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Surprise, surprise: Porn filters aren't popular

Posted on by Mike Evans

The British Government's much vaunted plan to foist so-called porn filters on broadband customers seems to have backfired. Predictably. A year ago Gung-ho Cameron, the Caped Crusader, told us that the four major UK internet service providers—BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media—had been browbeaten into implementing "family-friendly network filtering". Essentially, this puts the onus on customers specifically to opt in to adult sites and a myriad of other apparently undesirable stuff rather than having to remember to opt out. According to Ofcom:

all new customers, on setting up their new broadband service would receive a prompt inviting them to set up family-friendly filters and that, should customers not engage with this process by, for example, clicking next, that filters should be applied. Where the filters are in place, these will apply to all devices in the home which connect to that internet connection and, in order to verify that the person setting the filters is aged 18 or over, that a closed loop email system of notification will be applied 

One of the big problems with these sort of filters is that they get too enthusiastic and start blocking stuff that people actually do want to see. Once you sign up to a filter you are entering a twilight zone of censorship that, I suspect, most reasonably people do not want. And auto opt-in, as already practised by cellular network providers, is egregious. Every time I change my phone contract I have to go through hoops to prove I am over 18, even though the fact is glaringly obvious the minute I walk though the doors of the local Vodafone store.

So, how many among the millions actually do want a default "family friendly" filtering service? Not many, it seems. BT reports a 5% take up, at Sky it is 8% and only 4% of Virgin users are at all concerned about internet content. Only over at Talk-Talk, for some unfathomable reason, do 36% of customers think censorship is a good idea. Perhaps this says more about TalkTalk's customers than about the nation as a whole.

The Caped Crusader has again fallen on his face on this one. 

Read the full gory details in this Ofcom report (unless you signed up for filtering in which case it is probably banned)

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