One in five sites blocked by the UK's over-zealous 'pornography filters'

New tool found that 19 per cent of top 100,000 sites were blocked - although ISPs have said that the filters were tested at their strictest settings

Nearly one in five websites are being blocked by government-promoted filters, according to a new tool created by the Open Rights Group.

The filters have been introduced by internet service providers (ISPs) following a range of measures championed by David Cameron last year to stop online pornography “corroding childhood”. Customers buying new interne connections are asked whether or not they want to filter content.

The new tool – named ‘Blocked’ - has checked which of the 100,000 most-visited websites have been blocked by the ‘big four’ ISPs (BT, Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk) and various mobile networks, finding that 19 per cent of the sites tested had been blocked.

Pam Cowburn of the Open Rights Group told The Independent that this figure was disproportionately high, especially compared with estimates for the percentage of sites hosting legal pornographic material online – thought to be around four per cent.

“These filters are overblocking a lot of sites,” said Ms Cowburn. “What we’ve found as well is that there seems to be quite a difference between different ISPs.”

However, ISPs have pointed out that the Blocked tool is testing filters at their most rigorous; when they’re blocking not only pornography but also site categories such as social networking and gaming.

A spokesperson for TalkTalk said: “We will only filter out blogs and social networking sites when a customer has actively logged into their online account area and chosen to enable filters for this specific type of content.”

However, for many ISPs, the decision making process over which sites are filtered is far removed from their day-to-day operation, with lists of 'bad' sites typically purchased from global security firms.

This practice can lead to different judgements over what constitutes banned material, and can allow errors to creep into the filters. In January for example Sky mistakenly banned a plugin named jQuery, a piece of code used by three quarters of the top ten-thousand websites.

Maureen Shaw, the founder and editor of sherights.com, a site covering women’s rights news, found her site mistakenly blocked by TalkTalk in April 2014.

“The effect of filtering boils down to advertising revenue, which is based on site visitors,” said Ms Shaw. “If people who would normally be interested in accessing our content - which focuses on reproductive healthcare, violence against women and LGBT rights - are not able to view the site, it directly impacts our bottom line.”

Ms Cowburn said: “Filtering is a very simplistic response to a bigger social problem and obviously the most important thing for children and young people is some sort of education to help them navigate the web safely. In the past David Cameron has said ‘you’re one click away from safety’ and that’s just not true.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
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: Web Design Apprentice

    £6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee