Home » 

UK ISP News Archives

By: MarkJ - 21 December, 2011 (11:23 AM)
internet stop signo2 broadband ukThe Open Rights Group (ORG), which seeks to preserve and promote your online digital rights, has accused Mobile Broadband operator O2 UK of unjustly blocking access to the website of a Sheffield based church group (The Crowded House).

The restriction, which appears to have been in place for at least four months, is usually imposed upon sites that "feature adult content". A quick check of the related website appears to show no related content of any significance, yet O2 has refused to remove the block; partly because their staff don't seem to know how.

Gervase Markham, An O2 UK Customer, said:

"My wife and I just moved to Sheffield and joined a network of churches called The Crowded House. I used my O2 Mobile Broadband to try and access their website, but it told me it was “18+ content”! When I contacted O2, my first email was rejected due to having “insufficient information”. I finally managed to find a contact form which worked, and they told me that I could “solve the problem” by having my mobile enabled for 18+ content! I told them that this was definitely not what I wanted, and refused to go through their age ‘verification’ procedure. Fixing the censorship for me alone is not a proper fix.

The next thing I knew, a text arrived on my phone saying “you can now access 18 rated content”. I had to explain to my wife quite why I was getting a text saying that. … To get them to reinstate the block, which they had removed without my permission, I had to call them. They told me they'd change it back, but then left me a message to say that they couldn't reinstate the block without my date of birth! I had to fight my way through their support menu system again to give it to them.

During the call, an O2 representative told me that he and his manager knew of no procedure for appealing against a block. He said that the block wasn't just for 18+ content, but it was also for things which might corrupt the morals of children. I asked him if he was describing my church's website in that way, which he hastily denied. He told me they unblocked people's phones all the time because they couldn't access perfectly innocent websites. I suggested that perhaps that this indicated that the system wasn't working very well."

The news follows a similar situation last month in which Vodafone UK was found to be preventing its Mobile Broadband customers from accessing the legitimate commercial websites of two leading clothes retailers (here). In that case the situation was a little more understandable because both sites featured some pages with female and male underwear models, although the content was relatively harmless and not 18+ material (NOTE: Vodafone finally unblocked them this week).

By contrast the ORG fears that blocking access to a church could, at the most extreme, potentially prevent some people from "exercising their freedom of religion and expression". In fairness mobile operators often use automatic blocks that do make mistakes, but that's all the more reason to make sure that a simple process exists to rectify them.

Ideally customers should be given a choice, at the point of sale, about whether or not to enable an adult content filter on their connection (much as some fixed line broadband ISPs are already doing).

The ORG's Executive Director, Jim Killock, said:

"It's Christmas - we expect to hear a lot from churches across the UK. But it seems, if church websites even refer to sex, they are likely to be banned by automated blocks, for every child in the UK, and any adult who doesn't wish to explain to their mobile operator that they might want to ‘adult content’.

O2 need to behave less like Scrooge and unblock church websites this Christmas - and provide proper, transparent complaint mechanisms."

ISPreview.co.uk has asked for O2's reaction to the news and we have been told that they are currently investigating. We hope to have a response shortly. In the meantime a new website has been setup where people can report any unjustified blocks by mobile operators - http://www.blocked.org.uk.

UPDATE 1:57pm

Added an official comment from the Open Rights Group above.

UPDATE 2:24pm

An Orange customer claims that they are also being prevented from viewing the site, although users of Three (3) still seem able to access it.

UPDATE 22nd December 2011

A member of the O2 Social Media Team has given a statement to the Open Rights Group (ORG) and confirmed that the block will be/has already been removed.

O2's Social Media Team

"We were alerted to this earlier this week and immediately contacted our supplier in order for the site to be reviewed. We have received confirmation that the URL had been incorrectly categorised by the automated system and will be unblocked by tomorrow.

Like all UK operators and ISPs, O2 blocks access to illegal images of child abuse, as defined by the Internet Watch Foundation. Quite separately, we also have policies in place for content rated 18+. All the operators subscribe to a Code of Practice for the self-regulation of new forms of content on mobiles (which can be found here). As part of this, mobile operators created the Independent Mobile Classification Board (IMCB), which provides a classification framework for commercial content that they promote or market.

O2’s internet filter is aligned to the IMCB framework. Sites are automatically categorised and, if they are classified suitable for those aged 18 and over, they require age verification. The Internet is so vast this can only be done in an automated way. Inevitably this means that some websites are mistakenly caught up in the block. Where that happens, we will of course listen to our customers and take action to unblock sites, where appropriate, as quickly as possible."

Option: Link | Search

Generated in 0.21147 seconds.
DB queries: 6
 Latest UK ISP News
 Cheapest Superfast Broadband ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £19.95 (*22.00)
    Avg. Speed 50Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Promo Code: HYPER20
  • SSE £22.00
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited (FUP)
    Gift: None
  • xln telecom £22.74 (*47.94)
    Avg. Speed 66Mbps, Unlimited (FUP)
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £22.95
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Plusnet £22.99 (*35.98)
    Avg. Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £70 Reward Card
Prices inc. Line Rental | Compare More ISPs

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