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UK ISP BT Retail Clarifies Common Questions for Adult Website Blocking Code

Posted: 12th Oct, 2011 By: MarkJ
internet padlockbt retail ukThe recent announcement that four of the UK's largest broadband ISPs, including BT , TalkTalk , Virgin Media and Sky Broadband (BSkyB), had agreed to a new Code of Practice with the government (full details) that would result in customers (parents) being given an option to block adult websites (i.e. "a choice at the point of purchase") has caused a great deal of confusion.

Readers of certain newspapers will have no doubt been given the impression that what had been adopted was significantly more robust and aggressive than it actually is. By contrast a number of other reports expected no change whatsoever. As a result ISPreview.co.uk put a series of common concerns to BT in the hope of clarifying precisely what, if anything, has changed.
Does the system default to a mandatory opt-in solution or will it be off until you choose to switch it on?

BT: It's the same Mcafee Parental Controls we've (BT) offered for years. The only difference is that at set-up new customers will be forced to make an active choice to apply or not apply them.

Other than adult pornography and child sexual abuse images, are any other kinds of content to be filtered under the code (e.g. violence, file sharing sites etc.)?

BT: There are 35 categories of content customers can block, including gambling, hate sites, suicide sites, violence.

Will the system block an entire website if, for example, somebody posted adult images on a public Facebook page or images of exposed breasts and bums as can sometimes appear on certain newspaper sites?

BT: It's Mcafee's product, but you can either block a website or block a category, so the parent chooses the extent.

How does the system treat educational web content, such as images of genitalia that might appear on Channel 4's web pages for their 'Embarrassing Bodies' and 'Sex Education' TV shows?

BT: The block takes into account context as well as content.

Who makes the blocking decision and can any wrongful blocks, should they arise, be appealed?

BT: Mcafee produces the software. Individual parents apply individually tailored blocks for members of their family, so Mcaffe/ISP are not choosing what to black, Mrs Jones from Acacia Ave is.
As our original article alluded (here), this is not the overzealous mandatory opt-in censorship that some have feared it to be. Different ISPs will of course have different solutions and the system itself is never going to be perfect but, crucially, it remains a matter of consumer choice.

So far all ISPs have agreed to do is "force" customers to make an "active choice" about whether or not to apply the existing parental controls; and doing more to remind existing customers about the free parental controls available.

None of this is to say that the government won't still try, at some point in the future, to force a similar system onto all of us in one form or another but for the time being that hasn't happened.
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