U.K. online porn filters have unwanted side effects

Online Porn Filters

The four main Internet service providers in the U.K. including BT, Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk have turned on their porn filters either in full or in pilot programs, some starting in May 2011, with others only recently deploying the “family-friendly” site blocking service. However, these filters apparently fail to block all online pornography, and actually end up blocking various useful services that customers may want to access including sex education, sex health, abuse and porn addiction websites. The porn filter, endorsed publicly by U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron in a campaign meant to stop children from “stumbling across hardcore legal pornography,” failed to block 7% of 68 porn sites tested by BBC News, while Sky’s filter blocked 99% of the tested websites.

However, the filters deem various websites and online services as pornography, including BishUK.com, “an award-winning British sex education site,” the Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Center, Sexual Health Scotland, Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline, and Reducing The Risk. Commenting on the matter, the ISPs have said that each subscriber can manually customize the filters, and therefore these sites can still be accessed. Furthermore, the ISPs will further work to improve the categorization of online content and develop the filters. The UK Council for Child Internet Safety also has a group in place discussing the problem of over-blocking websites.

BT's online porn filter prompt | Image credit: BBC News

BT’s online porn filter prompt | Image credit: BBC News

All Internet users in the U.K. including new and existing subscribers will be prompted to decide whether they want to opt in or out of the service. Next year, the four main ISPs in the region will launch a £25m advertising campaign to inform parents about the benefits of the newly deployed blocking filters. In addition to porn, Cameron also wants to block extremist sites in the country.

Source:
BBC News
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