Porn filters block sex education websites

Within a few days of ISP’s rolling out their ‘porn filters’ BBC Newsnight has highlighted the weaknesses of  simple ‘list based’ systems with evidence of over and under blocking (Full article below).

Image Analyzer has always maintained that to provide effective solutions for concerned parents any system must contain ‘real time’ analysis technology. When trying to make any decision, the correctness of that decision will always be dependent upon the amount of information and facts you have. Trying to judge the validity of an internet site by what it used to be or host according to a list, in an age of dynamic content, where sites can change hourly and where seemingly safe sharing sites host inappropriate content is very difficult. The fact is that the more information you have the better your decision is likely to be

Image Analyzer, for example, provides the ability to scan and rate images and videos in ‘real time’ and then contributes to the overall decision about the suitability of the site. There are many specialist technology providers outside of image analysis who can now provide more detailed analysis of other site elements. These available technologies are not included in the current system.

Image Analyzer has long advocated that providing concerned parents with accurate information about internet content and allowing them to choose what their children access is always the optimum solution. It is very harsh on ISP’s to hold them responsible for all content on the internet and expect them to provide an effective system inevitably based on a cost effective binary technology. Blocking and allowing access with basic ‘list-based’ solutions will inevitably lead to the issues which are starting to be seen.  Whilst supportive of the move to protect children on the internet Image Analyzer urges that consultation with, and inclusion of, all valid technology providers in the process is essential to ensure any system is effective but not restrictive.

FULL ARTICLE

Porn filters block sex education websites By Mike Deri Smith BBC Newsnight 18 December 2013

Pornography filters used by major internet service providers are blocking websites offering sex education and advice on sexual health and porn addiction, the BBC has learned.

The four major internet companies have started to roll out so-called porn filters to their users.

BT launched its filter this week, Virgin has a pilot programme ahead of a full launch early in 2014, and Sky’s was turned on a month ago.

TalkTalk’s filter started in May 2011.

Last month, Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed “family-friendly” filters and said they were important to stop children “stumbling across hardcore legal pornography”.

But BBC’s Newsnight has discovered all the major ISPs that have launched full default filters are also failing to block hardcore porn-hosting sites.

All new customers will be prompted to decide whether to opt in or out, while existing customers of major ISPs will be presented with an “unavoidable choice” about whether to sign up.

Among the sites TalkTalk blocked as “pornographic” was BishUK.com, an award-winning British sex education site, which receives more than a million visits each year.

TalkTalk also lists Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre website as “pornographic.”

The company also blocked a programme ran by sex education experts, taught to 81,000 American children that has been in development for more than 20 years.

TalkTalk’s filter is endorsed by Mr Cameron but it failed to block 7% of the 68 pornographic websites tested by Newsnight.

Sky’s filter fared much better, blocking 99% of sites, but it did block six porn-addiction sites.

BT blocked sites including Sexual Health Scotland, Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline, and Reducing The Risk, a site which tackles domestic abuse.

In the new year the four major ISPs will fund a £25m advertising campaign to explain the filters and other aspects of children’s safety online.

The filters were brought in following increased parental awareness of the ease with which children can access pornography online.

Victoria Shotbolt, chief executive of the Parent Zone, said: “It’s great that the four ISPs have got together and are doing an awareness-raising campaign. But it isn’t even starting to be enough.

It’s really frustrating because I’m trying to provide a sex education site for young people and it’s hard enough directing young people to good quality information on the internet”

“We’re focusing so heavily on filters and all of the ISPs having them and public wi-fi having filters that the message getting through to parents is that those filters will do the job.”

Justin Hancock runs BishUK and was not aware his site was being blocked by some filters until he was alerted by Newsnight.

He said: “It’s really frustrating because I’m trying to provide a sex education site for young people and it’s hard enough directing young people to good quality information on the internet.

Over-blocking problem

“They might fix my site in the short-term but what about all the other sites that are out there for young people, not just sex education sites… who are TalkTalk to say what is allowed and isn’t?”

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety has a working group to discuss over-blocking.

A TalkTalk spokesman said: ” Sadly there is no silver bullet when it comes to internet safety and we have always been clear that no solution can ever be 100%. We continue to develop HomeSafe and welcome feedback to help us continually improve the service.”

A Sky spokesman said: “We know that no one single technology currently provides all the answers. That’s why we have a quick and easy way for misclassified sites to be unblocked. Any Sky home has the ability to fully customise their filters.”

A BT spokesman said: “Categorisations are constantly updated to keep pace with changing content on the internet and we will investigate any concerns and make changes as necessary. BT Parental Controls can be customised to suit each individual family’s needs.”