It’s Christmas day and I’m blogging about porn and censorship on the Internet. How sad is that? Anyway, there have been a lot of comments on social media about how various websites have been blocked by O2, including those by prominent campaigners in favour of filters.
Now, I’m not in favour of compulsory filtering either, for all sorts of reasons, as I’ve made abundantly clear in the past. But O2 is not the villain here, and the supposed over-blocking is nothing of the sort.
All the blocks that I’ve seen reported are blocked under O2’s “Parental Controls” setting. That is a whitelist-only setting, with all but a handful of specially selected sites blocked by default. Customers who use it have to explicitly add all other sites that they want to be able to access. The fact that a site is blocked by this setting does not in any way imply that it has been judged unsuitable for children, and in particular it does not imply at all that it contains porn or other unsavoury material. All it means is that it hasn’t been added to the whitelist.
As far as O2’s system is concerned, the setting which matters is “Default Safety”. That’s what you get if you enable filters and allow O2 to make the choice for you of what’s accessible. And the sites which are blocked by that are mostly the ones you’d expect: porn, gambling, alcohol, etc. I’m sure there are some sites which have been wrongly classified in that setting, but so far nobody has reported any.
O2 are also doing one important thing absolutely correctly, and I applaud them for it. Their unfiltered option is labelled “Open Access”. It’s not “Adult”, or “Explicit Material”, or anything which gives the impression that the only reason you’d choose it is because you want to look at dodgy stuff on the Internet. Instead, it’s labelled precisely as it is: “open”. Which is the normal state of the Internet, and what a large number of customers will prefer even if they have no desire to look at porn.
So, by all means, campaign against compulsory filtering. But don’t blame O2 for doing their best to meet customer demand at both ends of the scale, by offering a whitelist setting for those who want it, a basic filtered option for others and a properly labelled unfiltered option for everyone else.
Anyway, I’m off to watch Doctor Who. Happy Christmas, everyone!