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Madras HC summons DoT, ISPAI over parental controls plea to regulate internet content

The Madras High Court has summoned the secretary of the Department of Telecommunications and the secretary of the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) for failing to respond to the court’s notice on a plea to regulate children’s Internet use, the Deccan Chronicle reports. It ordered them to appear before the court on April 8 to respond to a petition filed by S Vijayakumar of Madurai. The Court also said that the government and ISPs had an important role to play in providing a parental window and awareness about parental control software.

The petition called for ISPs to set up a ‘parental window’ – an ISP-level parental filter of sorts – that would come built-in with internet connections. It asked that the government and ISPs do more to spread awareness about parental control software. The petitioner also said that the national and the state commissions for the protection of child rights had failed to invoke their powers to prosecute ISPs that did not regulate content.

However, it is not clear how such a parental widow could be set up and implemented at the level of ISPsThe government had issued a circular on March 27, 2017, calling on ISPs to spread awareness among their subscriber base about the use of parental control filters. But the court said that it did not know if ISPs had complied with this.

Last September the home ministry launched a portal where people could report online sexual abuse, rape and child abuse content anonymously. A joint secretary of the home ministry said the portal would help stop the online circulation of such content. A similar initiative was run in 2017 as well.

ISP-level parental controls in the US and the UK

ISPreview has reported that next month, the UK government will introduce a new age verification system targeting websites and apps with pornographic content. ISPs will also be required to block sites that fail to comply with the new rules. According to the report, all the major ISPs in the UK should already be giving their subscribers a choice over whether or not to block adult content via network-level parental controls.

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The five largest ISPs in the US – AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Spectrum – also offer varied packages for parental monitoring and control, according to Bark.us, a company that produces parental control software.

European Commission’s expert group for children’s safety online 

On February 5, the European Commission announced the creation of a new Expert Group on Safer Internet for Children to help improve coordination and cooperation between EU Member States and propose actions to keep children safe online through age ratings and parental controls. The first meeting took place on March 6 in Brussels.

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