ISPs That Block Porn Could Be in Breach of New E.U. Guidelines

Aug 31, 2016 1:54 PM PST

BRUSSELS — Internet service providers that filter online access to porn or block ads now could be breaking E.U. net neutrality guidelines even if customers opt-in to porn filters.

According to an update to guidelines issued yesterday by the E.U.’s Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC), even if a user indicates they want certain content to be blocked, it should be done on the users own device rather than at a network level.

"ISPs are prohibited from blocking or slowing down of Internet traffic, except where necessary," BEREC said. "The exceptions are limited to traffic management to comply with a legal order, to ensure network integrity and security and to manage congestion, provided that equivalent categories of traffic are treated equally."

BEREC published draft guidelines on how the rules would be implemented by E.U. member states in June, and opened up dialogue for six weeks of public comment, garnering about half a million responses. 

The draft guidelines aimed to strengthen net neutrality by requiring ISPs to treat all traffic equally, but the regulations contained loopholes raised concerns among net neutrality advocates including a provision that would have allowed ISPs to create fast lanes for certain services.

Yesterday’s updated guidelines hold that the BEREC does not consider that end-user consent enables ISPs to engage in such practices at the network level.

“End-users may independently choose to apply equivalent features, for example via their terminal equipment or more generally on the applications running at the terminal equipment, but BEREC considers that management of such features at the network level would not be consistent with the regulation,” the body said.

Interpretation of the E.U. guidelines in the U.K., which has opted for porn filters, will be taken into account by communications czar Ofcom, which will consider its application and enforcement in Britain.

According to the Guardian, an Ofcom spokesman said: “Ofcom will monitor compliance with the new rules, and look into any complaints received. We will consider any potential breaches as they arise in accordance with our interpretation of the regulation, and drawing upon the BEREC guidelines to inform our approach.”


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