O2 changes porn filter after charity sites blocked

 

The telecoms company O2 has been forced to amend its so-called “porn filter” after it inadvertently blocked access to charity sites including ChildLine, the NSPCC and the Samaritans.

The filters have been introduced by major internet service providers (ISPs) in recent weeks after demands from David Cameron that telecoms companies act to stop children “stumbling across hardcore legal pornography”.

But the changes have led to internet users being denied access to a wide range of organisations including child protection charities, women’s charities and gay rights groups. Among institutions that have found themselves subject to the blocks are the British Library and the National Library of Scotland.

The opt-in filters also deny access to the Parliament and Government websites and the sites of politicians, including Claire Perry, the MP who has campaigned prominently for the introduction of filters.

The level of censorship has provoked a stream of criticism on social media sites, mostly directed at O2. Bloggers who checked the status of their sites took to social media to complain that they were being blocked. Harry Clapham, whose website offers guitar lessons, complained on Twitter that he was being censored by the filter. “So a parent who opts in is safe from guitar lessons giving their kids bad dreams,” he tweeted. Another Twitter user complained that “it appears ‘parental control’ is O2’s term for ‘switch the whole internet off’.”

Myles Jackman, a solicitor who specialises in obscenity law, said: “This shows filtering does not work in the way it is intended to. It is going to over-block. The fact that it blocks all blogs if parental controls are turned on is a shocking infringement.”

O2 told The Independent on Monday that it was changing its parental control filters to allow access to some of the charities that had been blocked. “As you can appreciate there are millions of sites that exist and sometimes they can fall through the net to be categorised correctly. ChildLine, the NSPCC and the Samaritans have all now been added to the ‘allowed’ list for Parental Control,” an O2 spokesman said.

The controversy demonstrates the difficult position of ISPs in deciding which content should be censored, after the Prime Minister announced in the summer that “family-friendly” filters would be automatic unless customers asked their ISPs to allow them access to adult material. All existing customers of major ISPs will eventually be asked to choose.

O2 stressed that its parental control settings for mobile internet were designed to create a “walled garden” in which children under 12 could safely go online. “It enables us to restrict children’s web access via their mobile to a limited number of sites which are suitable for children,” the spokeman said.

Other ISPs have faced criticism over their filters, with TalkTalk blocking sex education and rape crisis sites and BT denying access to a domestic abuse helpline.

Blocked off: the affected sites

nspcc.org.uk National charity dedicated to preventing child abuse

childline.org.uk Online version of the NSPCC’s ChildLine helpline for kids in trouble, especially busy at Christmas

samaritans.org Highly regarded charity helpline is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and also sees its greatest demand at Christmas

gov.uk Portal to a huge range of government websites

parliament.uk Democracy in action

bl.uk British Library, with details of events including latest exhibition, “Georgians Revealed”

claireperry.org.uk Devizes MP Claire Perry, campaigner for tighter controls on internet content

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Consultant / 1st Line Support

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As your knowledge grows you wil...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Support and Sales Engineer - UC / M2M / IoT

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Cloud ...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk