UK: Charity warns ‘web filtering will harm LGBT young people and vulnerable adults’

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An LGBT domestic violence charity has called on the government to reconsider proposals for default web blocking as it could restrict legitimate access to non-pornographic LGBT websites.

Last month Prime Minister David Cameron demanded that search engines compile a black list of illegal terms which should produce no results in the battle against images of child abuse.

Under government plans all internet services will in future be automatically set to block adult content when they are sold to domestic customers.

However, LGBT domestic violence charity Broken Rainbow is particularly worried about the harmful impact that such filters would have on LGBT people experiencing domestic violence and abuse – whether from partners or family – as for many the internet is the first or the only source of information and support.

The charity has joined with Trans Media Watch, gay men’s health charity GMFA, Schools Out, LGBT Consortium and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation in highlighting the concerns.

Broken Rainbow warns “there are already plenty of unnecessary restrictions from schools, local authorities, and libraries that do not allow people to access content that is useful, legal, and sometimes vital,” adding: “The extra filters will only worsen this access even if the government is suggesting that there will be a ‘White List’ of allowed sites.”

Milena Popova, Broken Rainbow Trustee, said: “My main concern is that the proposed web filters are highly unlikely to fulfil their stated purpose. Children and young people will continue to have access to pornography while parents are lulled into a false sense of security.

“At the same time, young people will find it more difficult to access information they desperately need, for instance on sexual health or LGBT issues. There are better, more effective ways to protect young people, including statutory, comprehensive sex and relationships education.”

Federico Podeschi, Broken Rainbow CEO, added: “Whilst we fully support initiatives that reduce risk and harm for young people, vulnerable adults, and LGBT people experiencing domestic violence and abuse, we need to ensure that more effort and investment is made to understand and consider the needs of the LGB and Trans* communities.

“We urge the Prime Minister and the government to reconsider this proposal and the impact it might have especially on those that have less access to appropriate and inclusive information, education, and support: this should be the focus of the proposal rather than restricting access further.”