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Big UK ISPs All Plan Network Level Adult Website Filtering

Saturday, May 25th, 2013 (8:40 am) - Score 4,126

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.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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