Americans reject automatic pornography filtering

July 29, 2013, 8:45 PM GMT+0

Most Americans say that automatic online pornography filtering should only occur by request, but a majority still believe that internet pornography is harmful to children

Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that starting soon all Internet Service Providers would filter pornographic materials by default, so that consumers will have to opt-out to access internet pornography. New research from YouGov shows that Americans would reject such a measure if proposed here, preferring that users specifically opt-in to have their internet results filtered.

Overall, 70% of Americans say that a filter on internet pornography should be opt-in, that is, only turned on if requested. On the other hand, 30% say that it should be opt-out, that is, on by default. This result is different from the United Kingdom, where the same questions were asked. 40% of Britons supported an opt-in system, while 46% supported an opt-out one.

Support for an opt-in filtering system remains relatively consistent across different political affiliations with Republicans, Independents and Democrats all favoring it. While the British study found that women preferred an opt-out system and men preferred an opt-in one, this was not the case in the United States. A majority of men and women supported an opt-in system, although support for an opt-out one was more common among women than men.

As for how search engines should deal with internet pornography, opinion ranged from unfiltered access to not linking to pornography at all. 10% say that search engines should not filter out links to pornography, 40% believe that search engines should provide filtering only upon request, 19% say that search engines should provide pornographic results only if requested and 21% say that search engines should never link to pornography at all.

While Americans do not support automatically filtering pornography, they still feel that viewing internet pornography is harmful to children. 67% of Americans say that viewing internet pornography is "very damaging" or "fairly damaging" to children, while only 18% say that viewing internet pornography is "Not very damaging" or "Not at all damaging".

The internet filter discussed earlier was proposed in Britain, but attempts in the United States have been made to protect children from online pornography. On this day 16 years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the anti-indecency provisions of the Communications Decency Act, the first major attempt by Congress to protect children from online pornography. Arguing the law violated the First Amendment protection of free speech, John Paul Stevens justified the decision saying "we have repeatedly recognized the governmental interest in protecting children from harmful materials. But that interest does not justify an unnecessarily broad suppression of speech addressed to adults."

Find the results here.

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