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Big UK ISPs All Plan Network Level Adult Website Filtering

Saturday, May 25th, 2013 (8:40 am) - Score 4,054

BT, Sky Broadband (BSkyB) and Virgin Media have all now confirmed that they plan to join TalkTalk (HomeSafe) in launching an automatic network level filtering service in the UK, which would block access to websites that contain “adult” content.

A “network level” solution means that the ISP controls the filtering at its end of the service and this allows any restrictions to be imposed across all your connected devices, although obviously it wouldn’t affect Smartphone’s or similar kit that connect via a separate service like Mobile Broadband (note: most mobile operators already use similar filtering anyway).

However this has raised concerns that some ISPs may adopt the more radical “default-on” approach to internet censorship, which a few politicians have been very vocal about. The problem with this method is that many innocent websites often get caught up in such filters and it also puts the dubious onus on ISPs to decide what their customers can and cannot view.

Sky has already revealed their plans to launch a similar DNS-lookup based solution (here) and at the time they said that parents would be given an “active choice about whether or not to turn filters on” (i.e. it won’t be enabled by default). According to the most recent piece on PC Pro, Sky’s solution is now set to go live within the “next few months“.

Both BT and Virgin Media have also confirmed that they plan to launch a network-level filtering solution by the end of 2013, although neither have confirmed whether their solutions would adopt the controversial “default-on” approach.

Last year the Department for Education (DfE) published its response to the recent consultation on improving Parental Internet Controls. The report found only minimal support for the enforced approach that would require ISPs to block access to adult websites by default (here), although some leading politicians have since given conflicting signals (here).

We support the idea of ISPs giving customers more choice by offering such services, just so long as they don’t enable them by default. ISPs should also provide a selection of content types so that the system doesn’t just blanket ban everything from shops and newspapers to Facebook.

Naturally children will have no trouble finding ways around any of this but nobody seems to care about that. In addition, solutions like this were already widely available, many are offered for free, although once again nobody seems to care about that either.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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30 Responses
  1. Avatar DanielM says:

    So basically Deep packet inspection to “Protect Children” when its really a method to spy on people, since they got rid of the Snoopers charter (or did they?)

    1. Avatar Timeless says:

      my guess is they are trying to sneak it in through the back door without telling us. its not like the government havent been known to lie.. take the bedroom tax Cameron still says it wont affect the disabled, well l know at least 4 wheelchair bound ppl who are being evicted because they have gone into arrears (hasnt even been a month since it was introduced and they are kicking them out).

      then again what do you expect from a government who likes taking away the freedoms of everyone..

    2. Avatar Bob2002 says:

      @Timeless -The Labour Party are pretty authoritarian, they did try to introduce the Interception Modernisation Programme.

      I agree the Conservatives are waging war against some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Around half the welfare bill is pensions but you won’t see cuts to that because pensioners are more likely to vote.

    3. Avatar Timeless says:

      l wouldnt be so sure, under the current government they’ll force things through regardless of what we the public think, how do you think the NHS/Welfare bills got through, they slammed them through or used other legislation to stealth the changes.. no one knows the NHS is being privatised.

      back on topic however, while l do agree the previous government tried to bring in a similar system, my belief is that mandelson was at the centre of it.. he was very cosy with the media industry and lm sure the main idea was to give the music industry an easier way to catch those who serve and download pirated content. however the current incarnation of those plans from the ConDems feels more sinister!

      its the fact that from whats been realesed on the plans profiling wont end with just the addresses you visited and the ppl you emailed, but (correct me if lm quoting inaccurate information) from what lve read instant messaging wont be safe (even if content isnt recorded) and also social networking.

      such information goes beyond the innocent until proven guilty ideals, and the wealth of information that will be collected and retained will have to be useful for something, since the whole idea of retaining information was supposed to be on the ideal that it could be used to catch terrorists.. but since they have been pretty vocal about the plans terrorists will now use non-digital means to convey whatever they convey.. so in essence the whole ideal behind this system will be wasted and to make money back they’ll use it to catch ppl for less serious crimes like happening to visit a banned torrent site or for winning the next elections.. after all that profiling they can use the information to tailor their ideas around the information gathered.. like phorms behavioural advertising.

  2. Avatar Phil says:

    It pointless. I seen many adverts on tv with semi naked female many times. Also at shops nudist magazine too. Some tv show nudist before 9pm too.

  3. Avatar Darren says:

    What a complete waste of time and effort.

    I think it’s time to vote with my feet, the next ISP I choose will be one that doesn’t block websites. Enough is enough.

  4. Avatar Evolution says:

    Time to find a small ISP then 🙂
    Big companies always go to shit eventually anyway, one only need put BT or Talk Talk complaints into google to figure that out.

  5. Avatar Name says:

    I tried to see whether psilocybin was a substance or a mushroom (it’s both), when I visited Wikipedia to find out, the mobile version of the site worked but the desktop version which I prefer was blocked as adult material!!!! (GiffGaff mobile)

    This is censorship and nothing less, it is a dangerous journey onto a slippery slope.

    And blocking information that young people can use to make sensible informed decisions about drugs is f***ing stupid, perhaps the censors would prefer people just tried the drugs instead.

    What else will be blocked? News stories re crimes etc? Breast cancer sites? All sites about Scunthorpe?

    The term ‘Adult’ is very ambiguous, your definition may very well be a lot different from the censors definition.

  6. Avatar Corrado Mella says:

    Internet is a vector, exactly like airwaves for TV or Radio, and ISPs are just like the local transmitters.

    Censorship is better exercised at the broadcaster (the site where the systems serving porn content are) or at the receiving end (PIN protected content).

    I welcome the .XXX domain, the more specific are the TLDs the better internet becomes. Feel free to cram as much pr0n as you want there, but let’s throw in jail for life anybody that hosts it on any other TLD.

    Better yet, let parents protect their children.

    Tories, Labour or Monster Raving Loonies, once they have the power they get sodding drunk with it and think they know better, the ignorants.

    If only we had an official body in charge of IT in this country to mentor the Gov… Oh, wait there’s one – the BCS. Oh, wait… [irrelevant]

    To drive a car, a machine that could kill half a dozen people in a second, we need a driving licence. To use a computer, a machine that could ruin your whole family’s life forever, we don’t.

    Time for a licence to own a computer, me thinks.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      “a machine that could ruin your whole family’s life forever”

      How? Surely the fault is with the user(s).

    2. Avatar Timeless says:

      let parents protect their children? you must be joking right? no offense intended to parents who actually do their job.. but in general when it comes to parents and the internet they are completely lazy.

      most parents treat the internet as a damn day care, let their kids have computers in their rooms and hardly monitor their usage, lve helped out at allot of sites over the years, some of them admittedly adult in content and its beyond me how children manage to join them and getting abuse from parents who found out their child joined a porn site.. if parents did their job to protect their children and monitored their net usage rather than expect someone else to do it for them then ld have allot more confidence in the general public.. but most seem to sherk that responsibility.

  7. Avatar James Harkin says:

    The nanny state. The state believes parents are incapable of raising their children therefore we have increased laws, blocks & censorship … whilst the state submits 5 year old’s to sex education in schools without notifying the parents.

    Who decides what is deemed ‘adult’ content? Where are the checks and balances? Is this merely a baby step to censorship of free speech? We even have the national tabloids calling for censorship of ‘hate’ sites, but again who decides what is deemed ‘hate’ content? Are anti-government, anti-censorship, anti-corruption sites deemed ‘hate’ speech?

    Ultimately I see a brave new world coming, similar to 1984, where political correctness, newspeak – Ministry of Truth – and the approval of the snoopers charter will prevail over the people … where we are all guilty until proven innocent.

    We will all be arrested, fined or imprisoned for what comes out of our mouths, until they find a way to monitor our thoughts and dreams…

    1. Avatar Timeless says:

      sadly some parents are incapable of raising their children when it comes to the internet.. they expect someone else to keep them off adult sites and use the internet as a type of day care rather than keeping an eye on them by not letting them have internet enabled computers in their bedrooms.

  8. Avatar DanielM says:

    And it’s back..


    Excuse “following the Woolwich murder.”

    1. Avatar Bob2002 says:

      What’s wrong with unity between the Conservatives and Labour? I think we can all agree the Iraq war worked out pretty well…

    2. Avatar Timeless says:

      how the hell does telling criminals they are going to be monitored help? the most worrying part is they wont need a warrant to gain access, so that means should we access say the pirate bay they wont need the content to know we have accessed the site.

      that being said, they may say they need a warrant to access the content of our communications.. BUT how often has this government told the truth? and the most disgusting part of this is they are using the recent incident to push it through despite the fact that the person who committed the crimes was known to them.. what that says to me is someone what asleep at the wheel, and its just turned into an excuse to get the legislation through, like l said you tell criminals your going to be monitoring them they will find other methods to keep in touch pushing them further underground!!

    3. Avatar DanielM says:

      “they wont need the content”

      That is just an excuse to try and pass it. they will have direct access to the content. those who know how such a system works know’s this clearly once again they are lieing.

    4. Avatar Timeless says:

      exactly!! the worrying likely development is this will be used to curb protests.. and also stop them being reported, take the recent NHS protest where a man crawled though london pushing a pig with his nose, the only place the report was really published was in the states, those that published the story in the UK were bloggers, and it was completely censored from facebook, you couldnt even post it as the links were deemed spam.

      now think how this snoopers charter will be used to curb that, they will have a database for political dissidents who just report what the media fails to and those who try to arrange peaceful protests will likely have the police at their doors.

  9. Avatar James Harkin says:

    Did anyone have a look at the new Microsoft Xbox One, it really should be called Microsoft Xbox 1984. The potential for abuse and using this device as a spy system in people’s homes is staggering. It records all sorts of personal information. Its always online. With an always on camera. and an always on microphone. Monitoring heart, reaction times, learning and emotional state that is recorded by an external server to be passed on to third parties. If you try and turn it off or disable it in anyway the box no longer functions. You cannot play used games without paying a fee to Microsoft for the privilege since each game will be registered to a specific Xbox. It also applied for a patent offering users Xbox 360-like achievements for watching specific content and adverts. It will also employ DRM measures to prevent more people than the license allows viewing the content at one go. If Kinect senses too many people in the room, it will prompt the users to upgrade the license.

  10. Avatar Bob says:

    Government is playing with fire because of ignorance. If the bill goes ahead it will strengthen the case for
    Pervasive encryption. That is where everything is encrypted even non important traffic. Quite a few websites already come ssl enabled, even google etc. with ssl encryption the government can’t see anything… So by introducing this bill they will make it impossible to achieve their aim, leaving them wishing that they just kept their mouths shut and got on with it the way it used to be.

    If the bill does become law I for one will protest by encrypting everything between me and a server outside the eu and USA, just because I can.

    1. Avatar Bob the builder says:

      Unfortunately SSL is broken and the GCHQ/NSA can view anything inside it.

  11. Avatar RD says:

    Just more Authoritarian bullshit here move along please! This is not even the real bill as snooper charter is coming back.Cameron and labour are going to unite to crush the libdems and rebel tory backbenchers refusing to pass the bill.Once that happens everything will be logged and accessable via a warrant.So once someone has evidence of you downloading a movie the police will get a warrant,maybe seize your computer and charge you with theft.

    1. Avatar DanielM says:

      the point being they wont need a warrant. DPI wont split the content it will all be accessible. all these safe guards they are talking about are not safe at all. just an excuse to try and pass it.

  12. Avatar Darren says:

    We need one goverment pulling in the same direction to improve the country, not be distracted with trying to pick holes in each other to stay in or get into power. Listen to the poeple and work together to do what’s best.

    You don’t need to monitor every scrap of information, anyone can suddenly decide to go on a mass killing spree if they fancy without using a phone or the internet or even talking to another person face to face, logging every scrap of communication in the world can’t stop that.

    It’s terrible what happened to that soldier, but we must not let the few individuals oppress the masses.

    1. Avatar Timeless says:

      indeed, and their tool of choice these days is to get ppl to argue amongst themselves while they take away further liberties.

  13. Avatar Dave Burnett says:

    As my Mrs. said yesterday, ‘Britain is becoming more like 1984 than even George Orwell predicted’

  14. Avatar Four_eyes says:

    PffF another waste of time they be blocking everything and why will be why have the friggin internet the way the isps are going yes sir no sir three bags full sir the government talk out the ass and the isps are just as bad. Id lol when they lose more customers and they drop there selves right in it and they just want to snoop on you and its totally wrong.

  15. Avatar bobby says:

    the Way the poxy government goes they do out what they shouldnt be doing as usual They no matter what they say it will always go because scameron and his bum boys and all the other nooBs like to tax every fcken thing and the worse place top live is the bloody uk . Drop a bomb on the idiots we might see some good news after all

  16. Avatar Joe says:

    We’ve got this the wrong way around.

    It’s ok to watch someone being mutilated or killed, but not natural sex. It’s ridiculous.

    It’s the violence that needs filtering. I’d vote for anyone that will introduce a blanket ban on violence in film, game or any media.

    We are meant to be an advanced society but we still cling on to barbaric ‘entertainment’ like we live in caves!

  17. Avatar Bob the builder says:

    Well said that man

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