Advertisement
Advertisement

Ofcom: Brits don't want web smut filters

James Temperton
23 Jul 2014
Porn sign
Advertisement

Less than ten per cent of new customers on BT, Sky and Virgin Media have turned on controversial new porn filters

An overwhelming majority of people don't want the government's controversial broadband porn filters, with take-up for Sky, BT and Virgin Media all below ten per cent. A report by industry regulator Ofcom found that most people chose not to block porn from their internet connections, despite ISPs forcing new customers to make an "unavoidable decision" about adult content filters.

The news is a huge blow to the government's much-hyped scheme that requires BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to contact all customers by the end of the year and force them to turn the filters on or off.

An Ofcom report revealed that only 5 per cent of new BT customers turned the filters on, with that figure at 8 per cent for Sky and just 4 per cent for Virgin Media. TalkTalk's Homesafe parental controls system, which has been in place for more than two years, had a much better take-up rate with 36 per cent of new customers choosing to turn it on.

All ISPs are required to 'pre-tick' the box that sets adult content filters to on, but new customers still have to make an active decision during the installation process. All existing BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media customers will also be contacted before the end of 2014 and be forced to decide whether to turn the filters on or off.

BT recently revealed that it would block the browsers of any customers who refused to make the decision, although the ISP refused to provide details of how it intended to do this.

Virgin Media was slapped on the wrist by Ofcom for failing to meet its obligation to get all new customers to make a decision. The ISP revealed that only 35 per cent of customers had been asked to make the choice, a result of engineers rushing through the initial installation process. Following Ofcom's complaints the ISP has vowed to do better. BT, Sky and TalkTalk were found to be offering the filters to 100 per cent of new customers.

As the figures only represent the number of people who signed up for the filters at the time of activation the actual number of people using them could be higher.

The default-on internet filters have proven hugely controversial, with critics arguing that they risk blocking legitimate websites. Pages about sexual health, domestic violence and eating disorders have all incorrectly been blocked by parental control filters in the past.

Web experts have also criticised the filters for giving people a false sense of security. Simple methods allow even novice computer users to access blocked websites, with basic proxy services and even Google Images and Google Translate allowing people to access porn on apparently 'safe' connections.

The Open Rights Group, an internet rights group that has heavily criticised the filters, has also launched a campaign to highlight their shortfalls. The Department of Dirty aims to explain why "filters are bad for the internet" and give advice on how to keep children safe online.

It points out that filters regularly blocked sites that they shouldn't. Talk to Frank, a website that helps educate young people about drugs, is blocked by mobile network Three while BT's filters block the Girl Guides Essex Website. The Open Rights Group also found that BT, EE, Sky and Virgin Media all blocked a website for the South London Refugee Association.

Read more

News