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Porn filters snatch safe sex ed sites on 34 per cent of UK WiFi hotspots

Pornography filters on 34 per cent of WiFi hotspots are catching legitimate sex education sites up in their dragnets. 

A survey in London, Manchester and Birmingham undertaken by mystery shoppers surveyed WiFi networks revealed that many providers are being overzealous in their approach. 

Blocking sites based on keywords saw websites such as Respect Yourself, a safe sex education site set up by Warwickshire County Council, restricted. 

Destinations with so-called ‘hidden words’, such as the website for local paper This is Scunthorpe, were also blocked. 

Porn filters snatch safe sex ed sites on 34 per cent of UK WiFi hotspots
Ban This Sick Filth: Take away the ‘S’ and the ‘horpe’ and you’re left with…

The survey was undertaken by mobile security firm Adaptive Mobile, whose vice president of product strategy and business development Graeme Coffey warns filtering too much could turn customers away. Coffey says: 

“While it’s encouraging that businesses have filters in place to protect users from inappropriate content, these results show a heavy-handed approach to filtering. Businesses offering free WiFi are providing a service and if it’s ineffective it could damage their reputation and make customers go elsewhere.” 

Reputation-wise it’s arguably better to be safe than sorry when it comes to filtering content, given the political enthusiam for all public WiFi sites to be filtered by default. A previous survey by the same company revealed that over half of free public WiFi sites did not restrict adult content at all. 

Venues offering WiFi are required by law to ask customers to register themselves before allowing access and keep records of whoever used the websites for at least 12 months. 

A recent survey from the social network-based WiFi provider Purple WiFi revealed that many venues were not properly securing their WiFi or asking customers for verification. This paints a mixed picture of providers who are either being too censorious or leaving themselves vulnerable to prosecution. 

Image: Tony Austin/Flickr

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