed at adults was how to volunteer!

I’m sure these filters will not cover peer 2 peer software and torrent sites, so will make little difference to the young people who regularly download music and films from these services illegally.

What is adult content?

Lets try a few scenarios,

So a 14 year old student learning ¬†or doing an essay in Biology… Can they access the resources they need to complete their school work?

A young person who has been sexually abused and is looking for help and support online – these websites would contain many keywords which I’m sure would come under adult content.

Now, I’m all for protecting young people, but if we are not careful we could be doing more harm than good!

If these default filters stop young people from accessing the help and support they require, in a time of urgent need, when a young person is at the lowest point in their life and without the help and support they may only be thinking of one option. I for one would really hate to see the outcomes! It will not be nice!


Let’s not just go with election winning news paper headlines, lets think about the impact before we potentially cause more harm than good!


One comment on “eSafety, Blocking search terms, blocking adult content – Will our young people then be safe online?

  1. Reply Ken Corish Jul 25,2013 7:47 pm

    Very much sums up how most people feel about this, with the exception of the Daily Mail and certain political commentators. It is very well meaning but fraught with problems not least of which is the argument that access to information is a human right in itself. I think this is less about illegal content and sexual predators and more about government shaping what we see and have access to.

    It goes without saying that the issues we are attempting to deal with now in schools is the result of 12 years of heavy end filtering on school systems that have actually crushed the utility and power of the internet as a tool for teaching and learning in the first place. there is a a concerted movement now in educational technology to change this; the opposite of what is happening on domestic internet connections.

    There are only three solutions: education, education and education. That is the best way to build resilience and empowers.

    After all, prohibition in 1920’s US really worked, didn’t it?

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