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UK Government opt in porn plan panned by Open Rights Group and London School of Economics

As TalkTalk celebrates one year of its HomeSafe filter and of opt-in access to filtered sites becomes a possibility, the Open Rights Group takes a look at real-life examples from how 18+ adult filtering on mobile phone networks doesn’t always work.

The 41-page document, jointly published by the London School of Economics Media Policy Project, reveals “widespread overblocking, problems with transparency and difficulties correcting mistakes,” citing the example of O2 blocking a Sheffield church’s website in 2011, claiming that it featured adult content.

The report goes on to list a number of sites that have been blocked by UK networks including Biased BBC and Septicisle.info, two politically charged blogs which don’t contain any adult content – not even a pair of breasts  hidden by a Flintstone-esque bikini – unlike the Daily Mail’s website.

Inexplicably, advice site eHow.com was reported to have been blocked by Orange this year and a community website for the town of St. Margarets in Middlesex was reported blocked by both Orange and T-Mobile.

Cutting off your nose to spite your face?

The report concludes that there was no solution on hand to get sites that had inadvertently been caught up in the 18+ content dragnet to be released – the only solution was a complete lifting of the filter:

“They [sic] only solution we were offered was the complete unblocking of our phone. This is not an option for adults who share their phones with their children or occasionally let them use it, or for website managers responsible for incorrectly blocked site[s].

Mobile networks seemed to offer complete removal of the adult filter, even though in our tests we were not asking to have access to sites that warrant age verification.”

So in a nutshell it’s porn or nothing.

The ORG’s report says that there’s no system to record or amend incorrectly blocked sites. A potential nightmare for the webmaster of a non-adult/non-porn related site who’d find themselves facing a dip in traffic for no reason other than they’ve been incorrectly flagged as pornspam.

Pending the publication of draft proposals of the Communications Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech 2012, the ORG is against a similar approach to content filtering if ‘parental controls’ are turned on by default and no process for appeal is in place.

The ORG and LSE’s blog post can be read here, and a link to the pdf is here.

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