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Nanny state porn filter to be auto-flicked on for new Sky broadband punters

Sky’s Broadband Shield adult content filter will be turned on by default for all new broadband customers next year. 

Broadband Shield lets customers block and unblock specific websites as well as block access to specific types of sites, including sites hosting pornographic adult content, dating sites and social networks. 

Unlike the parental control settings built in to most Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, Broadband Shield is a network-level solution rather than device-specific one. This means regardless of what device people are using in the home, whether they’re connected via WiFi or Ethernet, they’ll be subject to the same content restrictions. 

Related: Sky’s new Watershed parental control sets timers for content blocksCurrently, customers signing up for Sky will be asked whether or not they want the Sky Broadband Shield or not. From an as-of-yet-unspecified date in 2016, the Broadband Shield will be raised by default for all customers, regardless of whether they’re parents or guardians. 

Since the launch of Broadband Shield in 2013, Sky has been proactively contacting customers about the software. Earlier this year, Sky asked all existing customers if they wanted to use it or not, turning it on if there was no response. 

Sky’s director of communications products Lyssa McGowan explained that the default setting of Broadband Shield would be to turn on the mid-tier age rating before 9:00pm, after which Sky’s ‘Watershed’ feature would kick in, relaxing restrictions on certain sites. 

McGowan said: “Based on the successful implementation of ‘Default On’ to existing customers, in 2016, Sky Broadband Shield will be changed so it is simply turned on when you activate Sky Broadband as standard.  

“As a default, the age filter will be set to 13 – so no access to sites unsuitable for anyone under that age – before 9pm with an 18 setting after that time.  The first time someone tries to access a filtered website, the account holder will be invited to amend the settings or turn it off altogether.”

For convenience, Sky uses BBFC-style age ratings with Broadband Shield – PG, 13, 18 – making it easy for parents to quickly apply pre-set filters. There’s also a fourth ‘age’ rating, a custom setting, which lets parents tailor settings to suit their families. 

Sky, along with BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, installed network-level filtering at the behest of the previous coalition government. While not required to do so by law, the UK’s biggest ISPs decided to roll out content filters after several meetings with cabinet ministers. 

While over 70 per cent of Sky’s customers use the uber-convenient Broadband Shield, it’s not the be all and end all of Internet safety, a sentiment echoed by the NSPCC’s chief executive Peter Wanless.

“This is a big step forward in keeping children safe online and we hope other internet providers will follow Sky’s example and automatically turn on parental controls for all broadband customers,” said Wanless. 

“Frankly this is a no-brainer; default filters on home broadband put children’s safety first while still giving adults the freedom to remove them.

“However, filters are only one part of any parent’s online safety toolkit. Talking to children about their digital lives and the potential risks is also vital, and the NSPCC is on hand to help parents understand what they can do to protect their children whenever and wherever they venture online.” 

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