UK broadband users reject porn filters, watchdog finds

Tue, 29 Jul 2014

New broadband customers in the UK are overwhelmingly rejecting porn filters when prompted to install them by internet service providers, the industry watchdog Ofcom has found.

The filters were proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron last year as part of a Government-backed scheme to protect children from explicit content online.

Ofcom found that fewer than one in seven households use the filters, which are offered automatically to new subscribers at the point of registration.

Disable

The findings showed that most customers have been choosing to actively disable the filters.

The four main broadband providers, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, offer an automatic porn filter at registration but only TalkTalk was able to persuade more than ten per cent of its users to keep it.

Of the providers Ofcom noted that Virgin Media has “recognised that this is a failure in process and indicated it is taking steps to address this gap”.

Pornographic

Virgin media’s Chief Executive said: “We take our responsibility to help families stay safe online very seriously and have taken immediate action to improve how we meet our commitments to government”.

As well as blocking pornographic websites, the “family friendly filters” are designed to also block sites promoting self-harm or drug taking.

Last year the Prime Minister was accused of misleading parents after several false starts on this issue.

Misleading

A leaked letter showed he was asking web firms to rebrand their safety settings without changing how they work.

The request was described as “misleading and potentially harmful”.

In May a graduate who was addicted to online pornography from the age of eleven revealed why she thinks more should be done to warn others against its dangers.

YouTube

Bethany Becconsall, now in her 20s, describes how she could access “risque” material on YouTube, despite parental control filters.

A study by the Internet Filter Review showed that 70 per cent of women keep their porn use a secret.

Miranda Suit, of campaign group Safermedia, said: “In effect, this is a generation of guinea pigs.

“Bethany’s story is more evidence that this is a public health issue and a ticking time bomb.”