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United Kingdom Censorship Government Your Rights Online

UK Users Overwhelmingly Spurn Broadband Filters 115

Posted by timothy
from the but-it's-a-free-service dept.
nk497 (1345219) writes "Broadband customers are overwhelmingly choosing not to use parental-control systems foisted on ISPs by the government — with takeup in the single-digits for three of the four major broadband providers. Last year, the government pushed ISPs to roll out network-level filters, forcing new customers to make an "active" decision about whether they want to use them or not. Only 5% of new BT customers signed up, 8% opted in for Sky and 4% for Virgin Media. TalkTalk rolled out a parental-control system two years before the government required it and has a much better takeup, with 36% of customers signing up for it. The report, from regulator Ofcom, didn't bother to judge if the filters actually work, however."
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UK Users Overwhelmingly Spurn Broadband Filters

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  • If those filters blocked only porn and gore... instead, they block innocuous things like urbandictionary.com [urbandictionary.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Blocking Urban dictionary is a sign that the British still respect integrity and proper use of their mother tongue.

    • innocuous things like urbandictionary.com [urbandictionary.com]

      You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      • From en.wiktionary.org [wiktionary.org]:

        Etymology[edit]

        From Latin innocuus (“harmless”).

        Adjective[edit]

        innocuous (comparative more innocuous, superlative most innocuous)

        1.Harmless; producing no ill effect. [quotations ]

        2.Inoffensive; unprovocative; not exceptional. [quotations ]

        I agree with you that it might not be the best choice of a word. I thought it meant "harmless" only. Thank you!

      • His post implies that porn and gore are not innocuous. They, in fact, are.

    • Unless things have changed since I was interested in this, they never supported a White List.

      If you are managing your little kid's access, you want to pick and choose sites/review the before giving them the OK.

    • by williamhb (758070)

      If those filters blocked only porn and gore... instead, they block innocuous things ...

      The survey designers really should have known that including the words "porn" and "naked" in the text of the online survey form was a bad idea...

    • remember, it's not just blocking these sites, the system is also logging that you are accessing these sites, regardless of whether you opt-in or out.

    • by Xest (935314)

      What'd be interesting therefore is to know how many of the few percent who opted in later opted out after finding what a nuisance it was. These figures only refer to those who initially opted in and say nothing about whether they stuck with it.

      Number of people continuing to use it will likely be even lower again.

  • Question: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @01:22PM (#47509445)

    Dear internet user, would you like the Tory Party to think for you?
    [ ] Yes.
    [X] No.

    • ITYM:

      Dear Internet User,

      Would you like to let politicians and civil servants choose which porn you view*?

      [ ] Yes
      [ ] No

      * This is politicians. This will only be the most fucked up shit. Regular porn is not for political types.

    • If was the CEO of TalkTalk, I would be upset. Now that every ISP is required to have parental controls, their perceived competitive advantage has pretty much disappeared.

      It would be like the US mandating the same thing for cell phones, then there would be no reason for parents to pay for Disney phones [thewaltdisneycompany.com] as a result and no reason for that division of Disney to exist anymore.

      • by jabuzz (182671)

        Except the problem is that parental controls done by the ISP are a sledgehammer approach. If you turn on TalkTalk's maximum level of filtering the internet becomes severely restricted to the point where for an adult it is almost unusable.

        The way to do the filtering is to do it in the router. Have multiple wireless networks, with different rules because internet filtering requirements for a five year old is different from that for a 10 year old.

    • After passing through internet filters, your survey response has been submitted.

      For your records, here is your submission:

      [X] Yes.
      [ ] No.

    • I would read it as:


      Dear Interconnected Computer Network Customer. Would you like your children to think like Daily Mail readers?

      [ ] Yes. God Save The King!
      [ ] No. I am unfit to raise Britain's future ruling class.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @03:17PM (#47510193)

        You think Britain's ruling class read the Mail? That's cute. I'll bet they only read it to the same extent that they read any of the red tops: an underling sums up what the proles are reading about. Need I trot this old chestnut out again?

        Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers: the Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; the The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
        Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
        Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      I'm just waiting for the first time that opting out is used as evidence in court that the subscriber is a pervert. That's why I have refused to express an opinion, and use a VPN to block their blocking anyway.

      • by oobayly (1056050)

        Just use a decent ISP - at the risk of sounding like a shill/employee/investor - Andrews & Arnold [aaisp.net] are pretty good, plus they provide native IPv6.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          ISPs are regulated by UK laws and thus forced to spy on all their customers. Andrews & Arnold are not immune, they must log their user's metadata and hand it to various government bodies when asked. They are no substitute for a VPN.

          VPNs were never covered by EU data retention laws (because they are not ISPs) and bypass all UK laws.

    • Lovely to see that the Loony Left is still alive and well in remoter parts of the country. I thought they'd pretty much gone extinct by now.

      Firstly, precisely what's actually on the block list has nothing to do with politicians; that's one of the huge iniquities of the legislation - lack of transparency and democratic oversight. Secondly, politicians of ALL persuasions have been falling over themselves to show themselves "tough" on anything that has the slightest chance of playing to the (pretty much non-ex

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @01:27PM (#47509465) Homepage
    The reasons why no one likes these things is exactly why they should not even be considered - even if they worked.

    That is, the concept of 'objectionable content'' is itself objectionable. There is NO SUCH THING! That is why certain countries have things called freedom of the press.

    What happens is quite simple - certain people (Group A) dislike something. They don't want to see it or hear it. They falsely and incorrectly believe that even seeing said things is damaging - despite zero scientific evidence to it (instead they make up badly designed studies that talk about tendencies and thoughts as if they are actions). Other people (Group B) do want to see it. This makes group A angry. So they try to make a law against letting anyone see it. But the people making the law argue about what exactly is objectionable. They quickly find out that Group A(a) wants to stop people from seeing things that most of Group A thinks is fine. Or they quickly realize that their 'objectionable' content has valid reasons to be seen - such as medicinal and political discourse.

    They get angry and try to work out a logical way of differentiating between what is really objectionable and what isn't. The problem is their original hypothesis is totally illogical. There was no real problem with what they thought was objectionable so as soon as they try to apply logic they find it doesn't work.

    You can't use logic to decide something when logic says your base assumption is wrong.

    • Yes, this is in general why democracy is a stupid system (or any form of gov where gov decides about live of people to anything other then absolute minimum like making it illegal to murder, steal physical actuall property, rape, assault etc).

      And I fully agree that we should have such a free world or at least a country somewhere in modern times too.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        other then absolute minimum like making it illegal to murder, steal physical actuall property, rape, assault etc

        Legal definitions of those things suffer from the same problems as well.

    • Re:Logically (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @01:41PM (#47509577)

      The usual approach of the anti-porn brigade is selection bias. They just have to pick out a couple of people who really did get messed up by porn (Easily done: If you've got a billion people looking at it, of course someone is going to get carried away). Then make these the examples, and show off how terrible porn is. Of course, I could show church to be equally damaging by the same approach.

      • Often those two groups of damaged personalities have considerable overlap. And overlap with the upper reaches of church hierarchy.

        • Of course, if you try to solve the problem of "damaged personalities" you end up with a situation out of a bad sci-fi movie (e.g. the one with 'gun kata').

    • by Stan92057 (737634)
      I don't agree, I think they just didn't use the filter because they have no idea how or if it works. OR they already have filters they know work and the filters block content they want blocked. By the article people use filters, a lot of people use filters and they have a chose with the ISP law they have even more choices. but parents don't like to take chances with blocking software they haven't a clue works or not. Definite not for the reasons you state your not who they make the filters for. They don't
      • by gurps_npc (621217)
        It is easy to block porn and adult content. Simple - see cable going to your PC from your ISP? Cut it.

        There! You blocked porn and adult content.

        The problem is not 'finding a filter that works'. It is finding a filter that works AND lets in in 'unobjectionable content'. Which is what my entire post is about. There is NO way to define 'porn and adult content' that everyone can agree on - because those things are NOT bad for kids. Which is what my entire argument is about.

        Kids on a farm grow up wa

        • by Stan92057 (737634)
          When you get some kids of your own hopefully its a girl too then you can tell me who,s what. You don't have a clue that's a fact. Psstttt I love porn btw.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @01:27PM (#47509467) Homepage

    The report, from regulator Ofcom, didn't bother to judge if the filters actually work, however.

    Because they don't know, and don't care if they work.

    This is just another "oh god, we have to protect teh children" things, and there wasn't evidence to make the choice, so they're sure as heck not collecting evidence as to how well it works. This is purely a "we have to do something" kind of response.

    Most of us know these things simply do not work, and end up blocking stuff they shouldn't, and missing stuff.

    That most people have no interest in being baby sat by a state sponsored filter comes as no surprise.

    But, hey, when you're still considered subjects to an archaic monarchy, that's what you get.

  • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @01:33PM (#47509499)

    The article linked in the summary requires you to answer survey questions or post it to your google+ / facebook before you can read it.

    Don't put up with that crap. It's even worse than forcing you to watch advertisements before reading something. Filter out pcpro.co.uk with your hosts file or whatever other method instead.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The article linked in the summary requires you to answer survey questions or post it to your google+ / facebook before you can read it.

      Not if you have enough blocking crap installed.

      Don't want all this crap, take steps to block it.

      Blocking Google+ at your firewall is a good fucking start.

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      I didn't get hit with that, I think ghostery or noscript nuked the bad stuff that got in the way of the page.

  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @01:40PM (#47509567)

    I haven't dealt with any of these British ISPs because I am not British, but it seems like these filters are done at the ISP level, and the connection owners have to call in to turn the filter off. Filters are already enough of a pain for both parents and other places that wish to use them. An example of this:

    I went to a Catholic high school. During my Freshman year, the school's sysadmins implemented a very restrictive web filter that was on at all times and that only they could turn off. The sysadmins didn't come in every day - I think they were only there three days a week and even then not there full-time. Right away, conflicts started to form between the teachers and the sysadmins. One of the things the filter blocked was Google Image Search, which a lot of teachers wanted to use for school projects and in the classroom. The school's administration insisted that Image Search stay blocked entirely on the vague chance that someone could use it to find porn (never mind the fact that the filter they were using automatically blocked those results on its own) unless a sysadmin was present to oversee its use.

    The end result, between the GIS filter and several other ones, was that it was virtually impossible to use the school's computers for schoolwork. I only stayed in that school for another year, but they never managed to resolve the issue.

    I can only imagine what would've happened if the teachers had to make a phone call to the school's ISP every time they wanted the filter off, and then a second call every time they wanted it turned back on.

    • the connection owners have to call in to turn the filter off.

      I've used BT as an ISP, and the filter option came up as a web page after signing in (I was signing in to watch their BT sport channel, but I assume if you signed in for e.g. the admin site, it would have appeared). I hadn't noticed any blocked sites prior to disabling it, but the option to enable or disable the filter may have appeared prior to it defaulting to being on. One click, and the filter was off, so disabling it really doesn't add much hassle to the end user. I don't doubt the implementation wa

    • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @02:25PM (#47509837) Homepage

      I work in schools.

      What you describe is standard practice in every school I've ever worked in.

      Google Images, especially, is one of those "block all or block nothing" sites that policy ALWAYS ends up blocking all. It's just to easy to google something innocent (e.g. "little red riding hood", etc.) and end up with page full of quite obvious porn, even with enforced SafeSearch, a religiously-updated web filter, and custom blocks.

      "Virtually impossible" to use the school's computers for schoolwork? How did we live before Google Images? And also, let me tell you, copyright infringement is rife in schools and overlooked right up until the school gets sued for letting you "google image" something, stick it in a document and print it out.

      Welcome to real life, where education is more than Google Imaging something, where laws take precedence over your (or my, or the school's) personal choices, and where child protection and "eSafety" policies are mandatory by government inspection.

      No system filters perfectly. And you can be sure I get twenty emails every time the system doesn't. But we can't just switch them off without breaking several laws (even if we know that we can only show we tried).

      P.S. Stop Google Image'ing. Get licensed clipart. Because when you're older and you "just Google Image" something for your boss, you're setting them up for a lawsuit from the copyright holder.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by brambus (3457531)

        Last I checked, there's that thing called fair use [copyright.gov] that actually allows educational non-profit use of copyrighted works, so you can get off your moral high horse.

        >"Virtually impossible" to use the school's computers for schoolwork? How did we live before Google Images?

        I also attended school without Internet access, but damn it's a valuable educational resource to have and it wouldn't cross my mind to demolish that resource simply to protect my prudish and backwards sense of morality (assuming I had one)

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Last I checked, there's that thing called fair use that actually allows educational non-profit use of copyrighted works, so you can get off your moral high horse.

          No. Fair use considerations include whether the use was for an educational purpose, but "educational purpose" is not sufficient to show fair use. I cannot copy, for example, a college textbook in its entirety and hand it out to my students because even though it is an "educational purpose", it does not meet the other criteria for fair use. Two criteria that this would fail would be the "excerpts" and "for critical review". Thus, I could copy a page of a textbook in a graphics arts class for the purpose of

          • by ledow (319597)

            Plus, laws differ depending on your jurisdiction.

            When I was a kid, we had cassette tapes. We could easily copy music from the radio, and give it to a teacher to play in assembly. It still did not mean that when it came time to review music licensing, the school could avoid paying for doing so.

            In fact, copyright licensing of music in schools (especially hymns, for some reason) is one of the most draconian applications of law that I've seen. But that doesn't forgo the schools obligations to properly licens

            • by brambus (3457531)
              Way to equivocate google images being used for classwork by kids with school-sponsored use for non-educational purposes (assembly). Also, many of the cases you cite would constitute fair use, but due to the corrupt system we have they're not challenged, you just tuck your tail in and run.

              Hell, some of the largest companies are getting sued for using a photograph from the Internet without permission in their advertising etc. - this is a symptom of people NOT being taught about copyright law when they are i

          • by brambus (3457531)

            1) I said "educational non-profit" - do you think there's a reason I used these two words together?

            2) I'm well aware that there are other considerations for fair use (which is why linked to the page), one of them being impact on the market value of a work.

            You can't honestly claim that a kid taking an image from google in order to use in their class work violates this. Sure there are cases in a school setting where using an image wouldn't constitute fair use, but are you seriously arguing for throwing the b

            • by Obfuscant (592200)

              1) I said "educational non-profit" - do you think there's a reason I used these two words together?

              Because you think that non-profit schools have some special rights when it comes to "fair use" that students at commercial schools do not? And you're repeating this because you missed the fact that I wasn't specifically referring to a for-profit college use, thus it applies to non-profit just as much as for-profit? The fact is, I cannot simply duplicate college (non-profit educational use) textbooks and hand them out to my students and claim "fair use".

              2) I'm well aware that there are other considerations for fair use (which is why linked to the page), one of them being impact on the market value of a work.

              Another being whether the work is being used in its e

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Y'know, Google Images now has this helpful little filter that lets you show only Creative Commons-licensed images.

      • Just filter the results for images where the author has given permission for free commercial use and, if requrired, modification. It would be great to teach kids to find, support and create free licensed material than to teach them to make their future boss have to pay for licenses and then insist that their boss pays for them to use only Photoshop to edit it.
      • by Xest (935314)

        What laws are broken exactly? I used to work in schools, granted it was some years back now but there was never any such law that said you had to keep children safe, mostly it was just parents/teachers who had no idea what they were doing or how well these things work.

        A friend who is still currently a teacher also tells me he's not aware of any laws mandating filters at schools and in fact the advice he's been given by his local teaching advisory service is to start focussing more on educating kids precisel

    • by julian67 (1022593)

      No you don't have to call in. I'm in UK and have broadband both on landline and on mobile, each on a different ISP (TalkTalk and giffgaff respectively). Here's how I ensured my services are not filtered:

      1) log-in to my account page on ISP's website.

      2) Look see if "family safe" filter or whatever it's called is enabled. Make sure it isn't (it wasn't enabled by default on my landline but was on by default on my mobile ISP).

      3) err, that's it.

      It takes less than a minute for the change to take effect. You do

      • When you get past the faux outrage and disingenuous political posturing of people pretending to be injured or outraged what you actually find is a convenient system that allows anyone who has an ISP account to decide for themselves if their guests/children/employees can access p2p/chatrooms/XXX/gaming etc.

        I suggest blocking religious websites by default, and any website which criticizes a certain political party. Would there be outrage then? You bet. But hypocrites don't care if it's stuff they like being blocked by default. It doesn't matter how easy it is to disable the filters; censorship should not be the default.

        • by julian67 (1022593)

          "I suggest blocking religious websites by default, and any website which criticizes a certain political party. Would there be outrage then? You bet."

          But this isn't happening. You just invented it. If you want to have a debate you need to examine the facts and then proceed, not invent some stuff and then pretend the invented stuff is real and bad. This is why I mentioned *faux* outrage and *disingenuous* posturing. I should have added infantile foot stamping and bed wetting.

          "...censorship should not be

          • But this isn't happening. You just invented it.

            Of course, you ignorant fool; that was the fucking point. People would be pissed if such a thing happened, and yet they're not when something they don't like (e.g. porn) gets blocked by default. They'd be pissed even if it was trivial to disable.

            It isn't. Censorship is coercive and non-optional.

            Nothing about the definition of censorship requires that it be coercive or non-optional. For instance, there is something called "self-censorship."

            On the other hand, all you pseudo-libertarian, unthinking lefties

            I don't see where I claimed to be a libertarian or a leftie. Is your brain so diseased that you can't help but buy into

            • by julian67 (1022593)

              "Nothing about the definition of censorship requires that it be coercive or non-optional. For instance, there is something called "self-censorship"

              That is a very desperate rationalisation of a very disingenuous and transparently stupid position.

              Censorship by govt or media outlets or other authorities is never optional. Uncle Joe Stalin or Adolf or Pol Pot or King Saud never did ask if you'd prefer it on or off.

              I've lived in countries where there is real censorship and harsh penalties for breaking it (or ev

              • Censorship by govt or media outlets or other authorities is never optional.

                Once again, you're using "no true Scotsman"-like logic to deny a common usage of a term. It's simply not going to work, no matter how much you don't like how it's used.

                But call it whatever you want (an optional filter, censorship, or what have you); having it on by default is garbage, and I noticed you did not respond to the portion where I explained how people would be up in arms if different content were to be targeted, making them hypocrites who just want to 'censor' (filter, or whatever word is pleasing

        • by oobayly (1056050)

          I suggest blocking religious websites by default

          Well, the stories the tell are loaded with sex and violence, and sometimes they even mix the two together - somebody should tell the Tories & Daily Mail readers, I bet they'd be furious.

      • by oobayly (1056050)

        You can do it online, but it's much more satisfying calling them up and asking them to turn on porn on your mobile phone contract. Added points if you put on a creepy voice when doing so.

        Same with a colleague - BMW run a premium rate line to check the specification and service history - and he uses his mobile to do so - it's a business expense. He received a call from Vodafone asking if he knew he was calling a lot of premium rate numbers. His answer? "Oh yes, I like calling those numbers". He's also brilli

  • The vast, vast majority of households that are interested in such filters are those that include minor-aged children. So, to measure uptake you'd want to look at what percentage of those households are opting in.
    • That's part of the tragedy of the ISP filtering though. While the more tech-savvy parents will recognise that the filters are - at best - a partial solution, other parents will be given a false sense of security.
      • That's easily addressed. Just feature prominent verbiage in the opt-in agreement making it clear that the filter isn't perfect, but that if you can live with the false positives then it's better than nothing at all if one's goal is to make it harder to access porn et. al. My complaint was with the article's implication that single-digit adoption rates are evidence that interest is low. That's true if one supposes that the entire customer base as the target audience for this feature. If the target audienc
  • The US has "Christian ISPs" [hisnet.org], with server side porno filtering. They're very small. And very retro. One has terms [truevine.net] that say they reserve the right to disconnect your dial-up connection after 10 minutes of inactivity.

  • ...has already captured the market on people who have any desire at all to use a filtering service. Good on them for giving the customer what they want.

  • Try placing an order for broadband with this ISP:

    https://order.aa.net.uk/h1orde... [aa.net.uk]

    and choose the "I want a censored connection" option.

    • by oobayly (1056050)

      I'm a little disappointed that they even ask about filtering - obviously it's something they've been forced to do, which is shit because having to have the ability to filter connections adds to their costs.

      I might log onto IRC and ask if they can provide what percentage of customers actually ask for a filtered connection.

  • I live in England, and I set up a new British Telecom Broadband internet account for a work colleague recently, 30 dollars a month 8Mb/s unlimited use. Options for the filter were off, low, medium and high. He said "I have kids, put on the maximum filter option please." Two hours later, I receive a phone call "internet explorer(!) won't let me access Facebook." Yup, the filter on the highest setting blocks Twitter and Facebook. He removed the filter then, without even trying the other choices.
  • 4% of Virgin's customers is a pretty hefty number of people. We must be talking 10's or hundreds of thousands.

    So those who want filters have filters. Those who don't want filters don't have filters.

    I seriously don't see a problem here. Far too many slashdotters are so scared of any form of filtering that they object even to entirely voluntary filters, that are demonstrably nowhere near as hard to switch off as they originally claimed.
  • Bought a while ago a T-Mobile (.co.uk) SIM and got stuck with "you are not allowed to view user-generated content".

    WTF!? Whole internet is "user-generated". I mean they were blocking youtube and flickr.

    They unlocked it on the spot in the shop once I managed to get there during working hours (of course weekend was a bust as they closed early Saturday and opened Monday 10:00). Of course, you couldn't do it over the phone, they really wanted to check your age.

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