One in five top websites blocked by providers’ content filters

New report by digital rights campaigner says around one-fifth of legitimate websites are blocked by broadband providers’ or mobile networks’ content filters. Read on to find out more.

Tried to go to a popular website, only to find your provider's blocked it? You're not alone, it seems.

According to a new study by the digital rights campaigner the Open Rights Group, around one in five of the world's most popular websites, including feminist site Jezebel, and political blog Guido Fawkes, are blocked by the content filters of the UK's broadband providers and mobile networks.

Among others affected were a couple of feminist websites, a luxury car dealership and a blog about the conflict in Syria.

Following a string of reports about online safety - and a typically vigorous campaign by the Daily Mail last year - David Cameron ordered the UK's broadband providers to introduce opt-out content filters, designed to block sites that contain inappropriate material, like pornography, or promote the likes of anorexia and self-harm. Many mobile networks also filter this type of content as standard.

The thing is, it's not a perfect system. In blocking the boobs, content filters can make a few of their own - like blocking clean and legal sites.

Sites blocked include:

  • A blog about the Syrian War - filtered by Sky, EE, Vodafone and O2
  • A luxury Porsche dealership - blocked by O2
  • Jezelbel, a popular feminist blog - blocked by Three
  • Guido Fawkes, a political blog - blocked by some TalkTalk accounts

The Open Rights Group believes this proves filters are not fit for purpose. Jim Killock, the group's executive director, said: "Filters can stop customers accessing your business, block political commentary or harm your education.

"The government has told everybody that they have to take child safety extremely seriously and that filters are in some way an answer to that. People are being pushed into filtering lots of content that they simply don't need to and is not dangerous to children."

It's not the first time that sites have fallen foul of filters, but most will fix the problem if you report it. Sky, for example, initially blocked sites like TorrentFreak, BitTorrent and women's rights blog SheRights.com, but has fixed the issues.

Responding to the Open Rights Group's report, TalkTalk says if its customers find sites blocked that they think they should be able to access, they should email mailto:homesafe.classification@talktalkplc.com.

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