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Call for filters on public wi-fi systems

By Susan Gately - 18 July, 2014

Expert says public wi-fi providers have a duty of care to young people.

smartphone in cafeNineteen out of twenty public wi-fi signals in Dublin city centre tested in a recent survey by the Sunday Times allowed access to porn.

According to the newspaper, there was no filter at all at Costa Coffee and Starbucks in Temple Bar, or on the wi-fi offered by the Temple Bar Cultural Trust (TBCTO), and the Golden Pages near Grafton Street and on an Eircom signal in St Andrew’s Street.

The only company to have a filter that completely blocked porn was Argos.

Some public wi-fi systems blocked pornographic videos, but images could get through.

Businesses falling into this category included Dublin Bus, Marks & Spencer, the public wi-fi provided by Dublin Council and Arnotts.

Commenting on the findings, Simon Grehan of webwise.ie said public wi-fi providers had a duty of care to young people.

“There isn’t much point in constantly calling on parents to spend time and money putting controls in place in the home if they can be easily bypassed by children accessing free open public wi-fi.”

“It is common sense that pornography should be filtered in public spaces where children are likely to hang out,” he told the Sunday Times.

childlineSpeaking to CatholicIreland.net, Margie Roe, manager of Childline, said the public had a responsibility to keep children safe and the ISPCC backed the filtering of public wi-fi.

She believed the situation in Dublin was replicated all over the country in public wi-fi areas.

Ms Roe said there had been an increase in calls to Childline by children upset and confused by pornography.

“They talk about how it made them feel confused, ‘funny’ and uncomfortable. It is a real worry.”

According to Margie Roe, “It is more and more difficult for parents because of mobile accessability. Anything people in businesses and retail can do to support parents is really good. It would be fantastic if more filters were to be put on open wi-fi systems.”

Pornography is bad for children she said.

“It is emotionally upsetting and confusing for very young children, and for older teens, it gives them a skewed sense of what is normal in relationships.  This occurs at a time when they are finding out who they are and it can warp their sense of relationships.”

The simple survey carried out by Stephen Dunne for the Sunday Times in Dublin’s city centre, noted that some connections required no personal details to log on, “while many asked for minimal information such as an email address.”

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