Home
 » ISP News » 
Sponsored

UPDATE BBC Find UK ISP Filters Fail to Block Porn and Catch Legit Websites

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 (9:10 am) - Score 1,818

An investigation by the BBC’s Newsnight programme has unsurprisingly discovered that the new generation of network-level Internet filtering (censorship) technologies, which are being adopted by all of the major broadband ISPs, often catch legitimate websites in their net and can also fail to block porn. Big SHOCK? Nope.

The Government has pushed hard for the big Internet Service Providers (i.e. BT, TalkTalk, Sky Broadband and Virgin Media) to introduce its new Active Choice Plus system via a voluntary code of conduct (here), which is designed to help combat online porn and other “adult content” deemed to be “harmful” to children.

The system will give both new and existing customers an “enforced” choice about whether or not to enable censorship of their Internet connections (though the “Yes” box will be pre-ticked), which also includes the ability to select from a variety of different categories (e.g. porn, self-harm, social networking).

However, much to the surprise of absolutely nobody with any technical knowledge, the BBC’s study found that TalkTalk’s filter failed to block 7% of the 68 pornographic websites in their sample but Sky’s managed 99%.

Similarly both ISPs and their filters also caught legitimate websites too, with Sky blocking six sites for tackling “porn-addiction” and TalkTalk’s blocking the award-winning British sex education site BishUK.com and the Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (note: both were classed as “pornographic” by the filter).

Justin Hancock, Owner of BishUK, said:

It’s really frustrating because I’m trying to provide a sex education site for young people and it’s hard enough directing young people to good quality information on the internet.”

Various other sex education sites were also blocked, including one that’s taught to 81,000 American children. BT was also found to block sites including Sexual Health Scotland, Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline and Reducing The Risk, a site which tackles domestic abuse.

Readers of ISPreview.co.uk will note that we’ve been highlighting problems like this for several years and all three of the above ISPs similarly admit that no Internet filtering technology can ever be 100% perfect. In addition to poor categorisation of content, technical errors can also result in wrongful blocking and many children will have little trouble circumventing the skin-deep censorship systems.

At present the block lists themselves remain in the control of third-party commercial companies (e.g. Symantec) and there appears to be no easy appeals process for having a website removed if it’s been wrongfully censored. Separately eyes have also been raised over some of the categories that ISPs include in their various filters, with for example BT choosing to include “Fashion and Beauty” sites (here) under its “strict” category (though this doesn’t seem to block Amazon or Advertising companies with related products).

The Government has previously promised to ensure that legitimate sites are not blocked but quite how they achieve that, given the technologies inherent fallibility, remains unclear and we won’t see proper oversight without it being enshrine in complex legislation; this would carry its own problems for smaller ISPs (e.g. cost). If the filters just focused on porn then this wouldn’t be such an issue but the signs of mission creep are already there. At least you can turn the filtering off, provided you can remember where to do it.

In the meantime a lot of legitimate online businesses could face financial harm due to overzealous filters, which they might not even be aware of until it’s too late to complain about.

UPDATE 21st December 2013

Meanwhile TalkTalk have been criticised after it blocked the website of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats and BT’s filter has been slammed for including an option to block “gay and lesbian lifestyle” sites, as well as sexual health information. Naturally some parents might wish to sweep issues such as sexuality under the carpet but funnily enough that doesn’t stop a person from being gay.

Share with Twitter
Share with Linkedin
Share with Facebook
Share with Reddit
Share with Pinterest
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.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar dragoneast

    It seem to me that (as usual) it is easy to blame “new” technology for a lot of “old” problems. Child abuse and exploitation is as old as the hills, and much of what comes to light is from those physically in contact with children. I don’t understand it, but is it that those so inclined will find a way to access the material, whatever; and as with drugs and any addiction it’s the addiction itself that’s the problem, and what there is a demand for will be supplied. But that’s hard. We’ve had the war on drugs targeting the supply (to stop people becoming addicted) for half a century, and it looks to me as though its failed. They’re still rife, and embedded in the culture more than ever. Is the thrill even the element of “danger” and “releasing inhibition” or something? Déja vu?

    I actually wish these initiatives success, but fear they may be doomed to failure. There will be collateral damage, but that might be a price worth paying if the measures had a reasonable prospect of success. What is success, by the way?

  2. Avatar cyclope

    These filters won’t do anything to stop or make it any more difficult for peado’s to distribute their sick material, Because the filters won’t find it,and it’s extremely unlikely that someone browsing the web will stumble up on such material,
    Also most if not all ISP’s subscibe to the IWF who’s job it is to filter this type of material

    This is not about stopping the distribution of CP, No it’s about censoring the internet, not for the good of the people ,but for the good of the policitians and some of the big corporations that they have personal interests in
    I don’t want a walled garden for an internet connection and nor would i pay for such

    • Avatar timeless

      l dont totally agree its just because they want to control the internet, there are other ulterior motives buried in there too, they want to get re-elected so they have picked a popular idea amongst parents on the run up to the elections as the majority of parents are too lazy to keep an eye on their childrens internet usage and think of the internet as some kind of daycare.

      but as the article states, the whole blocking of legitimate sites along with legitimate blocks was known from day one.. yet they pushed ahead regardless mandating ISPs to run these blocks, what does surprise me is the fact it took so long for someone to say “hey your not just blocking intended sites but your also blocking legitimate content and ruining their businesses and you dont seem to care.”

  3. Avatar CrazyLazy

    Shocker….. Government idea FAIL! Who would had thought 😉

  4. Avatar sex

    hi there! , I like your creating and so a great deal! amount we all continue your distance learning more to do with your current document for America online? I would like a pro within this place to end my own issue. It’s possible that is definitely a person! Waiting for expert anyone.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £19.95 (*22.00)
    Avg. Speed 50Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Promo Code: HYPER20
  • NOW TV £22.00 (*40.00)
    Avg. Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • SSE £22.00
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • xln telecom £22.74 (*47.94)
    Avg. Speed 66Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £22.95
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Prices inc. Line Rental | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. BT (2690)
  2. FTTP (2529)
  3. FTTC (1738)
  4. Building Digital UK (1677)
  5. Politics (1572)
  6. Openreach (1537)
  7. Business (1354)
  8. FTTH (1274)
  9. Statistics (1187)
  10. Mobile Broadband (1156)
  11. Fibre Optic (1033)
  12. 4G (999)
  13. Wireless Internet (985)
  14. Ofcom Regulation (984)
  15. Virgin Media (960)
  16. EE (666)
  17. Sky Broadband (649)
  18. TalkTalk (631)
  19. Vodafone (624)
  20. 5G (459)
Promotion
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
Sponsored

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact