BBC: Porn Filters Block Sex-ed Sites

Dec 18, 2013 4:45 PM PST

LONDON — Porn filters used by the U.K.'s major ISPs are blocking sites offering sex education and advice on sexual health and porn addiction, the BBC reported Wednesday evening.

News of over-filtering also coincided with another BBC report that the new default filters are also failing to block hardcore porn-hosting sites.

Adult content filtering is now turned on by default for new U.K. customers of three of the four major ISPs — TalkTalk, Sky and BT. Virgin plans to launch its own network-level porn filter before the new year, making it the last big ISP to bow to Prime Minister David Cameron' s demands.

By the end of 2014 all existing U.K. broadband customers will be presented with an unavoidable choice about installing porn filters that they will not be able to skip.   

Among the sites TalkTalk blocked as "pornographic" was, a British sex education site, which receives more than a million visits each year, the BBC said. BT, which just rolled out its filter last week, blocked sites such as SexualHealthScotland, DoncasterDomesticAbuseHelpline and ReducingTheRisk, a site which tackles domestic abuse. Sky, meanwhile, blocked six porn-addiction sites.

As for letting porn flow into users' computers unencumbered, TalkTalk's filter blocked 7 percent of 68 pornographic websites tested by the BBC, while Sky blocked 99 percent of the adult sites.

Spokespeople for the telecoms offered an array of responses over the BBC's findings:

  • A TalkTalk spokesman said: " Sadly there is no silver bullet when it comes to internet safety and we have always been clear that no solution can ever be 100 percent. We continue to develop HomeSafe and welcome feedback to help us continually improve the service."
  • A Sky spokesman said: "We know that no one single technology currently provides all the answers. That's why we have a quick and easy way for misclassified sites to be unblocked. Any Sky home has the ability to fully customize their filters."
  • A BT spokesman said: "Categorizations are constantly updated to keep pace with changing content on the internet and we will investigate any concerns and make changes as necessary. BT Parental Controls can be customized to suit each individual family's needs."

The four major ISPs will fund a £25 million advertising campaign in 2014 to explain the filters and other aspects of children's safety online.


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