Melon Farmers Original Version

Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK

Government push for ISPs to block porn


Social media, fake news and website blocking...

Ofcom reports on how children use media and how their parents monitor this usage

Link Here29th November 2017
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
54% of 12- to 15-year-olds use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, to access online news, making it the second most popular source of news after television (62%).

The news that children read via social media is provided by third-party websites. While some of these may be reputable news organisations, others may not.

73% of online tweens are aware of the concept of 'fake news', and four in ten (39%) say they have seen a fake news story online or on social media.

The findings are from Ofcom's Children and Parents Media Use and Attitudes Report 2017 . This year, the report examines for the first time how children aged 12 to15 consume news and online content.

Filtering fake news

The vast majority of 12-15s who follow news on social media are questioning the content they see. Almost nine in ten (86%) say they would make at least one practical attempt to check whether a social media news story is true or false.

The main approaches older children say they would take include:

  • seeing if the news story appears elsewhere (48% of children who follow news on social media would do this);
  • reading comments after the news report in a bid to verify its authenticity (39%);
  • checking whether the organisation behind it is one they trust (26%); and
  • assessing the professional quality of the article (20%).

Some 63% of 12- to 15-year-olds who are aware of fake news are prepared to do something about it, with 35% saying they would tell their parents or other family member. Meanwhile, 18% would leave a comment saying they thought the news story was fake; and 14% would report the content to the social media website directly.

Children's online lives

More children are using the internet than ever before. Nine in ten (92% of 5- to 15-year-olds) are online in 2017 -- up from 87% last year.

More than half of pre-schoolers (53% of 3-4s) and 79% of 5-7s are online -- a year-on-year increase of 12 percentage points for both these age groups.

Much of this growth is driven by the increased use of tablets: 65% of 3-4s, and 75% of 5-7s now use these devices at home -- up from 55% and 67% respectively in 2016.

Children's social media preferences have also shifted over recent years. In 2014, 69% of 12-15s had a social media profile, and most of these (66%) said their main profile was on Facebook. The number of 12-15s with a profile now stands at 74%, while the number of these who say Facebook is their main profile has dropped to 40%.

Though most social media platforms require users to be 13 or over, they are very popular with younger children. More than a quarter (28%) of 10-year-olds have a social media profile, rising to around half of children aged 11 or 12 (46% and 51% respectively).

Negative online experiences

Half of children (49%) aged 12 to 15 who use the internet say they 'never' see hateful content online. [1] But the proportion of children who have increased this year, from 34% in 2016 to 45% in 2017.

More than a third (37%) of children who saw this type of content took some action. The most common response was to report it to the website in question (17%). Other steps included adding a counter-comment to say they thought it was wrong (13%), and blocking the person who shared or made the hateful comments (12%).

ISP Website blocking

Use of network level filters increased again this year. Nearly two in five parents of 3-4s and 5-15s who have home broadband and whose child goes online use home network-level content filters, and this has increased for both groups since 2016, part of a continuing upward trend.

Use of parental control software (software set up on a particular device, e.g. Net Nanny, McAfee Family Protection) has also increased among parents of 3-4s and 5-15s, to around three in ten.

More than nine in ten parents of 5-15s who use either of these tools consider them useful, and around three-quarters say they block the right amount of content.

One in five parents who use network-level filters think their child would be able to bypass them, although fewer 12-15s say they have done thisOne in five of the parents of 5-15s who use network-level filters say they think their child would be able to unset, bypass or over-ride them; more likely than in 2016. This is similar to the number of 12-15s who say they know how to do this, although fewer say they have ever done it (6%).



Update: Blocking European concerns...

Government introduces new clause to confirm the legality of internet website blocking as an option for internet broadband subscribers

Link Here 26th January 2017
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
= Europe has voiced legal doubts about the current regime of ISPs defaulting to internet censorship unless subscribers actively choose to opt out of the censorship. So now the government has introduced a new clause into the Digital Censorship Bill currently in the House of Lords explicitly enabling ISP network level website blocking.

Thomas Ashton, a minister from the DCMS has tabled the following amendment:

Internet filters

(1) A provider of an internet access service to an end- user may prevent or restrict access on the service to information, content, applications or services, for child protection or other purposes, if the action is in accordance with the terms on which the end- user uses the service.

(2) This section does not affect whether a provider of an internet access service may prevent or restrict access to anything on the service in other circumstances.



Offsite Article: Ofcom's Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2016...

Link Here20th November 2016
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Use of network level website blocking systems has increased since 2015 among parents of 5-15s. Around a third now use them (33% for parents of 3-4s and 31% for parents of 5-15s).

See article from



Update: Didn't we have the same news last year?...

Sky Broadband announces that it has turned on default website censorship for all customers with a change to when the question is asked

Link Here8th July 2016
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Lyssa McGowan, Brand Director, Communications Products announced on the Sky Blog:

From today, Sky Broadband Shield will be automatically switched on the moment a new customer activates their Sky Broadband. At the end of last year, we said that we wanted to do even more to help families protect their children from inappropriate content. The first time someone tries to access a filtered website, the account holder will be invited to amend the settings or turn it off altogether. It ensures a safer internet experience for millions of homes, while still giving account holders the flexibility to choose the settings most appropriate for their households.

Our experience has shown that this Default On or as we call it Auto On approach leads to much greater use of filtering. Last year, we adopted Auto On with some of our existing customers which we found delivered much higher engagement and usage of Sky Broadband Shield. Around two thirds of customers we rolled it out to have continued to make use of the software. This is much higher than anyone else in the industry using other approaches. Customers are typically just asked whether they want to switch on filtering when they activate their broadband. It means take up rates are between only 5 and 10% because customers ignore the choice put in front of them or automatically click no without considering the implications.

This is why we decided to make Auto On standard practice for all our new Sky Broadband customers including our soon to be launched new NOW TV Combo service. Furthermore over the coming months we will be contacting millions more Sky Broadband customers who haven't yet made a decision about Sky Broadband Shield. If they don't respond, we will switch it on for them and invite them to amend or switch it off themselves.



Update: ISP website blocking not widely used in the UK...

Ofcom report on the uptake of ISP website blocking suggests that about 10% of broadband users opt for the blocking to be turned on.

Link Here18th December 2015
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

An Ofcom report on Internet Safety Measures provides an update on the steps taken by the UK's four largest fixed-line internet service providers (ISPs) - BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - to offer an unavoidable choice, both to new and to existing customers, whether or not to activate a family-friendly network-level filtering service. This followed an agreement between the Government and the ISPs, under which the ISPs committed to present the unavoidable choice to all new and existing internet customers by the end of December 2014.

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) asked Ofcom to report on internet filters and online safety, including the measures put in place by the ISPs. This fourth report focuses on recent research, the progress made by the ISPs, and other developments during the past year.

Perhaps the most interesting stats in the report are the takeup of the ISP's web blocking systems. A decision on whether on not to turn on the blocking was made mandatory for all users in 2015.

  BT Sky TalkTalk Virgin
% Existing customers opting for blocking 5 62 5 11
% New customers opting for blocking 8 6 33 24
% All customers opting for blocking 6 30-40 14 12

The 62% of existing customers for Sky who have apparently accepted website blocking seems a little strange given that all ISPs have prompted all users to make a choice.

The subtle difference is that Sky went a little further and turned the blocking on for all subscribers who did not respond, whereas the others set their systems to require a selection whenever there was an attempt to use the system, but did not turn it on fro none responders. The inference is that the discrepancy is explained by a large amount of Sky subscribers that never use their broadband have been included in the 62% figure. Presumably the broadband is offered in packages with Sky TV when perhaps a significant number of customers don't use the service for browsing the internet.

Assuming that is the case then perhaps the 6% for new customers is a better estimate of Sky users who have turned on blocking. As a rough estimate, incorrectly assuming all ISPs are similar sized, the average uptake of network level website blocking is 10%.



Update: Obfuscated Stats...

Sky Broadband says that the majority of families opt for some level of adult content blocking

Link Here 14th July 2015
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Sky Broadband has issued a strange press release boasting of the uptake in its internet website blocking service whilst not revealing the relevant stats that underlie the claim. The press release leads with the paragraph:

Millions more families across the UK are enjoying the internet in safety following the successful roll out of Sky Broadband Shield. Sky's award-winning free internet filtering and safety tool is now active in over 70% of the homes in the roll-out to customers who had not previously made a choice, with the majority of families keeping the parental controls in addition to the malware and phishing protection Sky Broadband Shield provides.

One would suspect that 70% of subscribers are opting for some level of website blocking, but this does not necessarily mean that all of these are blocking adult content. Sky Broadband Shield includes the option to just block malware and phishing sites, which is probably a popular option.

On the subject of blocking the likes of porn, then Sky just says that the majority of families select this option. The Daily Mail notes that the ISP TalkTalk said that about 36% of subscribers are families with children, so Sky's comment about the 'majority of families' probably means something over 18% of total subscribers selecting the adult content blocking levels.

Of course the Daily Mail is quick to rush to the conclusion that 70% of subscribers are blocking porn ...maybe just as Sky intended.

Sky also make the point that far more people have turned on some level of blocking because they were forced to make a decision, than before when they were merely told that options were available. Sky writes:

Following the introduction of Sky Broadband Shield in 2013, Sky initially asked its existing customers to choose whether or not to turn Sky Broadband Shield on, and new customers were required to choose whether or not to turn it on at activation. Beginning in January 2015, Sky then rolled Broadband Shield out to all customers who hadn't already made a choice about whether to activate it or not.

Sky took the decision to roll out Sky Broadband Shield to customers after the Government challenged ISPs to look at how they protected children and families online. By making the default position of Sky Broadband Shield on and making it easy to adjust or decline at any time, Sky gave customers a choice about whether they wanted the protection whilst making their online safety a priority.

Sky's decision to give customers a choice about Broadband Shield whilst making the default position on meant that many more customers took an active interest in what the product offers. When customers were previously emailed and asked to choose, less than 5% engaged. This evidence supports Sky's unique approach as the safest and easiest way to protect families online.



Update: Something's Got to be Done But Cameron Doesn't Care What...

Open Rights Group are the first to ask serious questions about how ISP website blocking will be implemented, and who will be responsible for getting it right, and who will publish the rules?

Link Here20th July 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Over the past few weeks the Government has held meetings with Internet companies about child protection online. These are designed to prompt more more action to protect children, on the assumption that these companies could and should be doing more.

Sadly the Government has seemed keen to appear as if they are taking tough action, and not so keen on thinking carefully about what their action should be.

Policy makers who are pushing for more Internet filtering for child protection do not take the related practical and technical questions seriously. They tend to throw about ideas for technical interventions such as internet filtering without considering how these would work, or what unintended consequences they might have.

They simply want more done. What that more is, or what it will achieve, seems to be an irrelevant detail. This is despite the Government having run a consultation last year, after which they settled on a fairly reasonable policy of helping parents make the right choices about filtering. They seem determined to edge towards a stricter default on regime.

We have seen no evidence that during the meetings with internet companies the Government has taken account of any of the broader public policy questions related to the implementation of Internet filtering systems. Along with Index on Censorship, English PEN and Big Brother Watch, we wrote to the Culture Secretary Maria Miller asking her to invite us to the discussions so these issues could be raised. The Department has subsequently set up a meeting between us and the Minister Ed Vaizey MP.

The details are very important. Internet filtering can easily block more content than it is designed to -- for example, if people do not understand what is being blocked and why, or if sites are incorrectly categorised. People may also easily get around blocking. It can give people a false sense of security. Making Internet filtering fit multiple devices, ages or beliefs within a household or other setting is almost impossible. And there are other consequences, such as the speed of access or an impact on privacy where traffic or blocking events are logged.

That's why we are putting these questions to ISPs. We will be sending the questions and replies to the relevant policy makers, and will hope to explain to them why we think these are important questions.

Twenty questions for ISPs on Internet filtering systems

A. On how the technology works

Under the Internet filtering system set up following discussions with the Government about online safety and child protection:

1. Is any traffic of users who are not opted in to filtering inspected and / or logged? If so, is it logged in a way that links the traffic to a subscriber? What logging will there be of blocking events? How does this work?

2. Is filtering applied to all forms of connection offered by the ISP (dialup, ADSL, cable, fast fibre connections etc)?

3. Have you estimated the impact of the through-put of filtering technology on the speed of users' internet access (both for those who are opted in and opted out)?

4. We are concerned about the impact on Internet applications in general as well as web traffic. Does filtering take place only of HTTP traffic on port 80, or will other traffic be affected? What steps will be taken to avoid interfering with non-HTTP traffic on port 80, for example non-HTTP applications that use this port in order to bypass firewall restrictions?

5. What impact does the filtering have on end-to-end security measures such as SSL or DNSSEC?

6. Can you guarantee that your networks will not be susceptible to mistaken blocking as a result of using specific IP addresses for forwarding filtered traffic, for example as seemed to happen in a case involving Wikipedia ?

7. Have you made any estimates on the impact of filtering systems on infrastructure upgrades?

B. On setting up the filtering

8. Are users faced with pre-ticked boxes when choosing to activate filtering? What is the impact on customers who do not have access to or who do not use a web browsers on a network such as a home broadband connection that is only used for Smart TV video on demand applications? (ie who will not be presented with a web-based set up screen?)

9. How granular are the available choices? Will a household be able to cater for:

a. Multiple ages or a variety of beliefs? b. Can specific sites be unblocked by a user?

10. Have you done user-testing for your opt-in systems?

11. What information about the filtering is available at the point of sign up? Does it include:

a. Detailed information about what types of content are blocked, with examples? b. The providers of their filtering tools, if a third party is involved? c. Information about the possible problems with and limitations of blocking, with information about how to report problems?

12. What age-verification processes will be in place? How will this work?

13. Is a customer's decision not to activate filtering a one-off decision, or will it have to be periodically repeated?

C. On managing problems and mistakes

14. When a site is blocked, what information is supplied to the end-user about why and how it has been blocked?

15. Are there easy ways to report mistaken blocks, either over-blocking or under-blocking? Are these clear when users encounter a block?

16. Are there easy ways for people to check if URLs are blocked, and will this include a reporting tool for requesting corrections and reclassifications?

17. How will complaints, from both your subscribers and from owners of sites that are blocked, be dealt with?

a. Are there plans in place to train customer service staff for dealing with these reports? b. Are there targets for dealing with mistakes in a timely manner, or estimates of how long responding to and correcting mistakes will take? c. Will you share error reports and corrections with other ISPs?

18. Have you specified acceptable error rates to suppliers of filtering services? If so, what are they?

19. Have you sought legal opinions relating to liability for incorrect blocks, including both false positives and false negatives? Do you have plans to offer compensation for businesses harmed by blocking errors, for example when potential customers are unable to access the site?

20. Are there or will there be systematic reviews of the effectiveness and quality of filtering, including reporting on problems and complaints? Is there a process for review and improvement? Is there or will there be an ombudsman or other oversight body to handle disputes and review performance?



Update: Governed by the Daily Mail...

Government tries to push ISPs to spin their internet censorship options as default blocking

Link Here 16th July 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

A letter sent to the UK's four leading ISPs from the government has made them very cross indeed. So cross that someone in the industry has passed it to the Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC.

The letter comes from the Department for Education but it sets out a list of demands from Downing Street, with the stated aim of allowing the prime minister to make an announcement shortly. The companies are asked, among other things, for a commitment to fund an awareness campaign for parents. They're not particularly happy about promising cash for what the letter concedes is an unknown campaign

But it also asks them to change the language they are using to describe the website censoring options they will be offering to internet users. Instead of talking of active choice + , they are urged to use the term default-on.

A person at one ISP told Cellan-Jones the request was staggering - asking us to market active choice as default-on is both misleading and potentially harmful .

The letter reads:

Dear All,

I am emailing to ask for some specific action which the prime minister plans to announce shortly. This follows a meeting yesterday at No 10 yesterday to discuss a range of child internet safety issues including parental controls and filters. The prime minister would like to make some further specific requests of industry and his office have asked us to ask you when you could deliver the following actions.

1. Implementing browser intercept

I understand that Talk Talk will be trialling a browser intercept to force existing customers to choose either to proceed with parental controls (pre-ticked), choose their own settings or turn them off completely. The prime minister wants to announce that by the end of the year, every household with a broadband internet connection will have had to make a decision to opt-out of installing filters. Will the other three ISPs consider making a commitment to adopting this approach - even before it has been trialled?

2. Age-verification systems/closed-loop

The prime minister expects customers to be required to prove their age/identity before any changes to the filters are made. I understand that you will all be implementing closed-loop systems which will notify account holders of any changes that are made to the filters and that you have robust systems in place but please could you all confirm the precise information that is required to enable customer to access, set-up and change their filters?

3. Awareness campaign for parents

I understand that it was agreed at Claire Perry's meeting a few weeks ago that Talk Talk, BT and others would undertake some further research to establish what the focus of the campaign should be. The prime minister would like to be able to announce a collective financial commitment from industry to fund this campaign. I know that it will be challenging for you to commit to an unknown campaign but please can you indicate what sum you will pledge to this work that the PM can announce.

4. Using the phrase default-on instead of active-choice +

The prime minister believes that there is much more that we can all do to improve how we communicate the current position on parental internet controls and that there is a need for a simplified message to reassure parents and the public more generally. Without changing what you will be offering (ie active-choice +), the prime minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions are default-on as people will have to make a choice not to have the filters (by unticking the box). Can you consider how to include this language (or similar) in the screens that begin the set-up process? For example, this connection includes family-friendly filters as default [or as standard] - if you do not want to install this protection please un-tick the box (obviously not intended to be drafting). Would you be able to commit to including default-on or similar language both in the set-up screen and public messaging?

We are all aware of the really excellent work that you are doing and but there are a number of specific areas that the prime minister thinks need further immediate action. You are likely to receive a further message from colleagues in DCMS and the Home Office regarding tackling illegal images but given the short deadline for this work we thought it better to give you some time to work on these issues in the meantime. I need to report back to No 10 by the end of the week on these points so I would be grateful if you could consider this request as a matter of urgency and respond by midday Friday.

Apologies for the very tight deadline and grateful for your help with this work.



Extract: Claire Perry's Total Nonsense...

The problem with the 'debate' over online porn is the two sides aren't even speaking the same language

Link Here 21st June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Claire Perry, the Prime Minister's special adviser on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood , has three demands which she claims will save the world from the horrors of porn. First, that internet service providers and other internet companies block child pornography at its source; second, that any sort of simulated rape pornography is banned; and third, that pornography is banned from public WiFi.


Claire Perry isn't web-savvy enough to realise her own proposals are total nonsense. Her objections are based on beliefs, not on evidence or fact. It's shabby and embarrassing that we are blundering into making policy based on what Ms Perry feels might work, rather than the truth.

...Read the full article



Update: A Watershed for the Internet...

Claire Perry and co are holding a series of one sided internet censorship brainstorm sessions

Link Here 15th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

This week has seen a series of meetings seeking ideas and support for internet censorship in the name of child protection. There was a Sunday Times sponsored session, followed by Westminster Media Forum discussion, and the culmination will be a government led meeting with ISPs and major internet companies on 17th June.

Here are a few of the ideas being discussed.

Scary messages on attempted access to banned websites

BT has announced that any of its customers attempting to access web pages on the Internet Watch Foundation's list of identified images of child sexual abuse will now see a message telling them the site is blocked and the reason why.

Under the current system, the site is blocked but internet users only see an Error 404 message. The move comes amid growing concern that internet companies need to do more to tackle online child abuse. BT's new message is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The message will read:

Access has been denied by your internet service provider because this page may contain indecent images of children as identified by the Internet Watch Foundation. If you think this page has been blocked in error please contact

Presumably the scare value is tied in with the government snooping and keeping records or websites visited.

Network censorship on by default

Parental filters for pornographic content will come as a default setting for all homes in the UK by the end of 2013, says Claire Perry, David Cameron's personal Mary Whitehouse. Speaking at a Westminster eForum on 14 June she explained:

Internet service providers (ISP) will be expected to provide filtering technology to new and existing customers, with an emphasis on opting out, rather than opting in: [In the UK] we will have filters where if you do nothing, the parental filters will come pre-ticked .

Internet watershed

Perry explained:

Features such as time-limited deactivation of filtering and email updates when filter settings are changed are expected to become widespread. We will have automatic put on, so if you turn the filter off at 9pm, it turns on again at 7am

Public WiFi only suitable for kids

 Perry confirmed that as expected, the government is pushing ahead with restricting all public Wi-Fi spots so that they are free from all adult content.



Offsite Article: A Great Week for Nutters...

Link Here 14th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Mediawatch-UK gloats about the almost daily meetings to discuss internet censorship. But how come the nutters are getting away with bollox about child porn being readily available via a trivial google search?

See article from



Offsite Article: The genie of unlimited filth is out of the bottle and no law can stop us polishing our lamps...

Link Here14th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
The worst thing about this debate is that it turns a real-world, complex problem into a simple moral choice. By Laurie Penny

See article from



Update: British Democracy in Action Over Internet Porn...

Start with moral panic; dismiss evidence; legislate; and finally, watch the policy unravel, either delivering unintended harms, even to children in this case, or simply failing altogether

Link Here14th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

On Tuesday, Jim Killock of Open Rights Group spoke at an event organised by the Sunday Times and Policy Exchange about online pornography and child protection. This was in the run-up to the opposition debate that took place in Parliament on Wednesday on these topics. He reports:

The motion laid down by Labour says:

That this House deplores the growth in child abuse images online; deeply regrets that up to one and a half million people have seen such images; notes with alarm the lack of resources available to the police to tackle this problem; further notes the correlation between viewing such images and further child abuse; notes with concern the Government's failure to implement the recommendations of the Bailey Review and the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection on ensuring children's safe access to the internet; and calls on the Government to set a timetable for the introduction of safe search as a default, effective age verification and splash page warnings and to bring forward legislative proposals to ensure these changes are speedily implemented.

The "1.5m" statistic has been debunked elsewhere, but the alarming point here is the deliberate conflation of child abuse images and legal material, potentially accessed by children. The motion slips from talking about child abuse images, to 'safe searches' to protect children from seeing adult material. Just as worrying is the adoption of a position in favour of default blocking by Labour. You can read a transcript of the debate on Hansard .

This is a symptom of a wider problem with this debate - a failure to properly distinguish between different categories of content, and the different methods of dealing with them.  That requires at least some understanding of the technology - the details matter.

A further problem is an unwillingness from some MPs to appreciate or even acknowledge the problems with technical solutions. In the debate on Tuesday, I tried to outline the problems with filtering, including the over and under-blocking of content.

Claire Perry helpfully described such problems as a   load of cock . Helpfully, because such a comment would be very likely to be caught by a filter and cause it to be blocked, while not, of course being pornographic. 

Claire also got applause for suggesting that blocked websites were simply collateral damage necessary to protect children. This is the kind of woolly thinking that thankfully got rejected by her government, which recognised that economic harm stems from blocking legitimate websites, for instance. After all, if you can protect children, and avoid blocking for adults, why not? Can some balance not be struck?

Unfortunately, in the eyes of many MPs, arguing for balance is betraying children. If any children can access more porn than we can technically prevent, then we have failed. Of course, filters don't always work and can be easily got round, but if our solution helps a bit, surely that is better than nothing?

These kinds of position, once you examine them, are pretty incoherent. Filters that don't work well will probably get switched off. Defaults that block too much may encourage people to remove the filters. Parents may assume their children are safe when filters are switched on. Software design is iterative not legislative; yet legislation is often favoured over industry engagement.

The child protection debate over the last two years has won Claire Perry many friends, who believe she has raised the profile of an issue and got results. Certainly, the fact that ISPs are building network level filters points to this, but I was intrigued by a question at the debate on Tuesday. Apparently children are installing Chrome, because it was suggested that helps them access porn sites and gets round filters.

We did try to tell Claire this kind of thing would happen, before she persuaded ISPs to spend millions of pounds on network filters. Even with filters, if parents leave children with admin privileges, they will be able to use their computers to trivially defeat any blocks. Some MPs in the debate in Parliament suggested only 'very clever' folk will be able to get round filtering. This isn't true -- most children will find this easy.

Which leaves us with the harms on all sides, to websites, adults and children, without the supposed benefits.

Labour have essentially made the same mistake as Culture Secretary Maria Miller's letter to online companies, in which she invited Internet companies to a proposed 'summit':

Recent horrific events have again highlighted the widespread public concern over the proliferation of, and easy access to, harmful content on the internet. Whether these concerns focus on access to illegal pornographic content, the proliferation of extremist material which might incite racial or religious hatred, or the ongoing battle against online copyright theft, a common question emerges: what more can be done to prevent offensive online content potentially causing harm?

It is clear that dangerous, highly offensive, unlawful and illegal material is available through basic search functions and I believe that many popular search engines, websites and ISPs could do more to prevent the dissemination of such material.

The debate and letter confuse legal, illegal and potentially harmful content, all of which require very different tactics to deal with. Without a greater commitment to evidence and rational debate, poor policy outcomes will be the likely result. There's a pattern, much the same as the Digital Economy Act, or the Snooper's Charter.

Start with moral panic; dismiss evidence; legislate; and finally, watch the policy unravel, either delivering unintended harms, even to children in this case, or simply failing altogether.

ORG, Index on Censorship, English PEN and Big Brother Watch have written to the Culture Secretary Maria Miller demanding that civil society be present at her 'summit', to make sure these issues are addressed. We have yet to receive a reply.



Update: Banging On...

Daily Mail claims that Cameron will demand that Google proactively seeks out child porn

Link Here 9th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The Daily Mail is claiming that it has spoken with David Cameron and is speaking of measures to force Google to pro-actively seek out child porn (which pretty much has already been driven off public facing sections of the net). However as usual, the piece does continually confuses by conflating child porn with 'other illegal porn'.

The Daily Mail writes:

David Cameron is to order Google to ban child pornography from the internet in a bid to prevent further murders like those of Tia Sharp and April Jones.

The Prime Minister last night said it was time for internet firms to stop making excuses for failing to crackdown on disgusting pornography. Google was urged to use the same effort it put into filming virtually every house and street for Google Earth to help rid the internet of violent and obscene sexual images.

The Prime Minister told The Mail on Sunday last night:

I am sickened by the proliferation of child pornography. It pollutes the internet, twists minds and is quite simply a danger to children. No more excuses: Internet firms will be told to crackdown on vile porn

No more excuses: Internet firms will be told to crackdown on vile porn

Internet companies and search engines make their living by trawling and categorising the web. So I call on them to use their extraordinary technical abilities to do more to root out these disgusting images.

That is why the Government I lead is convening a round-table meeting of the major internet companies, and demanding that more is done.

There are encouraging signs that the industry is willing to step up -- increasing funding and technical support for organisations combating child sexual abuse imagery online. But I want more action.

The time for excuses and blame is over -- we must all work together. The safety of our children is at stake -- and nothing matters more than that.

Google and other internet companies will be told to set up teams of investigators whose sole job will be to trawl the internet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in search of child pornography and other illegal obscene images -- and remove it.



Extract: How Many Livelihoods Will be Wrecked?...

More cheap and shoddy over blocking on the way as more major ISPs are set to introduce network level website blocking

Link Here7th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

TalkTalk - it would seem - has blazed an unlikely trail for Britain's big name ISPs by being the first telco to switch on network level filtering of web content. Now, after many months resisting the urge to apply such controls to their services, the other major providers - BSkyB, Virgin Media and BT - have all decided to follow suit.

Your correspondent recently chaired an Internet Service Providers' Association event at which the panel and audience discussed how effective current measures were in protecting children online. The confab proved revealing - with BT and Virgin Media publicly stating for the first time that they too would be introducing network-level filters on their services later this year.

...Read the full article



Update: Governed by the Politics of Blame, Victimhood, Moralism and Kneejerks...

Industry asks if the culture ministry is fit for purpose and whether it understands the economic importance of the media and internet

Link Here7th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The Telegraph has disclosed that several leading media firms, including telecom companies, have privately requested that responsibility for policy in their area be returned to the Business Department.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller is apparently regarded as one of the Cabinet's weakest performers and is under investigation for abusing her expenses.

The Daily Mail also recently published a lengthy article questioning Miller's worth in the wake of the Government's botched handling of media regulation.

One Whitehall source said:

There is a growing feeling that the culture department is not looking fit for purpose. The creative industries are absolutely vital to the economy yet they are basically being let down. This is something which has been brought up by the Chancellor several times in Cabinet.

The Telegraph has learnt that under plans being discussed in Whitehall, responsibility for media policy may be returned to the Business Department. The move would prove controversial as it would leave the Culture department so small that there would be little point in it remaining -- and the Cabinet would lose one of its few female ministers. Some senior Conservatives are privately arguing that her entire department should be disbanded and its duties handed to other, better-rated ministers.



Update: Civil society groups express concern to Culture Secretary about online content restrictions...

And ask why the government is only considering one side of the debate

Link Here7th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to you regarding news that you have summoned internet companies to a meeting about how they deal with illegal or extreme content online.

As representatives of civil society groups focused on freedoms in the digital age, we are very concerned about changes to the law or industry practices that involve restrictions on access to information online. The powers to make decisions about what people are allowed to see and do on the Internet are significant and must be treated with extreme care. There are particular problems when governments expect or require companies to police online content.

An understandable desire to ensure a safer environment online can easily lead to overreaching or unaccountable powers or practices. Through mistakes or abuse these can quickly lead to restrictions on far too much content and undue infringements of people's privacy. For example, mobile networks' Internet filtering in the UK routinely over blocks the websites of shops, political blogs or community sites. In Australia, it has emerged that 250,000 websites were accidentally blocked when a government agency tried to take down sites allegedly involved with fraud. The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue highlighted his grave concerns about these problems in his 2011 report.

Poorly implemented fixes will not only inhibit freedoms in the UK. They will also set a very damaging precedent internationally, providing more cover for States whose interests in restricting access to information online or the surveillance of citizens is more sinister. This was emphasised by the Foreign Secretary William Hague at the London Cyberspace Conference in 2011.

As representatives of leading UK civil society groups, we would therefore request that we are present at the forthcoming summit to ensure these concerns are addressed.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN
Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Nick Pickles, Executive Director, Big Brother Watch



Update: Culture of Blame...

Maria Miller calls major internet companies to a meeting to discuss censorship

Link Here 6th June 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The culture secretary, Maria Miller, has summoned the big internet companies to discuss the proliferation of, and easy access to, pornographic and politically extremist content on the web.

Miller has invited companies, including Google and Facebook, to a meeting on 17 June to hear what they are doing to police content and to push for a co-ordinated approach.

The culture secretary's aides said she was acting in response to concern over the Woolwich killing and the discovery of child abuse images on the computer of Mark Bridge.

In a letter to the internet companies, Miller cites concerns, seemingly based on the bollox claims by Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail:

Access to illegal pornographic content, the proliferation of extremist material which might incite racial or religious hatred, or the ongoing battle against online copyright theft.

It is clear that dangerous, highly offensive, unlawful and illegal material is available through basic search functions and I believe that many popular search engines, websites and ISPs could do more to prevent the dissemination of such material. Greater efforts need to be made to prevent the uploading, downloading and sharing of harmful material. Effective technological solutions have to be developed -- and deployed -- to minimise the harm done to businesses and consumers.

Your organisation plays a key role in terms of how individuals access online content -- and has serious public responsibilities as a result of this position. A relatively small number of organisations wield a great deal of online power -- and I believe that with that power comes a great responsibility.

A communications white paper is due to be published shortly and it is clear that Miller is willing to use legal backstops to force the internet companies to do more.



Update: Censorship Love-In...

Censors and moralists to gather at Westminster Forum for a one-sided discussion about blocking porn and anything remotely adult

Link Here 21st May 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

This seminar will bring together key perspectives on the next steps in addressing commercialisation and sexualisation of children online, including efforts being made in the UK and Europe by policymakers, business groups and third sector initiatives concerned with enabling young people to have safe access to online communities and to participate in culturally rich content. It is timed following David Cameron's commitment to new web filter proposals and the European Commission's policy European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children.

Delegates will assess the current position and emerging challenges to achieving secure online access for young people, including initiatives and practical options for empowering parents and protecting young people involving businesses, schools, government and law enforcement. Following the recent commitment to new web filtering measures through which every parent is prompted to protect their child online, the agenda includes sessions on the tools and skills available to empower young people to safely access and utilise online content, such as through age verification tools, website monitoring, age-appropriate privacy settings and single click buttons for reporting harmful content - as well as the possible unintended consequences brought about by these tools.

We are delighted that Andy Baker, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and Claire Perry MP, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood have agreed to deliver keynote addresses at this seminar.

Further confirmed speakers include: Julian Ashworth, Director, Group Industry Policy, BT Group; Alexandra Birtles, Head of Public Affairs, TalkTalk; John Carr, Secretary, UK Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety; Will Gardner, Chief Executive Officer, Childnet International; Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF); Lisa Harker, Head of the Strategy Unit, NSPCC; Peter Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, ATVOD; Adam Kinsley, Director of Policy, BSkyB; David Miles, Director, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI); Simon Milner, Policy Director, UK and Ireland, Facebook; Professor Andy Phippen, Professor of Social Responsibility in Information Technology, Plymouth Business School, Plymouth University; Libby Pritchard, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Vodafone; Vicki Shotbolt, Chief Executive Officer, The Parent Zone; Raj Sivalingam, Associate Director of Telecoms and Spectrum, Intellect and Daniel Wilson, Head of International Policy, BBC.

Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Minister for Public Health has kindly agreed to chair a session at this seminar.



Update: Public Internet to be Censored as Suitable for Kids...

Cameron set to ban anything remotely adult from public internet networks

Link Here24th April 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The Prime Minister is to announce a Government-backed censorship rules which will mean that all adult themed content is blocked in public spaces such as cafes and railway stations where children are likely to be present.

Cameron said:

We are promoting good, clean, WiFi in local cafes and elsewhere to make sure that people have confidence in public WiFi systems so that they are not going to see things they shouldn't.

Talks have been taking place for months between ISPs and government officials over the new censorship rules. It is not clear whether the internet firms will automatically impose the restrictions on access -- or whether it will be the duty of shops and other public areas used by children to bar adult content.

Industry sources said that the decision on whether to automatically restrict access in hotels could prove a more contentious issue.

Offsite Comment: Half Baked

25th April 2013. See  article from



Offsite Article: But is it Enough for the Sexualisationists?...

Link Here19th March 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
One in three new TalkTalk customers with children opt for ISP level internet blocking

See article from



Update: Inappropriately Wide Reaching...

British Naturism points out that Elspeth's Howe's Online Protection Bill has become a Censorship Bill

Link Here 10th March 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

When first proposed, the House of Lords Online Protection Bill was of no concern to naturists, but it had the potential to become a concern. Originally the Bill proposed that children should be blocked from access to pornography, and pornography was defined as material intended to be sexually arousing. However amendments have been proposed which have increased the scope of the bill.

Baroness Benjamin has put forward an amendment which would change the definition from pornographic images to adult content . Lord Morrow has also moved an amendment which would insert at an age appropriate level past the word content .

The new line in the Bill would then read:

Manufacturers of electronic devices must provide customers with a means of filtering adult content at an age-appropriate level from an internet access service at the time the device is purchased.

The danger here is the lack of any definition of what the words adult and appropriate actually mean. There are several shortcomings in this Bill that absolutely must be addressed:

  • Appropriate must be defined on evidence and facts, not emotion, myth, and prejudice;
  • Classification must be evidence based;
  • Emotion and prejudice are not evidence;
  • Over-blocking is just as serious as under-blocking, both result in serious harm;
  • It must be clear which filters provide protection and which ones support prejudice and may be harmful;
  • Freedom of Expression is important and must be protected;
  • Blocking of web sites that are not harmful to children is libel;
  • Blocking web sites without justification is just as much censorship as preventing the publication of a newspaper. There must be a practicable means to find out if blocked and to contest the blocking.

Unless there is real protection for Freedom of Expression then the manufacturers, software providers, and ISPs will minimise costs and filter everything that could possibly cause offence to anyone. That will cause considerable harm, not just to Naturism, but to society in general and to children and young people in particular.



Update: British Sky Blocking...

Sky Broadband to introduce ISP level website blocking

Link Here 7th February 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

BSkyB has claimed that computer-based parental controls were not enough to protect kids who use web-based services on a variety of devices. So network-level filtering will be applied to the service at some point in 2013.

The company quietly announced its plan in a blog post by Sky brand director Lyssa McGowan:

[W]e've been investigating ways to help provide a whole-home solution in which web content can be filtered out not by a particular device, but at a household-level so that parents can define the type of access they want blocked and the filtering will apply across all connected devices in the home.

And I'm delighted to be able to confirm that Sky has committed to offering a whole-home solution to all of our more than 4 million broadband customers. We will also introduce reporting tools to parents so they will know each and every time any changes have been made to the settings they've applied, to ensure they are happy with the settings at all times.

It's not yet clear whether website blocking will be turned on by default but it would be most likely be offered as an option to those that request it.

In December, Prime Minister David Cameron described on-by-default network-level web filters as a crude system for blocking inappropriate content. The blocking is so overbroad and low quality that adults soon ask for the blocking to be removed.



Offsite Article: What is the Government's online child protection policy?...

Link Here25th January 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Is the Daily Mail in charge of child protection policy making?

See article from



Update: Probably Just the Negligently Low Quality of its Algorithm...

3's mobile phone website blocking system now reported to be blocking political satire

Link Here18th January 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Pride's Purge is a Web site described by its creator Tom Pride as an irreverent look at UK politics . As he recently discovered, it's also blocked by 3UK's child protection filter. He contacted the company on Twitter, pointing out that Pride's Purge was not a porn site or anything similar, and this is what it replied:

We don't just block adult websites, websites with mature content may also be censored.

So it now seems that there is a category of material called mature content that is distinct from adult content , and that is also blocked by child protection filters, at least on 3UK's network. Worryingly, political satire seems to be regarded as an example of mature content , and therefore unsuitable for children under 18. In fact, the censorship is even worse, as Pride explains:

it's not blocked for just the under-18s. It's blocked for anyone who hasn't proven to [3UK] they are over 18 -- and that means you will have to give your full identity to 3UK before they allow you to enter this site.

Which means 3UK now officially regard political satire as porn -- and are censoring it in exactly the same way.

It's about time these companies were sued, either for loss of earning through their negligence, or else for abusing the right to free speech.



Update: Pandering to the Daily Mail...

Cameron designs some new flexible website blocking software on the back of a fag packet

Link Here 21st December 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

When the Department of Education last week released the results of its public consultation on whether or not pornography should be automatically banned by internet providers, the overriding message was clear. There was no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the internet, the Department declared. What parents wanted, instead, was the option to filter content and better knowledge of how to do that in order to protect their children from online porn.

After months of threatening internet providers with an automatic porn ban, the Government seemed to relent and recognise that policing the internet was primarily a job for parents, not the state. Yet in the course of just a few days Downing Street appears to have swung back the other way after receiving a mauling in the Daily Mail.

Cameron envisages is a system whereby anyone installing a new computer at home and connects to the web will be asked whether there are any children in the home. If there are, parents will be automatically required to tailor their internet blocking. If a parent skips too quickly through the filter process the highest restrictions will automatically remain in place. It will be the job of internet providers, rather than computer manufacturers, to come up with the blocking software.

Downing Street officials insisted that the announcement was not a U-turn on porn filters and that Cameron's announcement was simply a way of illustrating what the Government has planned to give parents more control. But the onus is nonetheless firmly placed on internet providers to come up with mandatory blocking with Whitehall sources indicating that a legislative backstop would be brought in they refused to co-operate.

That has caused concern among web providers, most of whom already offer content filters to their customers as a matter of course. One source involved in negotiations with the Government described Cameron's announcement as an example of goal posts being moved .

This is a back-of-the-fag-packet policy reversal announced after the Government's own public consultation decided just a week ago that further filtering wouldn't work, said Jim Killock, from Open Rights Group, which campaigns against digital restrictions.

Nick Pickles, from the Big Brother Watch, added: Mr Cameron seems to be suggesting a combination of network filtering and device filtering that isn't even available at the moment, let alone possible. The danger here is it will alienate the ISPs who thought they'd been involved in the consultation process.



Update: One Size Fits All Doesn't Work...But...

David Cameron explains that he is against default ISP blocking but will require ISPs to provide a blocking system that can be tailored to family needs

Link Here 20th December 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The Daily Mail is claiming a victory in spurring David Cameron into supporting its cause in getting parents to opt for internet blocking albeit not the overly blunt default ISP blocking. (But the Daily Mail clearly aren't quite fully committed to the anti-sexualisation cause. They have done a fine job traumatising all the 'sensitive' young girls who worry that they will never be as sexy as Kate Moss in bikini showing a bit of nipple) .

In an article for the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister says it is utterly appalling that so many children have been exposed to the darkest corners of the internet, adding: A silent attack on innocence is under way in our country today and I am determined that we fight it with all we've got.

He announces that Conservative MP Claire Perry is to be appointed as his adviser on reversing the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. She will be in charge of implementing the new web blocking system, which will also require internet providers to check the age of the person setting controls.

Cameron explained why he does not go along with the idea of default ISP blocking.

Some might ask why, then, this Government has not taken the route of default on filters for new computers, so that each one that is bought comes with blanket filters for all unsuitable content. There's a simple reason why we haven't done this: all the evidence suggests such a crude system wouldn't work very well in practice. With the system, when people switch on their new computer, a question will pop up asking if there are children in the house. If there are, then parents will be automatically prompted to tailor their internet filters

With the system, when people switch on their new computer, a question will pop up asking if there are children in the house. If there are, then parents will be automatically prompted to tailor their internet filters (posed by model)

Take the experience of one parent I met. She has a tablet computer which her young daughter sometimes plays games on. It's got straightforward on/off filters, so she turned the filter on to protect her daughter.

However, the filters were so wide-ranging that she then found she couldn't access things like TV stations on demand; they were blocked too.

The result? She just switched the filter off again, as it was becoming annoying.

The point is we need a more sophisticated system than this -- one that allows parents to tailor exactly what their children can see.

Ministers are understood to have imposed a timetable on internet providers, who will be required to produce detailed plans by February on ensuring that all parents are giving the option of imposing filters.

Cameron says that when people switch on a new computer, they will be asked if there are children in the house -- and if they answer yes, they will be automatically prompted to tailor internet filters. They will include options to block particular kinds of content, individual sites or restrict access at specific times of the day. If parents click through the options to set up a new system quickly, filters against pornography and self-harm sites will be automatically left on.

Perry said effective checks on the age of a person setting up filters -- probably using credit card details and the electoral roll -- would be vital to ensure children could not get round the new system.



Update: Blocking Dodgy Stats...

Daily Mail publish a low key article about the failure of their 'Block Online Porn' campaign

Link Here 16th December 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The Daily Mail wrote:

Ministers were accused of betraying parents last night after they ruled out an automatic block on internet porn to protect children.

The Department for Education said expert advice was against an automatic block, which would force those wanting access to online porn sites to contact their Internet Service Provider (ISP) to opt in .

Instead, as the Daily Mail revealed last month, ISPs will simply be asked to actively encourage parents to switch on internet filters if children are likely to be using computers in the home.

Then a little mathematical bullshit creeps into the Daily Mail (or perhaps NSPCC) interpretation of the statistics.

The very best statistic in the entire consultation for the Daily Mail argument was that 35% of parents support the default internet blocking idea. From the government response:

There was no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the internet by their ISP: only 35 percent of the parents who responded favoured that approach.

There were even smaller proportions of parents who favoured an approach which simply asked them what they would like their children to access on the internet, with no default settings (13 percent) or a system that combines the latter approach with default filtering(15 percent).

In fact the 15% mentioned was from a separate question, and the parents in this 15% almost certainly agreed with the default blocking so were already counted in the 35%. And yet the Daily Mail effectively double counted the 15% to incorrectly arrive at that statistic that 50% of parents supported website some flavour of website blocking. Presumably they then contacted the NSPCC to comment on this supposed 50% statistic:

Confirmation of the decision, slipped out on the DfE website without fanfare, came despite evidence from the Government's consultation that half of parents back an automatic block on internet porn.

Some 35 per cent of parents responding to the consultation backed the opt-in system, with a further 15 per cent wanting it imposed with additional controls.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the Government's proposals did not go far enough. Alan Wardle, of the NSPCC, said:

The best option to protect children is for adult content to be automatically blocked by Internet Service Providers.

Given that half of the parents who took part in the Government consultation wanted this option, we are concerned their views have not been heard.

The Daily Mail also published an article on the subject by Labour PC extremist Harriet Harman. And as MichaelG asked: was she the only person they could find who supports their North Korean approach to state internet censorship?

See the article: Children pore over sexual images as their parents watch Downton in the next room... yet ministers do nothing by Harriet Harman



Update: Claire Perry and the Daily Mail Blocked...

Government announces that public consultation on parental internet controls came out strongly against the idea of default website blocking by ISPs

Link Here15th December 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Ministers have stepped back from forcing telecommunications companies to filter websites for online pornography after parents rejected the idea in a government-sponsored consultation.

A report released by the department for education and the home office instead said that internet service providers will be asked to advise and steer parents towards making an active choice by offering software that blocks out pornography and self-harming sites.

The decision follows a 10-week public consultation process. David Cameron had indicated as recently as last month that he wanted firms to follow the lead of TalkTalk, which was the first big name internet service provider to introduce network-level filtering of websites for its customers.

The report, released with little fanfare, said:

It is... clear that in accepting that responsibility, parents want to be in control, and that it would be easier for them to use the online safety tools available to them if they could learn more about those tools.

They also want information about internet safety risks and what to do about them. There was no great appetite among parents for the introduction of default filtering of the internet by their ISP: only 35% of the parents who responded favoured that approach.

In fact the figures for all those that responded to the consultation showed:

  • 14% in favour of default ISP blocking
  • 85% opposed to default ISP blocking
  • 1% unsure.

The campaign for greater curbs against online porn had been led by the Tory MP Claire Perry, and was followed up by the Daily Mail.

The industry pointed out that Perry's plans were unworkable.

The Government will now go to work with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) to help parents with the knowledge and tools required to provide flexible and workable parental control.



Offsite Article: There's no way to stop children viewing porn in Starbucks...

Link Here22nd November 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Filtering doesn't work. It also puts power into censorware firms which help cover up human rights abuse

See article from



Comment: A Watershed for the Internet...

David Cameron set to bully parents into accepting low quality internet censorship

Link Here 18th November 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The Daily Mail has reported that David Cameron is to bully parents into signing up for impractical internet censorship.

In future, anyone buying a new computer or signing up with a new ISP will be asked whether they have children when they log on for the first time.

Those answering yes will automatically be taken through the process of installing website blocking for content with an adult theme. They will then be subjected to a series of questions about how stringent they want censorship to be.

There will be an option to impose a watershed on adult interest material, and to prevent children viewing social networking sites such as Facebook during certain hours of the day.

Ministers will also demand that ISPs impose appropriate measures to ensure that those setting the parental controls are over 18.

And they will be told to prompt existing customers to install porn blocking technology.

The proposals, due to be announced by the Government later this month, go much further than previously suggested.

Offsite Comment: Victory in sight: government signals climb down from default filtering?

18th November 2012. See  article from

According to reports this Saturday in the Daily Mail and Telegraph, David Cameron will be asking ISPs to ask customers if they have children, and if so, help them install filtering technology.

While the Daily Mail cite this as a victory for their campaign to switch porn off in every household, and allow people to opt in to porn , in fact it would be a humiliating climb down.

...Read the full article



Update: Howes About That Then?...

Nutter bill to mandate an internet porn blocking option receives a 2nd reading in the Lords

Link Here 9th November 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Elspeth Howe has launched a Lords private member bill obliging Britain's ISPs to impose a block block on all pornographic images along with any websites that reference porn or anything else considered adult.

The bill would bring in a system whereby adults will only be able to see porn if they specifically opt in after a strict age verification check.

The legislation faces opposition from Liberal Democrat peers, who argue that the proposed system is not the best way to protect children online.

Howe, an independent Crossbench peer claimed the bill was needed because of the dangerous effect that sexual content was having on relationships between boys and girls. She said that access to porn was giving children the wrong idea about relationships and could lead to teenage boys treating girls as sex objects.

Her Online Safety Bill , received its first reading earlier this year but it is now receiving a second reading which is the first chance for debate.

The legislation only has a chance of becoming law if it receives the support of ministers. Only when the Government grants enough Parliamentary time to debate a private members' bill does it have any hope of passing into law.



Update: Filtering Out Claire Perry Bollox...

Open Rights Group report on parliamentary debate about blocking porn

Link Here 2nd November 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Yesterday there was a Westminster Hall debate about the responsibilities of Internet companies. You can read a transcript over at the Parliament website . Be warned - for anybody who cares about freedom of expression online, it doesn't make for particularly pleasant reading. It includes general calls for internet companies to take down offensive material, criticisms of YouTube for publishing the infamous video insulting Mohammed, and the now familiar calls for default-on network filters to protect children online.

It's useful to note that Westminster Hall debates aren't particularly formal interventions or statements of the Government's policy. They are secured by MPs who want to discuss something important to them, and can indicate MPs feelings and signal to the Government what Parliamenarians' priorities might be.

But even though it's just a Westminster Hall debate, it seemed important to note that I spotted Claire Perry MP citing a statistic that I haven't seen before, and which got my spidey senses tingling. She suggests that the number of parents installing network filters at home has dropped ten percent over the past three years, standing now at 39%.

This seemed to contradict some of the statistics I've seen from recent research such as the EU Kids Online project. They found that 54% of parents say that they block or filter websites at home or and 46% track the websites visited by their children. These findings are far higher than in Europe generally, with the UK topping the country ranking for use of filters , that The UK is near the top of ranking of countries in terms of parents actively mediating their children's safety.

So this afternoon I've written to Claire Perry asking her about this statistic - where it's from and what it means. You can read the letter below. We'll let you know her reply as and when we receive one.

It's an important issue, because too often we see evidence in this debate that doesn't necessarily stand up to scrutiny. For instance, the Safety Net campaign, which has led calls for default-on network filters, state that 1 in 3 10 year olds have seen pornography online (Psychologies Magazine 2010) . This is in the The Facts section of their website. However, the figure comes from a chat that Psychologies magazine had with a group of 14-16 year olds in one school in London in 2010.

It's important we're dealing with robust evidence, so we are all clear the nature of the problem we're looking at.



Offsite Article: Open to Abuse...

Link Here 1st October 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Open Rights Group response to Dept for Education consultation on internet website blocking

See article from



Update: Censored by Default...

YouGov survey notes about a quarter of parents in favour of a default block on adult related content

Link Here 12th September 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Less than a quarter of parents are in favour of default online content blocking, a new survey has found.

Only one-fifth of UK parents believe default filtering of harmful content is the best system for protecting youngsters online, according to TalkTalk. YouGov, working on behalf of the ISP, found 78% of adults with children in their household are opposed to this solution, which would automatically block adult related material.

Instead, 37% of respondents favour giving broadband customers an active choice, in which they are asked when they sign up for an account whether or not they want content to be blocked. A further 30% insisted that websites should only be blocked if they ask for it.

In March, TalkTalk introduced an active choice system for broadband subscribers. Known as HomeSafe, the network-level parental controls allow customers to choose the type of content their kids can view while browsing the web. So far, the system has been activated by about one in three new customers - roughly equivalent to the number of households with dependent children.

Dido Harding, chief executive of TalkTalk, said: We believe that giving customers an active choice about using controls like HomeSafe is the most effective way to engage them in internet safety.



Update: Only Drizzle from Sky...

The Cloud Public WiFi service will be censored for children

Link Here 11th September 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Sky has announced that its public Wi-Fi service, The Cloud, will begin blocking adult related content as standard from October.

The move means shops, venues and other commercial buildings covered by The Cloud's network that want a children's internet service will have their wireless broadband filtered automatically.

Lyssa McGowan, Sky's brand director for communications products said:

We believe this will give parents the peace of mind that when their children access content over Sky networks outside the home, where we can't offer individual parental controls, they will be similarly protected as when in the home.

The Cloud will be the first Wi-Fi operator in the UK to take this step.



Update: Petitioning Against Choice...

Government 'consultation' on blocking porn closes

Link Here 7th September 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The one sided consultation into whether UK internet users should have to opt-in in order to access adult content has now closed. The response forms provided by the government were only relevant to parents and ISPs. Presumably the government didn't want to hear any negative comments from anyone else caught up censorship scheme.

Over 2,000 responses had been submitted by the eve of the deadline, the Department for Education told the BBC.

Proposals for an opt-in system are supported by several MPs, but fiercely opposed by internet rights campaigners. Internet service providers (ISPs) have also voiced concerns, favouring instead an active choice system. This method, already in place at several ISPs, prompts a new customer to choose if they want anything vaguely adult to be blocked out by their provider.

The findings of the consultation are due to be published later in the year.

A nutter petition signed by about 110,000 people demanding internet companies block access to hardcore pornography as a default setting to protect children is being handed to the Government. Strangely such a system has never been on the table. The current ISP systems block a much wider range of material: hardcore, softcore, and even just textual information about adult topics.

Peers, MPs and church figures are among those who have signed the Safetynet petition demanding ISPs be made to compulsorily block access to pornography on computers, mobile phones and tablets, organiser Premier Christian Media (PCM) said.

The petition, written as a letter to Jeremy Hunt, the previous Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, claims one in three 10-year-olds has "stumbled upon pornography online" and that youths aged 12 to 17 are the largest consumers of internet porn.

MP Claire Perry told the BBC:

We quite happily accept watersheds on TV and we are happy to accept adult films sitting behind PIN systems on satellite channels.

Somehow when it comes to the internet, all bets are off and the onus is entirely on the consumer. Continue reading the main story Porn plans

However, the petition has been criticised by some campaigners for citing surveys with small sample sizes. In particular, a statistic claiming that one in three under-10s had been exposed to pornography online was taken from an issue of Psychologies Magazine in 2010. The magazine had surveyed a group of 14-16 year olds at one North London school, asking them if they had seen porn before the age of 10.

Any organisation that quotes statistics based on a once in a life time occurrence and then presents them as if this was regular usage is certainly telling porkies.

Ms Perry distanced herself from the bollox statistics presented with the petition. That is their number, she told the BBC, referring to campaign organisers Safermedia, which was a small scale anecdotal study.



Update: Open Letter to David Cameron...

Re parental internet controls

Link Here 7th September 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: Department for Education consultation on parental internet controls

We write to you as the consultation on parental controls closes. In recent years there have been two comprehensive reviews into the issue of child safety online, the Byron Review and the Bailey Review. They considered a wealth of academic expertise, parental concerns and technical input and both arrived at the same conclusion -- parents are the best people to decide what their children can see.

To ignore these in-depth and comprehensive reviews and instead adopt a system of default blocking would be a short sighted and dangerous step, while doing little to empower parents or children. As Ofcom recognised, blocking is trivial to circumvent and it is likely a default blocking system would lull parents into a false sense of security. A more complex, connected world needs parents to engage more with their children on issues of safety, privacy and personal development -- default blocking undermines this dialogue.

Government agreed that industry would have until October 2012 to implement the Active Choice model, one that puts parents in control of whether filters are applied to their home Internet connection or the devices their children use to go online and allows them to choose which solution best suits them. Last year the Foreign Secretary said It is important to distinguish between government encouraging people to make more use of existing protections as a matter of choice, and the government deciding what people can and cannot do online. We hope that the Government stands firm to this and continues to support the Active Choice system as the best option for children, parents, the economy and civil liberties.

Recent research by the Open Rights Group and the LSE Media Policy Project into default adult content filters used by UK mobile broadband providers has highlighted significant issues, such as the mistaken blocking of perfectly innocent websites that had nothing to do with adult content. The over-blocking of legitimate sites undermines the UK's attractiveness as a place for digital businesses to grow and erodes all citizens' choice while doing little to empower parents or ensure that children stay safe online.

We do not believe that default filtering across the UK, mandated by Government, should be the way forward. Instead the emphasis should now be on improving parental control filters, so that parents have the right tools to protect their children from harm and can teach them how to be safe as they start to explore the world for themselves.


Nick Pickles, Director, Big Brother Watch
Agnes Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19
Mike O'Connor CBE, Chief Executive, Consumer Focus
Jeff Lynn, Chairman, The Coalition For A Digital Economy
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship
Dominique Lazanski. Head of Digital Policy, Taxpayers Alliance
Professor Ross Anderson, Chair, Foundation for Information Policy Research



Offsite Article: Rounding Up the Usual Nutters...

Link Here 4th September 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
The Daily Mail rounds up the Archbishop of York to spout the usual bollox about internet porn

See article from



Update: Porn Filtering...

Stop the Daily Mail Nanny State

Link Here 1st September 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

With less than a week to go before the close of the adult content filtering consultation, Open Rights Group is urging people to let the Department for Education know that default blocking would be disastrous.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:

We know filters always block the wrong sites. Casual mentions of sex get sites blocked. Health education sites are blocked. Even chat sites, bars and clubs are considered reasonable to block for children.

So you don't want to induce adults to live with this sort of filtering. But that is what the Daily Mail and Premier Christian Media have convinced the Department of Education to do.

We need an outbreak of common sense to stop this, before we find the Daily Mail's Nanny State becomes a reality.

The consultation closes next Thursday.



Update: Opting for a Children's Internet...

Survey finds support for default blocking of sites for adults

Link Here 30th August 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

A survey commissioned by Recombu Digital for The Telegraph shows that 37% of adults in the UK would support a mandatory block on adult websites.

The poll of 2,000 adults in the UK found that about 25% of respondents join ISPs in opposing such a plan. A further 18% declined to state their position.

Only 7-13% of respondents admitted they would opt to be able to view adult material.



Offsite Article: Somebody Should Sue...

Link Here 13th August 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Orange use low quality website blocking systems and then make it very difficult to get their negligence put right

See article from



Update: Persecuting Internet Porn...

Keir Starmer of the CPS joins those baying for default porn blocking

Link Here 6th July 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said he was worried about the exposure of young people to all sorts of material .

He claimed there could be a link between the easy access to internet pornography for children with emerging research about increasing violence among teenage boyfriends and girlfriends.

The news came after a schoolboy rapist had escaped a jail term because the judge said he had viewed internet pornography. The 14-year-old boy was freed and given a three year community order with supervision after he was found guilty of raping a four year old girl.

The judge in Cambridge justified the sentence on the grounds that the boy had been sexualised by the corruption of pornography , and blamed society for what happened.

Asked about the case on BBC Radio Five Starmer declined to comment on the case or the sentence. But he added: I myself have been concerned about the exposure of young people to all sorts of material, and the emerging research tends to suggest that there is a lot of abuse within teenage relationships.

Last year, in a speech, Starmer warned that the UK was clearly at risk of a whole new generation of domestic violence in teenage relationships. He published figures that suggested 13 year olds to 15 year olds were as likely to experience violence as youths aged over 16. The cited research was carried out by Bristol University and the NSPCC found those from poorer backgrounds are twice as likely to be abused as their better-off counterparts.

Update: More

8th July 2012. See  article from

Re the 14-year-old boy was freed and given a three year community order with supervision after he was found guilty of raping a four year old girl.

Since sentencing took place this week the victim's parents have been told by the police that while there was porn on the boy's laptop, it was mild and did not feature children.



Update: Parental Internet Controls...

Government consultation re-opens after privacy failure

Link Here 5th July 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The Department of Education has partly resumed its public consultation after recently being taken offline for privacy failures.

The online response form is still removed though. Data provided by users of this service was erroneously made available to other users of the service.

To recap:

The government is to consider putting extra pressure on computer users to filter out pornography when setting up internet accounts. The latest system, called active choice-plus , is aimed at reaching a compromise. It would automatically block adult content, but would set users a loaded question, along the lines of whether they want to change this to gain access to sites promoting pornography, violence and other adult-only themes.

Ministers are suggesting that people should automatically be barred from accessing unsuitable adult material unless they actually choose to view it.  It is one of several suggestions being put out for an e-consultation on how to shield children from pornography.

The discussion paper asks for views on three broad options for the best approach to keeping children safe online. It is an e-consultation where responses can be made online. The paper's introduction reads:

Tim Loughton, Minister for Children and Families, and Lynne Featherstone, Minister for Equalities and Criminal Information are joint chairs of the executive board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS). They are writing to members of UKCCIS to seek their views and advice on parental controls. The request is to members of UKCCIS and other organisations and individuals, especially parents, who might want to respond.

The questionnaire consults on the merits of three proposed solutions .

Active Choice : customers are presented with an unavoidable choice or series of choices through which they consciously choose whether or not they want filters and blocks installed on their internet service or internet-enabled device.

Opt-in : where the internet service is provided with filters already in place to block access to certain websites (e.g. legal pornography), and the customer has to tell their ISP they wish to opt in to these sites if they want to access them.

Active choice plus : A system that combines features of both systems, where customers are presented with a list of online content that will be blocked automatically unless they choose to unblock them.

See consultation details from Closing Date: Thursday 6 September 2012.

Meanwhile nutters claim 100,000 signatures to petition calling for default blocking of website content for adults

5th July 2012. See  article from

100,000 people have signed a petition calling for more to be done to ensure that internet service providers (ISPs) block pornography.

SafetyNet's petition urges the Government to force Internet Service Providers to make accessing pornography an adult only opt-in service .

The campaign was started earlier this year, in a bid to protect children's innocence online, by Premier Christian Media and Safermedia. Miranda Suit, co-Chairman of Safermedia, said:

This figure demonstrates clearly that the British public share our conviction that internet pornography is playing a crucial role in the sexualisation of our children.

Since this petition was launched, there has been a constant stream of news backing up our case, that hardcore online porn is shaping the sexual culture of our young people and doing untold harm.



Offsite Article: Why the UK's porn filter plans are just an illusion...

Link Here3rd July 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Britain is, once again, looking at the possibility of applying pressure on internet users to filter out pornography, a policy loved by politicians and disliked by internet providers that, like a cat with a hairball, comes up every few months.

See article from



Update: Warped Views...

Scottish MPs queue up to claim that default porn blocking will cure all society's ills

Link Here 28th June 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Scottish politicians have been queuing up to blame online porn for a 10% rise in reported sexual offences in Scotland.

East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson called for ISPs to use a system of default blocking for adult content on websites. She said:

It's very difficult to pin down exactly what is causing these attitudes by young people, but given that there's very easily available pornography online -- and not just the lads mag, page three images, but really explicit, hardcore pornography -- it's not hard to imagine that it helps to create a warped view of relationships.

Scottish Conservative MSP John Lamont added:

We need to investigate measures such as having filters switched on as the default option, or blocking all adult content unless you decide otherwise.

Glasgow MP John Robertson said more needs to be done to raise parental awareness of the security tools available to them.



Update: Nutters Gathering...

Nutters have gathered a petition of 95,000 in support of default website blocking of adult content

Link Here 14th June 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

A petition calling upon the Government to force internet service providers to make accessing pornography an adult only opt-in service has gathered more than 95,000 signatures.

The petition's organisers, SaferMedia and Premier (Christian) Media Group, are aiming to reach 100,000 signatures before the petition is closed in a few weeks.

They claim that the filter would give parents greater control over what their children are viewing online and stop sexually explicit material coming into the home.



Update: Perhaps We Need to Think About This...

Mobile phone company's only just start to think about handling complaints about their low quality website blocking systems

Link Here 2nd June 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Since we published our report Mobile Internet censorship: what's happening and what to do about it , jointly with LSE Media Policy project, a number of people have been in touch with us asking what to do if they discover their site is blocked incorrectly by mobile networks' child protection filters.

But if you are responsible for a site and have found it is blocked, you will also want to get in touch with the mobile networks concerned to check that it is blocked on their network and to get the site removed from the filters so everybody can access it again.

One of the points in our report was that it can be too difficult to do this - you can read about Coadec's problems trying to get their site removed from Orange's Safeguard on their blog.

The mobile networks have told us they are working on improving the way that these reports can be made, which is great. I wanted to do a quick update on progress so far. So I asked the networks what the best way to get in touch with them about this would be. If you are trying to contact the operators to get your site unblocked, here's what the networks offer at the moment:


For the moment, Vodafone have asked that these requests go to this email address:

They are planning to have a more specific address available soon. [The mediaRelations email address just about sys it all]

Orange and T-Mobile

The email address to use is and can be used for reports relating to both Orange and T-Mobile.


O2 have a useful URL checker , which also allows people to check sites' classification - which says whether and why a site is blocked - and to report if they consider the site to be classified incorrectly.


Three told us their official position at the moment is: if a Three customer believes a website is being incorrectly blocked then they should call our Customer Services team. We are currently reviewing how best customers can contact us to report these concerns.


16th May

Update: What Can We Do About Crappy Website Blocking?...

Open Rights Group and LSE publish report about the poor implementation of internet blocking in the name of child protection

A new report from Open Rights Group and LSE Media Policy Project reveals widespread over-blocking on mobile networks, helping to demonstrate why we shouldn't accept default-on adult Internet filtering

Today we're launching a new report called Mobile internet censorship: what's happening and what we can do about it , which is a joint publication with LSE Media Policy Project.

The report is about how mobile operators' child protection filters work. It shows how systems designed to help parents manage their childrens' access to the Internet can actually affect many more users than intended and block many more sites than they should. It reveals widespread overblocking, problems with transparency and difficulties correcting mistakes.

We argue that mobile operators need to offer an active choice , be far more transparent and open, and provide easier ways to address errors.

More broadly, the report helps emphasise that the neo Mary Whitehouse campaign for default blocks, led by Claire Perry MP is calling for the wrong solution in looking to default on filtering. The lessons from mobile filtering suggest fixed-line Internet filtering should concentrate on users and devices rather than networks, be properly described as parental controls (because the content blocked is far broader than adult sexual material) and above all involve an active choice , not be set by default.

Without that guarded approach, seemingly simple, laudable goals such as protecting children through technical intervention may have significant harmful and unintended consequences for everybody's access to information.

The report is based on reports of inappropriate blocks provided to our website through January to March. These were cases where sites or services were blocked that should not have been. Working with a small group of volunteers, we received over 60 reports, including personal and political blogs, sites for restaraunts, and community sites. Here are some examples:

  • Biased-BBC ( is a site that challenges the BBC's impartiality. We established it was blocked on O2 and T-Mobile on 5th March.
  • St Margarets Community Website (, is a community information site created by a group of local residents of St Margarets, Middlesex. Their mission is simple - help foster a stronger community identity. We established it was blocked on Orange and T-Mobile on 8th March.
  • The Vault Bar ( in London. We established that the home page of this bar was blocked on Vodafone, Orange, and T-Mobile on 6th February.
  • was reported blocked on 15th February 2012 on Orange. This is a blog that features items that can be placed on a shelf.
  • 'Tor' ( We established that the primary website of this privacy tool (meaning the HTTP version of the Tor Project website, rather than connections to the Tor network) was blocked on at least Vodafone, O2 and Three in January.
  • La Quadrature du Net ( The website of this French digital rights advocacy group was reported blocked on Orange's Safeguard system on 2nd February. La Quadrature du Net has become one of the focal points for European civil society's political engagement with an important international treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The block was removed shortly after we publicised the blocking.

...Read the full article

Update: MelonFarmers gets mentioned in the report

16th May 2012. From Mobile internet censorship: what's happening and what we can do about it [pdf] from

The ORG report contains mystery shopper examples to see how various phone companies handle complaints about false blocking:

Re 3 Mobile Phone Company

We reported to 3 that the site - a conspiracy theory discussion site - was blocked. The customer services representative asked what message we received when trying to access the site. We told them we were shown a blocking screen telling us over-18 blocking was enabled. We were advised that 'adult sites' were automatically blocked on all pay-as-you- go 3 mobile phones.

However, we were not asked what site we were attempting to access, despite our insistence that it contained no adult material. We were then asked if we were having issues accessing other sites like Google or the BBC, and replied no. Again, the representative concluded that the content filter was working correctly and that the site we were trying to access must have some sort of adult material on it, hence its blocking. When we asked 3 how the company classifies blocked websites, the representative told us that 3 does not make the rules, and that the government' does. We were also informed that no record is made of sites which are reported as incorrectly blocked and our phone would be unblocked once we provided age verification.

This experience seems somewhat at odds with the official propaganda about overblocking.  In an  article from , Hamish MacLeod, chairman of the Mobile Broadband Group, claimed:

Even allowing for the ORG missing a few, 60 misclassified websites does not amount to anything that could reasonably be described as 'censorship', particularly when mobile operators are happy to remove the filters when customers show they are over 18 and will re-classify websites when misclassifications are pointed out to them.

This is how the small handful of websites that get referred to mobile operators each year are already dealt with.

Perhaps a small handful of websites because operators are told to willfully ignore such requests

Offsite Comment: ISPs Censor the BNP, Lifestyle an dTechnology Sites

26th May 2012. See  article from by Alice Purkiss

A number of British mobile networks are blocking the far-right British National Party's website, it has been revealed.

Following a report by LSE Media Policy Project and Open Rights Group (ORG) on mobile internet censorship, a number of web-users alerted ORG that the BNP's website is blocked on a variety of mobile networks if child protection filters are active, once again raising the question of the efficacy of online filtering systems.

...Read the full article



14th May

Update: TalkTalk BlockBlock...

Now TalkTalk proposes to force all customers to choose between a censored or uncensored internet feed

TalkTalk, which provides web access to 4million subscribers, already offers new customers the option of activating blocking for websites with adult themes. Now it has said it will be the first company to ask both new and existing subscribers whether they want to block adult content.

TalkTalk's filter, HomeSafe, blocks sites categorised as unsuitable for under-18s, including those related to pornography, suicide, self harm, gambling, dating, drugs and weapons. But it also blocks websites for strong language, references to sex and any sites that happen to contain a few words that trigger automated classification software.

It has been available to customers since May last year, but only if they requested it. From March this year, new subscribers have been asked to choose whether or not they want the filter.

Now the company wants to force all of its customers to decide whether they want access to adult material, with a view to making them choose their settings once a year.

It is believed other internet providers will introduce a system in October which will be more tailored to devices and individuals.


8th May

 Offsite Article: Porn Panic!...

Fear over online pornography is leading anti-porn campaigners into irrational, knee-jerk responses. Are we hurtling toward a future where the only thing left to masturbate to is the Daily Mail?

See article from


6th May

Update: Bad Blocking...

Orange found to be blocking website for peace campaign

The past few days have seen a lot of attention given to the neo Mary Whitehouse campaign for default censorship. It's important to remember that filtering systems are fallible - for example, they catch too much content, whether by accident or abuse.

Today we happened upon a fine example. Through our reporting website , we established that the website of anti-violence advocates Conciliation Resources is blocked by mobile networks Orange, O2 and Vodafone by their child protection filters.

Here's what Conciliation Resources actually do:

supports people at the heart of conflicts who are striving to find solutions. We work with them to deepen our collective understanding of the conflict, bring together divided communities and create opportunities for them to resolve their differences peacefully.

I had a look around the site, and I couldn't find any pornography. Or any reason why it would be a bad idea for a young person to have access to the site.

Maybe its blocked simply because it frequently uses the word 'violence', eg in the strapline: Preventing violence, building peace.

This is clearly a mistake. But it demonstrates a key flaw with Internet filtering. It tends to block far too much content, both because the categories of blockable content are so vague and broad (see Orange's categories below) and because the systems doing the filtering make mistakes. And because the decisions are made on the cheap as there are so many websites to get through.

Orange Categories for blocking. From

  • Anonymizers: These sites allow you to browse the Internet and access content anonymously.

  • Anorexia - Bulimia:  Promoting and instigating eating disorders.

  • Gambling:  Access to online gambling such as casinos and any other online services that let you place bets.

  • Chat: Where you chat in real time to people you don’t know.

  • Bombs: Explaining how to prepare, make, build and use explosives and explosive devices.

  • Dating: Websites for match-making where the user can meet other people - make friends, find a partner, etc.

  • Forums: Where you’re invited to take part in discussions on predetermined topics with people you don’t know.

  • Pornography: Websites with a pornographic or sexual content.

  • Racism: Sites promoting racist behaviour based on culture, race, religion, ideology, etc.

  • Sects: Websites on universally acknowledged sects. Within this category URLs are included on organizations that promote directly or indirectly: (i) group, animal or individual injuries, (ii) esoteric practices, (iii) content that sets a bad example for young children: that teaches or encourages children to perform harmful acts or imitate dangerous behaviour, (iv) content that creates feelings of fear, intimidation, horror, or psychological terror, (v) Incitement or depiction of harm against any individual or group based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, religious or national identity.

  • Violence: Containing openly violent content and/or that promote violence or defend it.

Perhaps the blocking decisions could be made robust by allowing business and campaigns such as Conciliation Resources a straightforward process to sue for lost earnings and donations from incompetent censorship


5th May

Update: TalkTalk StatsStats...

One in Three new TalkTalk customers opt for ISP website blocking of adult content

One in three new customers choose to activate TalkTalk's network based website blocking feature, according to a recent statement.

TalkTalk introduced the network-based content blocking feature it calls HomeSafe in May 2011 with Active Choice for new customers,  meaning that new customers are forced to make a positive choice whether or not to activate the feature, there is no default option.

TalkTalk is considering applying this Active choice rule to existing customers too, but ordinary customer churn gradually increases the number who have faced it, which TalkTalk estimates will reach 1 million households by March 2013.


4th May

Update: Opting in to Nutter Pressure?...

Reports that Cameron is to meet with UK ISPs to discuss website censorship

The Government is to consult on ISPs about new measures to censor family internet access.

Under plans being draw up by Downing Street, it would be up to customers to opt-in to receiving adult content online when they take out a broadband contract.

David Cameron is due to meet large ISPs to discuss the measures but he is understood to be against even tougher controls on internet porn..

So how come no-once is actually talking about what should be blocked?'

See  article from

Clair PerryPC Pro have been having fun trying to get Claire Perry to say what content she would actually like to see blocked.

Earlier this week, PC Pro contacted the MP for Devizes on Twitter, asking her to define exactly what type of content she would like to see blocked.

Our tweet read: Challenge to Claire Perry MP (@Claire4Devizes): we'll send you 10 website links, you tell us whether ISPs should block them or not, and why.

Last night, Perry replied: oh dear, I think you are missing the point. Sigh. What would a current device level filter block? Thats [sic] the test. Get a grip chaps.

...Read the full article

A sane voice from Francis Maude, minister responsible for cyber security

See  article from

The Telegraph reports from a press release as to what Francis Maude will say today:

And as we meet the challenges presented by cyber space, and shape its future, governments need to resist the temptation to over regulate and control.

The internet after all has flourished precisely because it has been shaped by its users, not by governments.

The Government's objective is to help shape an open, vibrant and stable cyberspace , the minister will say.

He will conclude that a multi-stakeholder approach is needed towards governance of the net -- resisting state intervention that would stifle growth and the free exchange of ideas at its heart .

...Read the full article

And a little about the practicalities of internet blocking

Big Brother Watch logoSee  article from

They are right. Network level blocking is not the silver bullet may have portrayed it to be. Easily avoided, it is a crude tool that carries serious risks, from blocking legitimate business content to introducing new security risks into the internet.

...Read the full article


1st May

 Offsite Article: Do we really need Big Sister watching over us?...

Why Claire Perry MP for Devizes has got it wrong on online child protection. By Kay Lacey

See article from


29th April

Extract: The Salient Points...

Daily Mail and Labour teaming up to show their digital illiteracy on porn and child protection is simply dangerous

I've written extensively on the subject of web blocking to protect children from harmful content like pornography so I'll try and keep this short.

  • If you turned the internet off tomorrow you wouldn't stop kids getting hold of digital porn
  • General content filtering is impractical and imperfect. It doesn't even stop all accidental or incidental exposure and it certainly doesn't stop a motivated person or child getting to what they want with minimum technical knowledge.
  • Content filters over-block and prevent access to clean, lawful content and this impacts legitimate businesses
  • Even if content filters got much better, there is no one-size fits all. If you have children aged 7, 11 and 15 there is clearly content OK for a 15-year-old you wouldn't want your 7-year-old watching. So what level of content filtering do you want enabled by default on all connections?

...Read the full article


27th April

Update: Shadowy Labour...

Labour add to the shrill nutter cacophony calling for one size fits all website blocking

Senior Labour MPs have supported a default block on adult websites.

Jenny Chapman, the shadow minister for justice, and Helen Goodman, the shadow minister for culture, media and sport, pledged their support.

In an article for the Daily Mail they condemned the access to pornography as a modern-day form of pollution . They wrote:

Children are regularly seeing pornography and sometimes being groomed for sex. Righting these wrongs is not an attack on civil liberties. Adults will still have the choice to access material they want to see.

But in a civilised society we must also protect our children. What we want to see is the same balance of rights and responsibilities as we have in the real world.

They also claimed that sales of televisions with internet access meant even more children will be one click from the strongest material .

They attacked Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's proposal, which involves asking the four major ISPs to offer new customers the chance to opt out of access to pornography. They argue it would be 2017 before the proportion of households included reached 90%. They added that the plan does not go nearly far enough.


19th April

Comment: Perry and the Blockheads...

Claire Perry's parliamentary inquiry reiterates her call for a default ISP block on adult content

Claire Perry's parliamentary inquiry sponsored by Premier Christian Media has reiterated her call for a default ISP block on adult content.

Anyone wanting to view hardcore images online [or any other adult content such as Melon Farmers] would have to opt out of the default blocking, according to a panel of MPs and peers looking into child protection.

Their report said that six out of ten children download adult material because their parents have not installed filters. The use of blocking filters in homes has fallen from 49% to 39% in the last three years.

They concluded that parents were often outsmarted by their web-savvy children and felt unconfident in updating and downloading content filters. Many parents were oblivious to the type of material available on the internet and were often 'shocked' when they realised the content that children were accessing.

Claire Perry, the Tory MP who chaired the non-governmental Parliamentary Inquiry on Online Child Protection, said:

This is hugely worrying. While parents should be responsible for their children's online safety, in practice, people find it difficult to put content filters on the plethora of internet-enabled devices in their homes.

The inquiry called for ISPs to offer one-click filtering for all devices within a year. This would block out adult content for all domestic broadband users and stop them accessing pornography on mobiles and iPads as well as PCs and laptops.

The inquiry said that the Government should launch an official inquiry into internet filtering and ministers should seek backstop legal powers to intervene should the ISPs fail to implement an appropriate solution .

Carefully selected witnesses before the inquiry pointed to changes in the availability of hard-core images: As a result, more hard-core imagery is now available in the "free shop front" of commercial porn sites, the report said. It also found that only 3% of porn sites asked for proof of age and 66% did not contain any warning that they were for adults only.

Comment: Claire Perry's default blocking would censor adults and fail children

19th April 2012. See  article from

Commenting on Claire Perry's committee findings, Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:

These recommendations, if enacted, would endanger children, create disruption for small business, and would not work technically.

Default filtering is a form of censorship. Adults should not have to opt out of censorship. Governments should not be given powers to default censor legal material that adults see online.

Our work on mobile networks is showing that default censorship is disrupting businesses, campaign groups and bloggers. Yet it is trivial for a child to avoid the network blocking that Claire Perry recommends - sites using https are invisible to network blocks. Furthermore, default blocks may be appropriate for some older children, but too weak for others.

Parents need help, but 'default blocking' is an appalling proposal.

Comment: And for a little light relief, why not try the Daily Mail. They do a Jackson Pollox, throwing all sorts of negative terms at an empty canvas, to see what mess it makes

19th April 2012. See  article from

Miranda Suit, founder of campaign group Safermedia, told the inquiry:

This generation is going through an experiment. No one knows how they will survive this unprecedented assault on their sexual development. They are guinea pigs for the next generation.

These broadband providers are making massive money from the internet. They should not be making money from our teenagers future sexual health.'

...Read the full article


6th April

Update: Howes That!...

Elspeth Howe's internet censorship bill fails to win government support

Elspeth Howe's Bill introduced to the House of Lords a few days ago required ISPs to default to a censored internet feed until an adult subscriber requests otherwise and verifies that they are adult.

The bill also requires internet devices to be sold with pre-installed blocking software and to provide information about internet safety.

However it is a private members bill and is rather muddying the water for alternative initiatives undertaken by industry in response to pressure from the government and nutter campaigners.

For the moment the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has said it would not support the bill, as industry was already taking steps to address the issue. A DCMS spokesman said:

We understand the sentiment behind this Private Members Bill, but it isn’t something that Government would support. Much can be achieved through self-regulation and it can be more effective than a regulatory approach in delivering flexible solutions that work for both industry and consumers.

Howe's Bill reads:

Online Safety Bill (HL Bill 137)

1 Duty to provide a service that excludes pornographic images

(1) Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes pornographic images unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(2) Where mobile telephone network operators provide a telephone service to subscribers which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes pornographic images unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(3) The conditions are---

(a) the subscriber opts-in to subscribe to a service that includes pornographic images;

(b) the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and

(c) the provider of the service has an age verification policy which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over.

(4) In subsection (3)---

opts-in means a subscriber notifies the service provider of his or her consent to subscribe to a service that includes pornographic images.

2 Duty to provide a means of filtering online content

Manufacturers of electronic devices must provide customers with a means of 20filtering content from an internet access service at the time the device is purchased.

3 Duty to provide information about online safety

Internet service providers and mobile telephone network operators must provide prominent, easily accessible and clear information about online safety to customers at the time the internet service is purchased and shall make such 5information available for the duration of the service.

Note, the definition of “pornographic” is taken from the Dangerous Pictures Act:

An image is “pornographic” if it is of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.


31st March

Update: Howe Censorial...

Elspeth Howe introduces Lords private Members bill to mandatorily block adult content unless adults specifically ask otherwise

The first legislative attempt to introduce an opt-in system for accessing adult internet content, has been introduced to the House of Lords. Of course private members bills have little chance of becoming law unless they capture a large consensus of support including the government.

The Online Safety Private Members Bill was introduced by Baroness Elspeth Howe, who wants to require ISPs and mobile phone companies to block adult content, unless an adult user specifically asks for it.

And the bill has predictably won the backing of the Christian  campaign group CARE, who claim it is important that the government look at providing a safe online environment for web savvy children.

The Private Members Bill is calling for ISPs and mobile phone operators to provide a service that allows adult customers to make decisions about what sort of content they want blocking on their home broadband or their children's mobile phones.

Howe's Bill is based on MP Claire Perry's campaign. The government said at the time that they are in favour of the proposals put forward, but would like the industry to self-regulate and bring about these changes without amending primary legislation. Last year the industry made the pledge to bring forward self-regulatory measures, but did not go as far as endorsing the requirement to have an opt-in to access pornography through a filter at network level.

Howe said:

Historically, most internet content has escaped regulation. A laudable industry-wide effort in the UK resulted in the Clean Feed system that blocks illegal child abuse imagery, but there has always been a reluctance to block, or limit access to, other forms of adult material due to the international nature of internet content.


14th February

 Offsite Article: Porn for 3...

Daily Mail has a long whinge about kids access to porn on mobile phones

See article from


8th February

Update: Protecting Business as Well as Children...

Ireland points out that ISP's aren't the best organisations to decide which websites to block, and the inevitable safety first over blocking will result in damage to innocent parties

The Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) is knocking Britain's new plan that requires surfers to select whether or not they want internet blocking, calling it nothing less than censorship.

The ISPAI said the responsibility should lie with parents policing what their children view on the web and not the business of the U.K. government. ISPAI's Paul Duran told the Irish Independent:

If Internet service providers are dictating what can be accessed, then that could be seen as nothing less than censorship. Essentially we would be deciding what would be the inappropriate material. That should be left to the parents or guardians.

The ISPAI represents 20 ISPs in Ireland including Eircom, O2, Vodafone and UPC.

Critics of the British move said there are a number of practical issues that are being overlooked and need to be addressed. The restrictions could lump in websites that do not contain sexually explicit material.

Digital law expert JP McIntyre said:

Many of these blocking issues are easy to circumvent, but what they do tend to do is damage people who have been wrongly blocked. You'll find that shops selling things like lingerie get blocked by these filters,

Very often there are no appeal mechanisms or they are very hard to use and in the meantime people find that their businesses are suffering because people can't access their sites and they don't know why.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald refused to comment on whether there were any plans to persuade Irish ISPs to adopt the British model.


7th February

Update: Safely Censored...

TalkTalk to mandate that new subscribers select whether or not they want ISP level website blocking

From the end of next month new subscribers to TalkTalk broadband will be unable to activate their internet connection until they specify any categories of website access that they would like to block.

The TalkTalk ISP has defined nine categories of websites, including porn, dating, gambling, gaming, suicide, social networking and weapons + violence, that can be blocked. Subscribers will be alerted automatically either by email or text if the controls are subsequently changed.

TalkTalk already provides subscribers with the opportunity to block access to websites through its HomeSafe service, but currently they not prompted to choose website blocking and the default is for no sites to be blocked. So far 240,000 subscribers have elected for website blocks to be imposed.

The children's minister, Tim Loughton, praised TalkTalk and said he hoped other internet service providers would offer similar services shortly:

Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety we are working with industry and charities to provide tools and information to inform parents and help keep children safe online.

Meanwhile a little propaganda for cyberbullying parents

See  article from

Parents who are not technology savvy are putting their children are at risk from exposure to unsuitable content on the internet, claim two studies.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) Centre and IT firm Westcoastcloud, have warned that not all parents have put internet blocking controls on their computers.

Further, even the majority of those who have put controls in place have not considered doing the same on other household devices that access the internet.

A Mori poll, commissioned by Ceop, showed that about 8% in the UK, aged between five and 15, are regular users of the internet.

But the study from Westcoastcloud, a division of Glasgow-based cloud computing specialist Iomart, revealed that only half of parents have installed software to protect their offspring  while only one in four has installed similar protection on the mobile phones, games consoles and television services.

Technology has transformed people's lives both collectively and individually, said Peter Davies, chief executive of the Ceop Centre and the senior police officer leading on child protection on the internet for the Association of Chief Police Officers: But too often we see examples of where the child is at risk because they make simple online mistakes -- because they are lured in or push the boundaries too far and risk their safety.


14th January

Blocking Watching...

Open Rights Group set up facility to monitor over blocking by mobile phone companies

Open Rights Group (ORG) are researching into the accuracy of the website blocking employed by mobile phone companies. The group wrote in its newsletter:

Last month, we asked ORG supporters to help us find sites that were being blocked by the default Adult filter on their mobile phones. Lots of you replied and asked to get involved. And thanks to that extraordinary team - we've launched a tool to report what sites are being blocked and by whom.

We are getting regular reports and testing blocks on every mobile network. We're seeing just how bad mobile blocking is, and how bad the networks are at dealing with complaints. Forums and joke sites get banned. So do churches. Some MPs want to extend default adult censorship to Internet at home as well: but we are already seeing how bad it is on mobile networks. ORG has already been invited to talk to O2 about their systems, as a result of this campaign.

Report blocked websites at

Meanwhile thank to a reader who wrote to MelonFarmers:

Just to let you know; the mobile network Three are blocking access to your site through their 3G networks - The site works fine on Wi-Fi, but on 3G you get asked to contact Three to get a pin to unblock the site, as they have it listed as an Adult content site.

They charge 99p to allow access to adult sites (And it's not straightforward, takes a while to find the right place to do it.). 

They have also blocked, same reason as above.


7th January

Update: TalkTalk SafeSafe NotNot...

HomeSafe internet blocking is insufficient for TalkTalk to claim UK's safest broadband

a. A TV ad for broadband, viewed on 12 September, featured a toy family in a dolls house, guarded by a row of toy soldiers. The voice-over said, Talk Talk homes have the UK's safest broadband thanks to HomeSafe, free for all customers. No wonder thousands of homes join Talk Talk every day. Talk Talk, a brighter home for everyone.

b. A poster for broadband, viewed on 19 September, stated The UK's safest broadband is now 3.25 a month and Includes HomeSafe, the UK's first and only network level security .

c. A national press ad for broadband, viewed on 28th August, stated The UK's safest broadband 3.25 a month. Our great value phone and broadband gives you all this: Half price for 9 months then 6.50 a month for the remaining 3 months. Our ground-breaking new security service, HomeSafe is free to all customers ... . Issue

British Telecommunications (BT) and two members of the public challenged whether the claim UK's safest broadband made in ads (a), (b) and (c) was misleading.

ASA Decision: Complaints Upheld

The ASA acknowledged that TalkTalk were the only home broadband provider to offer security features that were applied at the network level, rather than to individual devices. We noted that HomeSafe offered three features: content restriction, which allowed parents to restrict access to inappropriate websites; virus alerts, which alerted users if they viewed a suspect website; and a feature which allowed parents to restrict access to social networking and gaming sites during certain times of the day. We noted that most other broadband providers supplied security packages to their customers, and that these required software to be downloaded on each individual computer it was to be applied to, and that they were only able to be used on personal computers running Windows operating systems.

We noted that TalkTalk believed that the claim Talk Talk homes have the UK's safest broadband was accurate as it was based on their being the only broadband provider to offer network level security. However, we considered that the claim implied that customers would enjoy the safest online experience when using TalkTalk broadband. We also considered that the images shown in the ad reinforced this impression, as a father was pictured relaxing in an armchair whilst two children used the internet, giving the impression that using TalkTalk meant the actual online experience was the safest. We considered that customers could interpret safest as referring to a number of features, such as virus protection or protection from hacking, and that Home Safe only offered a basic range of security features. We did not consider that consumers would interpret safest as referring to blocking of inappropriate content, and restricting access to certain sites at certain times. As Talk Talk were not able to substantiate that customers would enjoy the safest online experience with them, we concluded ad (a) was misleading.

We noted that ad (b) stated Includes HomeSafe, the UK's first and only network level security . However, we did not consider that consumers would interpret this as being the full basis for the claim UK's safest broadband , as the word includes implied that it was only part of a fuller package. We also considered consumers were unlikely to understand what network level security meant, as it was not a commonly used term in home broadband, and that it could be easily misinterpreted to refer to other features such as the security of the wireless connection. We considered that the claim implied that customers would enjoy the safest online experience when using TalkTalk broadband, and that the qualification used did not sufficiently counteract this impression. As Talk Talk were not able to substantiate that customers would enjoy the safest online experience with them, we concluded ad (b) was misleading.

We noted that ad (c) stated Our ground-breaking new security service, HomeSafe is free to all customers . However, we considered that the ad did not make it clear that this was the basis for the claim UK's safest broadband , and that the ad did not provide any details of the features provided by HomeSafe. We considered that the claim implied that customers would enjoy the safest online experience when using TalkTalk broadband, and that the qualification used did not sufficiently counteract this impression. As Talk Talk were not able to substantiate that customers would enjoy the safest online experience with them, we concluded ad (c) was misleading.

Ad (a) breached BCAP Codes rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Other comparisons).

Ads (b) and (c) breached CAP Codes rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Other comparisons). Action

The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told TalkTalk to ensure that the basis for comparative claims was made clear in future.


6th January

Update: Parrying Perry...

Government backs off from the idea of ISPs blocking porn unless requested otherwise

The Government has toned down its support for internet blocking and moved to distance itself from a leading anti-porn campaigner.

Last year, the Government threw its weight behind the idea of ISPs blocking all porn by default unless adults specifically requested a full service.

However the ISPs didn't find this idea practical. They rolled out the compromise idea of providing blocking software to individual subscribers so that they could be tailored as required. ISP's would also ensure that these facilities would be made crystal clear to new subscribers.

Now it appears the Government is distancing itself from the original idea of blocking porn by default at the ISP level. Foreign Secretary William Hague explained in response to an open letter from rights groups:

We believe that parents should be provided with wide tools to enable them to voluntarily block harmful and inappropriate content.

It is important to distinguish between Government encouraging people to make more use of existing protections as a matter of choice, and the Government deciding what people can and cannot do online.

Our plans do not prevent access to legal material, but seek to make it much clearer that protections exist, and to encourage their use.

The Home Secretary also distanced the Government from MP Claire Perry, who has been campaigning for a block on all porn, a stance that has raised concerns among internet freedom groups. Hague said:

The position of Claire Perry regarding the default filtering of adult content is not the position of this Government.


31st December

Update: All Just TalkTalk...

HomeSafe website blocking service attracts few takers

The number of people signing up to a ground-breaking new service to block children from accessing self-harm and pornography websites has slumped amid criticisms that it fails to achieve its aims, could breach privacy and employs technology connected to the Chinese military.

TalkTalk ISP launched its free HomeSafe service to its 4 million internet subscribers in May, but the product has only attracted around 200,000 users despite signing up more than 100,000 in its first two months.

The slowing take-up follows HomeSafe featuring prominently in TalkTalk's recent advertising campaign which attempted to attract customers by plugging the UK's safest broadband .

Some technology blogs and websites have raised concerns that HomeSafe might be easily bypassed by dubious websites, while also querying whether the product could introduce worries about privacy.

On his blog, Dr Richard Clayton, a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge, wrote:

I doubt that malware distributors will see this [HomeSafe] as much of a challenge. The system is described as 'opt in', [but] that only applies to whether or not websites you visit might be blocked. What is not opt in is whether or not TalkTalk learns the details of the URLs [websites] that all of their customers visit, whether they have opted in or not.


4th November

A Parliamentary Question about ISP Internet Blocking...

The Mood of the House is for action and legislation

Oral Answers to Questions, Culture, Media and Sport, 3rd November 2011

Andrea Leadsom took the opportunity of parliamentary questions to badger the government about ISP blocking for 'unsuitable' sites.

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire, Conservative):

Has the Minister seen a demonstration of TalkTalk's HomeSafe system, which enables families to keep their children safe not only from internet porn, but from sites on suicide and on bomb-making, and all sorts of unsuitable sites? Does he agree that unless internet service providers do more to enable family-friendly systems to protect children, the Government will have to legislate?

Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative):

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I have seen the TalkTalk system. I have said to ISPs again and again that I prefer self-regulation to legislation, but the mood of the House is for action and legislation. This is not about censorship, but about giving families the tools to protect their children from inappropriate content, and we rely on them to come up with solutions.


31st October

Update: Opting Out of ISP Level Website Blocking...

Church of England threatens to pull their investment from ISPs unless they 'take action against porn'

The Church of England is threatening to use its financial power to inflict internet censorship on Britain. It is considering withdrawing the millions it has invested in ISPs unless they take action.

The Church of England, which wields significant financial clout on the markets, is reviewing investments worth tens of millions. It refuses to invest in firms which fuel the very problems Christians are trying to tackle and has already leaned heavily on supermarkets to be more responsible in the way they sell alcohol.

A Church spokesman said members of its ethical investment advisory group are considering new guidelines on pornography which take into account how easy it is to access with modern media.

The Church of England's stance on porn was welcomed by the Reverend Nutter Richard Moy, who works with young people in Lichfield, Staffordshire. He spouted without a grain of justification:

It is not surprising that people go from soft porn to progressively more hard-core porn to the point where they are so depraved that they do things that they would never imagine doing.

I think that if people start using mild porn to gratify a need rather than looking at why they need that gratification then they will eventually move on to more disturbing things.

[On the other hand, if people don't gratify their needs, eg priests trying to be celibate, then they may eventually move on to even more disturbing things].


29th October

Update: Opting Out of ISP Level Website Blocking...

ISPs clarify that their approach to website blocking is to ensure that parents are well informed about free blocking software that may be used on home computers

The UK's four major Internet Service Providers have published a Code of Practice, putting the decision on what to block in parents' hands. Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk and Sky, said they believed parents are best-placed to decide whether to turn controls on, and to decide what types of content and applications to block, rather than having those decisions made for them by internet firms.

The Code commits them to educating parents about content controls but does not require them to provide ISP level blocking. Instead the code commits its signatory ISPs to teaching parents about the availability of parental controls, providing tools free of charge to filter access to the internet at the point of purchase and reminding customers of the blocking tools at their disposal at least once a year.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said he was pleased to see the industry taking action to help parents protect their children online . He said:

The new code of conduct is a real, practical step to ensure households make a choice about parental controls when opening a new internet account.

The Children's Minister Tim Loughton added:

Parents are quite rightly concerned about their children accessing harmful or inappropriate content online. But many parents don't always know how to activate parental controls at home. That's why it's important they are asked to make a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want parental controls switched on or off.


18th October

Update: Blocking Practicality...

Commentators point out the impracticalities of ISP level 'one size fits all' website blocking

Adult content filters can't replace good parenting

See  article from by Corry Doctrow

The government's proposed web controls are too simplistic when it comes to understanding and filtering adult material

Last week's announcement of a national scheme to block adult content at the point of subscription (as the BBC's website had it) was a moment of mass credulity on the part of the nation's media, and an example of how complex technical questions and hot-button save-the-children political pandering are a marriage made in hell when it comes to critical analysis in the press.

Under No 10's proposal, the UK's major ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, will invite new subscribers to opt in or out of an adult content filter. But for all the splashy reporting on this that dominated the news cycle, no one seemed to be asking exactly what adult content is, and how the filters' operators will be able to find and block it.

Adult content covers a lot of ground. While the media of the day kept mentioning pornography in this context, existing adult filters often block gambling sites and dating sites (both subjects that are generally considered adult but aren't anything like pornography), while others block information about reproductive health and counselling services aimed at GBLT teens (gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender).

Then there's the problem of sites that have a wide variety of content, such as the venerable LiveJournal, which contains millions of personal and shared diaries. Some of these have material that children, especially small children, shouldn't see, but others don't. Is LiveJournal an adult site? It is, at least according to some filters.

...Read the full article

Britain's broadband censors: a bunch of students

See  article from by Nicole Kobie

McAfee creates blacklists of online content, categorising sites in order to let ISPs block them. BT and Sky use McAfee's lists for their parental controls, which a new Government-sponsored code of conduct requires them to offer to all customers.

The overall process is mostly automated, with McAfee's system looking for keywords on a site to classify it. Toralv Dirro, a security strategist at McAfee's Avert labs told PC Pro. If there's any doubt, we do have a team of people that take a look at a website and correct a classification if it's necessary. The team responsible for covering McAfee's customers worldwide is made up of between five to ten people. I think it's a fairly popular job for students, Dirro said.

However, he admits the very sites the small team is asked to judge are those that are the most subjective. Drawing the line between erotic and hardcore pornography is probably the most difficult, he said. Another thing is websites that go into extreme left or right side [politically], but still do news or something like that.

Dirro admitted there can be difficulties when a mainstream site features material that could be deemed pornographic to some people. Maybe they had pornographic or erotic stuff on their site, which for example could happen with a newspaper site, if they have the 'Page 3' picture of a woman on the front page. Normally, the entire site would be banned, not only the offending page. However larger sites such as The Sun have markers to prevent them from being slotted into a category and subsequently blocked.

There's no way you can obtain the complete list from us, Dirro said, adding McAfee would never publish the full list for intellectual property reasons. If you published that list, anyone could just take it and use it and create their own products.

If a site has been wrongly categorised, which Dirro admitted does happen, the site owner can open a ticket with support to get it changed. If McAfee refuses to change it, there's not really much that a site can do, Dirro admitted.

...Read the full article

EFF Criticises UK Government over Gambling Filter Plans

From by Mark Bennett

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is criticising the UK government for its plans on internet filtering. In conjunction with the Christian organization Mothers' Union, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has enacted a plan with four of Britain's major ISPs, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin, and Sky, to block access to pornography, gambling, self-harm, and other blacklisted websites.

The EFF claims that the plan lacks transparency. The blocked categories are vague in nature, and the list's origins unknown. Not only do the categories contain legal content in some cases, but there is significant room for overblocking.

The EFF also suggests opt-in services create privacy concerns. Users who choose to opt out of the bad content filter are then on one list. The plan does not in include privacy protections for the people who choose to opt out. The list could potentially be made public, shaming users who would prefer their Internet with its pornography, gambling, and self-harm websites intact.


12th October

Update: Filtering Out Spin...

ISPs don't seem to talking from the same hymn sheet as David Cameron re website blocking

As widely reported yesterday the four biggest ISPs said they have come up with a code of practice re website blocking and parental controls.

However this does not quite mean that ISPs are automatically blocking pornographic sites, and customers who wish to see such content do not have to ask their provider for permission to do so.

In fact what the ISPs said is something a little different. For example BT said in a statement:

The ISPs have committed to improve the way they communicate to customers, enabling parents to make simple and well-informed choices about installing and activating parental controls and other measures to protect children online. The four ISPs are working with parents' groups and children's charities on this important initiative and will continue to do so.

The ISPs are offering a wider range of services, not just the automatic blocking facility that has caught the attention.

All four ISPs already offer controls, and some of their users already have the feature turned on. The only change is that new customers can no longer sidestep the activation decision. A spokesperson for TalkTalk said: This is called 'active choice' rather than an opt-in or opt-out.  

In the cases of BT, Sky and Virgin Media, the parental control software is PC-based rather than network-based, and comes on the CD new customers need to set up their connection. BT said it plans to remind existing customers that they can activate the parental controls if they wish. This will be PC software provided by the security company McAfee.

TalkTalk goes a step further, in that it uses a network-level blocking system called HomeSafe, which has already raised the ire of anti-censorship campaigners. HomeSafe has blocked one million websites since its introduction in May, TalkTalk said in a statement, adding it hopes to see other ISPs follow its lead with network-level measures.

However, a spokesman for BT said the company is not convinced these screen material as effectively as PC-based controls, at this time . They could prove irritating and end up being unused, because they are inflexible and do not offer the versatility of PC-based controls, the spokesman told ZDNet UK.


15th September

Update: Taste and Decency on the Internet...

Jeremy Hunt to include in law, the requirement for ISPs to offer choices for internet blocking

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has written about the contents of the next Comms Act. He outlined several of the measures in a speech to the Royal Television Society.

On topic of internet blocking of 'offensive' content he said:

When it comes to accessing material that can offend taste and decency standards in their own home, we should put consumers firmly in the driving seat.

We won't water down existing protections on traditional media, the watershed is here to stay, and I welcome  the progress made by both the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and also by ISPs who have just completed work on a draft code of practice on parental controls.

But I think we need to go further.

I will therefore consider including in the new Comms Act an obligation on ISPs to ensure all their customers make an active choice about parental controls, either at the point of purchase, or the point of account activation.


27th June

Update: Secretive Government...

Rights holders present secret paper to the government proposing website blocking

The Open Rights Group has learnt that detailed website blocking proposals have been presented by rights holder groups to Ed Vaizey.

The paper was submitted by the Football Association Premier League; the Publishers Association; BPI (British Recorded Music Industry); the Motion Picture Association; and the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television.

The paper itself has not been published or circulated, despite requests to rights holder groups. The meeting on 15 June, where the paper was presented, was closed to ORG or any other rights group. Consumer Focus did attend, as the official consumer watchdog.

However, it is unclear if Consumer Focus or anyone else is able to show us the proposal. In essence, we have a secret website blocking proposal tabled by rights holders, that may become a self-regulatory , privatised, censorship platform for the UK.

It is unacceptable for trade groups and government to conduct policy in this way. Censorship proposals must be made and discussed in public. Many of us will oppose any censorship that impacts directly and widely on free expression.

UPDATE: Consumer Focus have published a response to the secret paper. This says the core of the proposal is that:

The trade associations are proposing that the Applications Court of the High Court issues permanent injunctions on the basis that a Council and expert body have come to the view that the evidence submitted by copyright owners is valid and the blocking access to the website is appropriate.

Update: Secretive Paper Leaked

27th June 2011. From
See  paper [pdf] from

The paper has now been leaked.

Under the plans copyright owners would identify websites they believe are infringing their copyright and an expert body would then decide whether to recommend that a court issues an injunction banning the site from hosting infringing material, according to the documents.

Internet service providers (ISPs) that sign-up to the code will then block access to the sites, the documents said.

Under the new code rights holders should inform websites that they are taking infringement action against them where possible and website owners should be able to appeal against ISPs blocking access to their sites, the document said.

Details of the proposals were first revealed by blogger James Firth who posted about the secret meeting on his website. Firth said a Government contact had told him Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, had commented on the proposals, saying if it's a voluntary scheme, go and do it . This implies that Government does not need to be involved, Firth said in his blog.


22nd June

Update: Claire Perry and the Blockheads...

Fiona Mactaggart joins those calling for a blocked internet by default

Labour MP Fiona Mactaggert has added her name to the call for internet blocking to be turned on by default.

They are whingeing that TalkTalk's network-level porn filter doesn't go far enough because it is only enable for those that request it.

Last year, Tory MP Claire Perry called for ISPs to block porn at source. TalkTalk responded with the launch of HomeSafe, a filtering system that claims to block adult websites or P2P file-sharing on all devices on the home network. TalkTalk claims 50,000 customers have already signed up for the opt-in filtering system.

Mactaggart and Perry have now repeated calls for the system to be switched on by default.

Frankly, the way to make sure we have this protection while still having choice is to have a network-level filter built in, said Perry: I still think that's the simplest way to do it. I remain convinced of that.

That view was backed by Shelia Eaton, president of the National Council for Women, who said such a filter needed to be on by default as parents often don't know as much about technology as their children .

However, Perry was contradicted by her senior Government colleague and Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, who said he wasn't fussed what sort of system the ISPs opted for, so long as he sees genuine action from ISPs to give parents easily accessible tools that [mean] that kind of content isn't seen by children .

The TalkTalk system was also welcomed by Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, who said parents just want a simple way to control what their children can access online. It's about offering parents the ability to stop their kids stumbling across this content, she said.


18th May

Updated: Polluted Children...

Mediawatch-UK to lobby BT over ISP internet blocking


Mediawatch-UK, the nutter campaign group, says children today are the polluted generation . It will launch a campaign tomorrow to alert parents. Acting with the charity Safermedia, it will put up 10ft-high letters reading Block Porn outside BT's headquarters in London as part of a drive to encourage providers to restrict access to pornographic content.

A Mediawatch spokeswoman said: Parents seem to be unaware of the scale of their children's porn consumption. Seventy-five per cent of teenagers say their parents have never talked about porn with them.

Far from being harmless, we are seeing evidence that children's consumption of pornography is affecting their development.

Update: Block Porn

18th May 2011. Based on article from
See also article from

On the 7th February 2011, Ed Vaizey MP, the Minister for Culture met with the major British ISPs to discuss the potential of this suggestion. Following a good discussion, the ISPs are now looking at the technical side of implementation and the next meeting with Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, is today on the 18th May 2011.

As part of this campaign, on May 16th 2011 Safermedia travelled to central London and built a 10ft structure with coloured blocks outside the BT headquarters calling on ISPs to BLOCK PORN at the source.


10th May

Update: TalkTalk BlockBlock...

British ISP starts a website blocking service for children

One of the UK's largest ISPs has launched network-level website blocking aimed at protecting subscribers' children and their computers. While reports of HomeSafe's ability to block access to viruses, pornography and violent content has been widespread, it also blocks file-sharing sites and even information about file sharing at .

The package offers various services

  • Virus Alerts which blocks sites (or sections of sites) known to be infected with malware.
  • Homework Time , a feature which allows parents to grant kids access to the Internet for educational purposes, but stops them in their tracks should they attempt to become distracted by social networking sites such as Facebook.
  • KidsSafe, offers parents a set of controls to stop their kids (or indeed anyone else using a TalkTalk Internet connection) from accessing violent, pornographic or gambling content.

TalkTalk is stressing that HomeSafe is completely optional and is disabled by default. The list of blocked sites will not be made available.


12th February

Updated: Mums Against ISP Internet Blocking...

Mumsnet change their mind and come out against the idea

The politically influential online community Mumsnet has withdrawn support for a campaign to make ISPs block access to all adult content unless the customer specifically asks the ISP to let them see it.

The campaign, started by Claire Perry MP with the backing of morality in media activitists SaferMedia, has received a sympathetic hearing from Ed Vaizey, the Minister for the Internet.

Mumsnet site admins assumed their community would happily support a campaign that claimed to protect children and make the ISPs take responsibility for Internet content, and established a campaign page on the website. But the campaign was met with robust criticism from within the Mumsnet community that the proposal was technically unworkable, an illiberal censorship that would quickly lead to blocking Wikileaks, and that it was dangerous to shift blame to ISPs for bad parenting.

Perhaps the most telling argument was that the Mumsnet site itself could be blocked over its depictions of breast feeding.

The Mumsnet campaign page in favour of Internet blocking has now been deleted, leaving only a 300-entry discussion thread and write-ups by Mumsnet bloggers to document the policy blunder.

Update: Safermedia describe the Mumsnet decision as an 'hysterical reaction'

12th February 2011. See  article from

Claire Perry, who writing in yesterday's Telegraph, defended the policy of filtering the web to protect children, was surprised to learn of Mumsnet's u-turn on the matter and said that she would be taking it up with the founders of the site.

Pippa Smith, co-chairwoman of Safer Media, the Christian group behind the campaign for anti-pornography filters to be switched on by default, said: I am surprised that parents would be critical of the campaign because the idea is to help parents. If internet users have to opt in to view pornography parents don't have to worry about protecting their children from it...I think there has to be censorship to protect children. If you're over 18 you won't be censored [under the proposals] . [But parents will be faced with blocked websites if they have opted for filtering for their children. At the moment it would be quite tricky to set up a separately configured connection for each family member.]

When asked about Mumsnet's about-turn on the matter, she replied: You do hear of the odd story of hysterical reactions on this kind of online forum. I'm not concerned about our campaign on the basis of what is said on one website.


10th February

Update: Scary...

Nutters claim web blocking consensus with government and ISPs

Claire Perry the nutter backbench MP has claimed there is a scary degree of favourable consensus between campaigners, the government and ISPs on introducing internet blocking that would mean internet users would have to opt in to access pornography.

Claire Perry, the Conservative MP for Devizes, said a meeting on Monday had been very productive . Perry is backing a campaign by Christian groups who fear the influence of the internet on children. They want network-level filters that would block legal sex sites by default.

Despite her comments about the meeting on Twitter, ISP sources denied they gave any ground to Perry on the issue. They remain opposed to the campaign on both principle and technical grounds.

ISPs favour educating parents and offering software and services that allow them to control access to pornography at home.

Eg BT have announced a new Family Protection desktop package free to account holders, arguing that at this time these [network level] controls can't match the functionality offered by PC-based parental-control software .

Ed Vaizey said: More needs to be done to help parents protect their children and the roundtable was a useful first step.


5th February

Update: Invited for Filter Coffee and Nut Fudge...

Mediawatch-UK and Safermedia get their meeting with Ed Vaizey

  Nudging Ed Vaizey

The nutters of Mediawatch-UK and Safermedia are looking forward to Monday's meeting with government minister Ed Vaizey.

The political campaigners are pushing their demands for ISP blocking with adult material only enabled for those that opt in and verify their age.

Mediawatch rant on about all the worlds ills seemingly down to porn on the internet but don't really consider too much about the practicalities of trying to define a filter to match the needs of all ages from tots to parents.

But Mediawatch-uk have made a little progress they now seem to support the idea that adults are allowed access to porn. Last time this was mentioned they wanted to put people in prison for 3 years for the possession of R18 porn. Mediawatch-UK wrote on their blog:

We support the proposal for an opt-in system to block adult sites at source unless specifically requested.

Of course once the blocking process is place the next step will be to 'nudge' society pressurising people not to opt in.

According to the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA), they together with a number of ISPs have also  been invited to the meeting. Representatives of UKCCIS and children's charities will also be present.

I bet they haven't invited anyone to represent the views of the millions of people who enjoy various forms of adult interests on the net..


30th January

Update: A Call to Lobby Ed Vaizey...

Safermedia single issue political campaign exploiting charity money from UK tax payers

  Buttonholing Ed Vaizey

Safermedia are reporting that they have been having meetings with MPs in parliament regarding their campaign for ISP internet blocking.

They have announced that on 7th February 2011 Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture will be having meetings with British ISPs to push for an opt-in system to block internet pornography.

They have called on their supporters to email Vaizey so as to give an impression of public support.

Safermedia wrote on their blog site:

We would urge you to fill in your name, address and organisation (if appropriate) on the letter to Mr Vaizey below, and send this email as soon as possible, and before 7 February, to

Dear Mr Vaizey,

Thank you for your efforts in arranging a meeting with internet service providers to discuss how the industry can better support parents and help them ensure that their children cannot access pornography. Research clearly indicates that viewing pornography leads to an acceptance of violent and unhealthy notions of sex and relationships, where the objectification of women and aggressive sexual behaviour are the norm. That is why I strongly support your initiative, suggested by Claire Perry MP, to switch the default setting for internet pornography in to our homes to off , and implement an opt-in system. I urge you to promote it as robustly as possible at your forthcoming round table meeting with the ISPs in February.

Yours Sincerely,

Name: Address: Organisation (if appropriate):


24th December

 Offsite: Christian People's Safermedia Alliance...

Reactionary forces are shaping the debate on internet porn

See article from


23rd December

Comment: Chaps vs Women...

Shaun writes to Claire Perry about a new angle she has introduced to the internet blocking debate

Claire Perry is one the MPs most prominently campaigning for internet censorship.

She has just brought a new dimension to the debate with a tweet that caught the interest of the internet community.

She wrote on twitter:

100% of negative or abusive commentary about opt in system for internet porn is from the chaps. Women 100% positive (so far)

Shaun has emailed her to take issue with the comment:

Dear Ms Perry MP

I am sorry but I have to take issue with statements you have made! On your twitter site you wrote: 100% of negative or abusive commentary about opt in system for internet porn is from the chaps. Women 100% positive (so far)

In fact this isn't true. Please check out the responses on the Daily Mail web site .

For example Cheryl (presumably a girl) replied there:

If you don't want your kid to see porn, then don't leave them with a computer or anything that can access the internet, in their bedrooms or allow internet access on mobile phones. Keep all devices that access the internet in the family area and simply disconnect the modem when you do not want your kids going online.

Also I bet at least 50% of all the internet porn your kids have seen comes not from the friendly home PC, but from their friends houses, their friends mobiles and even their school IT room. - Cheryl86, mansfield uk, 19/12/2010 22:40

But the truth of a statement doesn't seem to be all that important to politicians does it ?

There are other women there who do NOT support your idea. You will find that the MAJORITY of people there, who are traditionally your OWN supporters do not want this.

MS Perry - I voted conservative on the ground we would get increased freedoms after the years of NL nannying which people are SICK TO DEATH of. It seems you folks are going to be even worse, and I won't be voting conservative again unless things change very quickly. Yes there's going to an opt in so you can get the internet uncensored, so you say! The problem is that people simply do *not* trust you. They believe that a slippery slope with mission creep will come to pass and eventually only government approved material will be allowed.

MS Perry in political speak: Censorship of this kind has no place in any kind of free and democratic country.

I have children now in their late teens, who have been online for over TWELVE years. There are ways you can monitor their access and restrict what they do without this. The internet IS NOT a child's playground.

If you persist in running a censored feed you should set it up yourselves (the government I mean) PAY for it, and then offer it to ISPs as an option, to connect through it, for those who want it. That way you cannot blame the ISPS or fine them when it fails, which it surely will.

As for comparison with child abuse filters, already in existence, this is unfair for the following reasons:

1: The number of such sites is very small compared with the number of so called Adult sites

2: The effectiveness of the child abuse filters cannot be tested as to bypass them and download the material would turn you into a criminal. Few would dare risk that I think.

3: Adult censorship systems will be tested to destruction by both sides, those for, and those against. Those who are for, will make sure it works properly and complain when it does not. Those against, will test it, so they can say We told you so and information how to bypass the scheme will be plastered all over the web.

MS Perry, censorship is a necessary evil and should be kept to a minimum in any kind of free country. We are not China or North Korea. Or is that the kind of environment you politicians really want to create for your children ?

It took me a long time to wish New labour was out of power. I think I've got to that position with the current coalition already.

If you think men are against this, it is simply because men tend understand the workings of the internet more, and certainly trust the government LESS when it goes on these kinds of moral crusades. You should not really keep taking a pot shot at men as you do. This is insulting and sexist. Yes we might be more stimulated by explicit images. There is some truth in that. That however is a product of evolution. It does not mean we don't care about keeping our children safe. However I really would like to see more evidence of the harm, before you go on a censorship crusade. I have followed this debate for some years, ever since realised exactly how much censorship was imposed on our media back in the nineties, compared with the much more free countries of Europe.

If you do have a censored feed, it should be one which is requested by PARENTS. I should not have to ask my ISP for my freedom of choice, and perhaps be put on a list of people who have done this. (Another fear of many people, who are against this)

I am not a constituent, but I would be grateful for your reply, and any reassurances you might care to offer.

BTW: I find it APPALLING that a political posturing group such as SaferMedia have been granted charitable status, when I don't think there is anything remotely charitable about their activities. As far as I can tell, they exist simply to try to persuade politcians to impose a narrow-minded Christian agenda on everyone else. I have asked the charities commission to review their decision in light of their political activities.


21st December

Update: One Size Fails All...

Commentators unimpressed by Ed Vaizey's nutter pandering website blocking

  Baby Brother's watching YOU

Ed Vaizey doesn't seem to have found many takers for his ideas about website blocking at ISP level. Very few commentators can see any way whatsoever that a single shared blocking scheme can fit the requirements of the whole family.

Perhaps he would be better off suggesting some more advanced networking architectures where multiple users can have individually tailored internet connections depending on their login.

But as for the shared scheme, it deserves nothing but derision.

Phantom on the Melon Farmers Forum asks:

If something like this is set up, who will be doing the filtering? Will the people doing the filtering really be sensible, reasonable people? Or will they be experts headhunted from the BBFC and various moral pressure groups?

Does anyone here think that such a new internet regime would conduct itself fairly and reasonably? Would their be a level playing ground, whereby melonfarmers could have a raunchy pic in an advert on its pages and it would get the same treatment as, say, Amazon? Are people absolutely certain that, the presence of advertisements to adult product sites would not be a wonderful excuse to close down access to sites such as melonfarmers?

People doing the filtering are invariably going to be a collection of the usual suspects.

Any idea of an appeal system will be pretty much a joke, as the whole undertaking will be so bogged down with the sheer scale of the task of finding all adult sites, that it will dedicate virtually no time to appeals.

Aside from that, appeals would be handled from the position of defending the credibility of the organisation. i.e. We must have been right, as we're the experts. Therefore the appeal must be unjustified.

The last thing Britain needs right now is another panel of self important experts on matters decent. Given that this government is supposed to be interested in cutting the number of quangos their desire to create yet another one, strains credulity.

More busy bodies with clip boards. More self appointed moral guardians. More high handed injustice in the name of protecting us all.

And a good point from the Guardian

Those are all great reasons not to waste untold millions of pounds either creating a government great firewall , or requiring ISPs to do the same. But here's the most important reason of all: it won't work.

Any think-of-the-children internet filter has a fundamental problem: if it's effective enough to actually block adult content, it will also be irritating enough that almost everyone will turn it off.

An effective filter would have to censor Flickr, which has a large amount of adult imagery. It has to censor every blogging platform: Tumblr, for example, has a whole swathe of porn blogs, and there are untold numbers of sex bloggers writing reams of explicit text. And it has to censor YouTube, particularly if 4chan decide to flood it with porn again. Facebook could probably be let through, thanks to its strong filtering policies – although right now, most mobile providers block it for under-18s anyway.

If an adult content filter allows those sites through, it fails. And if it blocks those sites, then hardly anyone will use it – and it fails.

And of course practical and monetary concerns from the ISP industry

See  article from

In response to the government proposal, Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the Ispa industry body, said:

Ispa firmly believes that controls on children's access to the internet should be managed by parents and carers with the tools ISPs provide, rather than being imposed top-down.

ISPs currently block child abuse content which is illegal and widely regarded as abhorrent. Blocking lawful pornography content is less clear cut, will lead to the blocking of access to legitimate content and is only effective in preventing inadvertent access.

Trefor Davies, chief technology officer at ISP Timico said:

Unfortunately, It's technically not possible to completely block this stuff

He said the sheer volume of pornographic material online and the number of ways that people access it, via the web, file-sharing networks, news groups, discussion boards and the like, made the job impossible.

While some proponents of a national pornographic filtering scheme cite the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) as an example of how such a scheme might work, Davies said it was not a good guide. Such a system would not work if it was used to deal with millions of porn sites, chat rooms and bulletin boards.

If we take this step it will not take very long to end up with an internet that's a walled garden of sites the governments is happy for you to see.

Shaun on the Melon Farmers Forum notes that even Daily Mail readers don't want it:

And what happens (politically) when censored connections still show porn?

You can bet your last dollar that the censorship will be tested to destruction by the zealots. When it fails (which I am sure it will) who will take the blame for the failure?

Remember, it will be tested to destruction because the material under test isn't illegal to seek out. No one DARE test the effectiveness of the online system of censorship of child porn because to do so, can easily make you a criminal. It isn't the case with adult porn is it?

Most people don't want your censorship Mr Minister. Read the responses in the Daily Mail here:


20th December

Update: Opting in to Nutter Ideas...

Government pushes for internet porn blocking by ISPs

The UK Government is push for ISPs to block internet pornography unless parents request it.

The biggest broadband providers, including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, are being called to a meeting next month by Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, and will be asked to change how pornography gets into homes.

Instead of using parental controls to stop access to pornography - so-called opting out - the tap will be turned off at source. Adults will then have to opt in.

It follows the success of an operation by most British internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent people inadvertently viewing child porn websites. Ministers want companies to use similar technology to shut out adult pornography from children.

TalkTalk is already introducing a new free service early next year called bright feed, which allows people to control the internet so that all devices are automatically covered without the need to set up individual controls.

Homeowners can either specify which adult sites they want to receive or put a cinema-style classification on their feed to restrict what is received according to age ranges, such as U, 12 or 18.

Vaizey said: This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that it's the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children. I'm hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.

Claire Perry, the Tory MP for Devizes and a keen lobbyist for more restrictions, said: Unless we show leadership, the internet industry is not going to self-regulate. The minister has said he will get the ISPs together and say, 'Either you clean out your stables or we are going to do it for you'. There is this very uneasy sense for parents of children that we do not have to tolerate this Wild West approach. We are not coming at this from an anti-porn perspective. We just want to make sure our children aren't stumbling across things we don't want them to see.

Previously the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) has told MPs that such a blanket ban would be expensive and technically difficult to operate.

But Miranda Suit, co-founder of the political 'charity' Safermedia, which held a conference on internet porn at the Commons last month, said: Technically we know it can be done because the ISPs are already removing child porn after the government put pressure on them. In the past, internet porn was regarded as a moral issue or a matter of taste. Now it has become a mental health issue because we now know the damage it is causing. We are seeing perverse sexual behavior among children. Legislation is both justifiable and feasible.


4th December

Updated: Political Anti-Sexualisation Campaigning...

Safermedia hold conference on sexualisation of their children

On 22 November, Safermedia's Conference takes place on The Harm that Pornography Does. This has partly arisen out of research, done for the Home Office in February this year, in response to growing concern in the UK about how the media is contributing to the increased sexualisation of our children.

The Home Office Report, Sexualisation of Young People Review , was carried out by London Metropolitan University psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who argues that the growing prevalence of sexualised images in magazines, television, mobile phones and computer games is having a damaging effect on children and young people.

Offsite Update: The need for [charity prohibited] Regulatory Reform

4th December 2010. See  Report of the Safermedia Conference [doc] from

Pippa began by saying that pornography has become such a problem in so many areas of public life, such as rape and sexual violence, addiction, trafficking and prostitution, sexually transmitted disease etc., that it had become a public health issue. She went on to say how the internet was key, it was a vital part of our economy now but that something needed to be done about the dark side and that was why we were calling for internet regulation. She discussed the ease of accessibility, especially via mobile phones and how there was still a long way to go with the technical options for protection.

Miranda spoke of our aims to protect good mental and physical health, with a view also to reducing crime. Our new charitable Aims and Objectives are available on the Charity Commission website (Reg. No. 1138360). We also have new leaflets available on request. We are committed to seeing media that encourages safe and healthy behaviour. Pornography is undermining this to such an extent that it requires urgent action by central Government. A sealed envelope was handed to all delegates, containing explicit descriptions of mainstream internet pornography (taken from Pornland by Gail Dines), which is easily available at a few clicks of the mouse, by adults or children. It is far more perverse and potentially harmful than typical pornography of previous decades, as it involves extreme degradation and physical discomfort, pain and violence against women. Arguments about freedom of speech and artistic expression are therefore very outdated regarding pornography.

The report also has a post conference note:

The Conference has come at a time when there is growing concern about internet pornography, and we are delighted that Claire Perry MP was so concerned that on the following evening she held an Adjournment Debate in Parliament strongly urging that UK-based internet service providers (ISPs) should implement an opt-in age verification system to gain access to internet pornography (i.e. the default setting would filter out all porn, and users would have to apply to ISPs to have porn restored).

The Minister Rt Hon Ed Vaisey MP was sympathetic to the problem of children accessing pornographic, and worse, material on the internet and will be holding a meeting with ISPs and interested parties and charities like ours, so we hope to be involved.

Safermedia's Open Letter on this issue, which will be sent to a national newspaper in the near future, has gathered a number of prominent signatories. Post-publication it will be put on our website so that supporters can add their own name to show the strength of public concern. One aim of our campaign is to seek a wide consensus among interested professionals from academia, the therapeutic community, education, charities, medicine, the police etc. in order to press for change .


24th November

I am no Mary Whitehouse Figure...BUT...

Parliamentary prudes make themselves known in first Internet Pornography debate

H ouse of Commons Adjournment Debate
23rd November 2010

Culture minister Ed Vaizey, said the Government was in favour of a lightly-regulated internet. Those who posted illegal material would be prosecuted but ministers wanted to work with ISPs on any changes.

He said: The internet is by and large a force for good, it is central to our lives and to our economy and Government has to be wary before it regulates and passes legislation.

But leading the debate, Claire Perry had a long speech including a nod to yesterdays Safermedia conference and a classic I'm no prude...BUT...

Claire Perry (Devizes, Conservative)

I am grateful for the opportunity to debate this matter tonight. I thank Members on both sides of the House who have either made time to attend the debate or expressed support for my proposal since it was announced yesterday. I am asking for a change in regulation that would require all UK-based internet service providers to restrict universal access to pornographic material by implementing a simple opt-in system based on age verification.


Statistics are simply red-lining a problem that every parent recognises-namely, that our children are viewing material that we would never want them to see, especially at such a young age. So what can we do about it? The current way of controlling access to pornographic material on the internet is via safety settings and filtering software, installed and maintained by users-parents, teachers and carers across the country. Unfortunately, however, through technological ignorance, time pressure or inertia or for myriad other reasons, this filtering solution is not working. Even among parents who are regular internet users, only 15% say that they know how to install a filter. It is unfortunately also the case that our children know better than we do how to circumvent the filters, while the constant changes in internet technology and content mean that they can quickly become outdated.

I would like to raise two key issues about the current, unsatisfactory situation. The first, as Fiona Mactaggart has just pointed out, is that access to pornography has a profound and negative effect on our children. Against the backdrop of a drip-feed of sexualisation that promotes pole dancing as healthy exercise for young girls and high-heeled shoes as appropriate footwear for six-month-old babies, the availability of soft-core and hard-core pornography in our homes is damaging our children.

Yesterday I attended a Safer Media conference sponsored by my hon. Friend Mr Burrowes, and heard compelling evidence of this damage, including the explosion in the number of children in this country being referred to addiction clinics with a pornography problem , and that fact that many studies demonstrate that watching internet pornography contributes to people seeing women as sex objects, increases sexual risk-taking such as having unprotected or anal sex, and relaxes the boundaries of sexual violence in a completely unacceptable way.


The second problem in the current system of internet provision is the presumption that it is entirely the consumer's responsibility to safeguard their family from harmful imagery. I am a fervent supporter of personal responsibility and have an innate dislike of Big Brother regulation, but there is a form of content delivery in this country that, in contrast to the internet, is either regulated by the Government or has a successful self-regulation model that does not appear draconian or heavy-handed. Our television viewing is restricted by sensible Ofcom guidelines, including section 1, which says that material equivalent to the British Board of Film Classification's R18 rating must not be broadcast at any time, and that adult sex material cannot be broadcast at any time other than between 22.00 and 05.30 hours on premium subscription services or on pay-per-view or night services, which have to have mandatory restricted access, including PIN verification systems. We all accept such regulation of our television viewing quite happily.

What we see on our cinema screens is subject to regulation by the British Board of Film Classification, and we have accepted that for years. Our high street hoardings and general advertising are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority, which displayed its teeth recently by removing posters from the Westfield shopping centre. Government guidelines inform newsagents' displays of lad magazines and porn magazines. Even the mobile phone industry, which has arguably seen even more change than the internet in the past 10 years and whose products are increasingly used to access the internet, has introduced a reasonably successful self-regulation model that requires an adult verification check before users can access inappropriate material on the internet.

Why should internet service providers be any different from other content providers? Why is the onus on parents, teachers and carers to act as web guides and policemen? Where is the industry responsibility?

Three objections are usually raised when such changes as I am proposing tonight are discussed. The first is that any restriction on access to pornography on the internet is an infringement of free speech. I hope I am no Mary Whitehouse figure, although she was right about many things ,...BUT... the nature of the internet has led to a proliferation of imagery and a discussion of sexual practices which is quite mind-boggling in its awfulness. I will not read out some of the information that was provided at the Safer Media conference yesterday, but I, at the age of 46, was introduced to sexual practices-one or two clicks away-that I have never heard of and simply cannot conceive of having my daughters view. It was simply sickening.


Britain has taken steps towards internet safety before. The industry acted independently and responsibly on child abuse imagery by setting up the Internet Watch Foundation, which finds sites displaying abuse that the industry then works to block. We have led the world in introducing that technology, and the people and organisations involved are to be strongly commended. It has been a huge success: the amount of child sex abuse content reported or found to be hosted in the UK has dropped from 18% to less than 1%; and 95% of our broadband services use that blocking technology. It can be done.

Mr Straw is also to be commended for introducing the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which brought in a ban on the possession of extreme pornographic material. That is highly commendable, but of course the content is there on the internet and available for viewing by us and our children with one or two clicks of a mouse.

All that progress has been made, but regulating internet access to inappropriate content continues to stump successive Governments and, in my view, the industry. I believe the time has come to stop ducking an issue of enormous concern to parents, teachers and carers throughout the country. We are often ridiculed for raising it, barraged with information on why the internet should be treated differently, bamboozled with the problem of international co-operation and told that it is our responsibility and no one else's to keep our children safe,

I beg to differ. It is time for Britain to take a lead on the matter and for the Government, with their commitment to family friendly policies, to act. Without action, and with technological convergence, we will increasingly be able to access internet pornography and all internet content via television, raising the prospect of this damaging and degrading material, which is shocking enough when viewed as thumbnails or on an A4-sized computer screen, being piped into our homes and displayed in high-definition glory on 4-foot-wide television screens.

The arguments for passive acceptance and self-regulation are past their sell-by date, and it is time to regulate the provision of internet services in this country. We already successfully regulate British television channels, cinema screens, high street hoardings and newspaper shelves to stop our children seeing inappropriate images, and mobile phone companies have come together to restrict access to adult material, so why should the internet be any different?

British internet service providers should share the responsibility for keeping our children safe, and there should be an opt-in system that uses age verification for access to such material. I urge the Minister to engage with the internet service providers to set a timeline for those changes and, if they will not act, to move to regulate an industry that is doing so much damage to our children.

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