Do you want web filters?

Internet service providers (ISPs) may soon have to offer Internet filtering tools for free to their broadband and mobile subscribers under new rules proposed by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

MDA would also like adult content to be filtered by default for parents with young children, according to its consultation documents released yesterday.

It is seeking the public's view on whether they prefer an opt-out option, where parental controls are switched on by default. The proposal follows similar legislation in Japan and Britain, to protect the young, The Straits Times reported. Additional functions beyond filtering may come at a cost.

Filtering tools can help parents monitor the sites that their children visit and restrict access to certain sites. But there are limits to what filters can do. For instance, they cannot filter objectionable games and apps within valid websites.

Ms Koh Lin-Net, MDA chief executive officer, said that awareness among parents towards the availability of filtering tools is "low", resulting in the "low" 100,000 subscriptions to these tools. Filtering typically cost $2 to $5 a month.

This is despite earlier efforts to get ISPs to market filtering tools more aggressively.

The MDA has since February 2012 required ISPs like SingTel, StarHub, M1 and MyRepublic to "actively promote" Internet filtering tools to broadband consumers.

The mandatory requirement was extended to mobile subscriptions in June 2012 as access to information has become easier with the popularity of mobile devices.

The MDA may impose a fine or suspend or cancel the ISP's class licence if any one is found flouting those rules.

MDA said it has not warned any ISP for flouting these rules so far.

This article was published on April 22 in The New Paper.

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