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UK ISP Sky Broadband to Enable Net Censorship for ALL New Customers

Monday, December 21st, 2015 (10:16 am) - Score 2,051

In a controversial move Sky Broadband has today announced that all new UK subscribers will soon have network-level filtering enabled by default when they sign-up (i.e. Parental Controls that block access to “adult” websites).

Under the existing system most customers who sign-up to Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk or Sky Broadband are given the “enforced” option of whether or not to enable filtering, which comes pre-ticked as “Yes” (to disable it you simply un-tick the box). A list of various categories is then offered for censorship (e.g. self-harm, social networking [Facebook], porn, dating, sex education etc.) and or the ability to set an age restriction and access periods for different times of day.

The semi-voluntary approach is seen as being one way to appease wider concerns about excessive use of censorship, not least because such filters don’t actually prevent access to adult content (easy to circumvent) and can also prevent access to perfectly legitimate websites (due to either mis-categorisation or filtering errors). Sadly websites that find themselves being unfairly blocked often won’t find out about it unless a visitor informs them, which can risk a loss of business.

However Sky Broadband has today announced that they will stop giving new customers the option during sign-up and will instead enable filtering by default. The first time a new customer visits the internet they will be informed that Sky Broadband Shield is on and it will be automatically set to 13 until 9pm and then 18 afterwards unless it is amended.

Thankfully customers will still be able to amend the settings, or turn it off if they want, simply by logging into the MySky account management page with their password and changing the settings for Sky Broadband Shield.

Lyssa McGowan, Sky’s Director of Communications Products, said:

Customers have really come to appreciate the value of Sky Broadband Shield in protecting their families from unwanted and potentially harmful internet content. What we have learnt is that as well as the flexibility to set the right level of protection for their homes, they also want us to make it as easy as possible for them.

The simplest thing we can do to help them is to automatically turn on filtering and then allow customers to easily choose and change their settings. This means they can have complete peace of mind that they will protected online from the word go.”

Baroness Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security, said:

Family filters have proven to be an extremely helpful tool for parents to safeguard children from age-inappropriate content. Sky’s “default on” approach is a great example of how industry is exploring different technologies to help keep children safe online.”

A recent study from Ofcom showed that filtering out adult websites had become quite popular with parents who still had children in their homes, although the majority of other subscribers seemed uninterested in the service and did not choose to enable it (here).

Interestingly Sky had already deployed one of the markets most aggressive approaches by enabling the filtering even if the customer missed or ignored their original notice, although that position may be under threat from the new EU Net Neutrality rules (here). As a result the UK Government has hinted at a desire to legislate for a solution, thus Sky appears to be getting a head start and other ISPs could follow.

At present Sky has not set a specific time-scale for their stricter approach to filtering, except to say that it will occur sometime in 2016.

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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.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Captain.Cretin says:

    “Parental Controls that block access to “adult” websites”

    So, anything that isnt Sky, Fox, or Disney then?

    Hang on, doesnt that mean they wont be blocking their own porn channels/websites??

  2. Avatar NA says:

    Do people still use their connections without a VPN? I figured in an authoritarian state like the UK that most of the citizens would be dealing with this shit from their government and would generally use a VPN or proxy.

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