Overwhelming majority of UK broadband users opting out of porn filters

By all accounts, the UK's national porn filters have been a disaster. The network-level filters were introduced at the insistence of the government, which said that companies could either implement them voluntarily, or face legislation to force them to do so. Many, including high-profile figures like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, berated them and said that they simply wouldn't work - and indeed they didn't. 

After their introduction, more tech savvy users were able to avoid the filters entirely by simply using a browser extension. But 'ordinary' users found that many entirely innocent and non-pornographic sites being blocked due to the over-zealous nature of the filtering.

Sites for organizations such as rape crisis centers and child abuse support agencies found that some users could no longer access their sites because the filters were preventing users from accessing them. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community site for one of the UK's major political parties was also among other sites to be banned. Embarrassingly, the filters still failed to block access to numerous hardcore porn sites. 

Internet service providers (ISPs) didn't want them, many government ministers didn't want them, and now it is clear that the overwhelming majority of users don't want them either, according to the findings of an official study by the UK's telecommunications regulator, Ofcom. 

On three of the UK's top four ISPs, over 92% of users opted out of the porn filters. Just 5% of users on BT chose to keep the filters in place, as did 8% of Sky customers. Sky reported that under 40% of its account holders had children aged under-18, but this clearly indicates a wide gap between the number of households that the measures were originally intended to 'protect', and the actual number of users that have now rejected the filters. 

Curiously, a staggering 36% of TalkTalk's users remain signed up to the filtering - well above the other ISPs. Virgin Media reported the lowest figure of just 4%, but some of this is down to the company's own failures. It acknowledged to Ofcom that many of its engineers - who perform on-site installations for new customers - were deliberately avoiding setting up the filters for users, "on the grounds that the process adds to the installation time."

Additionally, Virgin Media's currently does not activate the filters until the user has specifically consented to implementing them - effectively an opt-in, rather than an opt-out. 

But setting aside the anomaly of TalkTalk, and Virgin Media's weak implementation, the other two figures from BT and Sky are telling. Despite the mandatory filtering in place, only a tiny proportion of users actually have any interest in keeping them. 

Source: Ofcom

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Apple to release free public beta of OS X 10.10 tomorrow, here is how to get it

Next Story

Microsoft sets the bar very low with a new parody video

25 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

It's a shame. I am all for an opt out policy instead of opt-in however, BT's system is flawed.
For instance, with the lowest setting selected, BT's filters block Netflix on the Roku3. BT won't do anything to fix it. I had to turn off the filters and go back to setting all devices to use OpenDNS's filters instead (The Home Hub 5 won't let you set a custom DNS on there) - so every device uses OpenDNS - apart from the Roku3.

Until they fix things, or actually are interested in sorting out the issues where the blocking is affecting innocent sites, then it is pointless and needs to be scrapped.

The last person i want dictating to my son what he can and cant watch is the government. When the times comes i will sit down with him and explain such sites are around and not to use them.

A parents job is for a parent to do not some half assed government crap.

Well, this was a Mumsnet policy anyway. They lobbied for it, and Cameron eagerly consented, having thought this might make him and the Tory party more attractive to voters. Little did he know that this was a tiny vocal minority. And now the majority, who hate censorship, now have a reason not to vote conservative. Talk about epic fail.

And there's more than a little irony here, in that while MP's seek to censor internet pornography, they are simultaneously covering up a massive and widespread paedophilia ring in parliament.

Edited by simplezz, Jul 23 2014, 6:21pm :

It wasn't Mumsnet. It was the Mother's Union which is a christian charity run by a man masquerading as a mother's lobby group.

Also, the No 10 adviser who organised the porn filter was recently arrested on child porn charges.

jakem1 said,
It wasn't Mumsnet. It was the Mother's Union which is a christian charity run by a man masquerading as a mother's lobby group.

That's even worse then :(

jakem1 said,

Also, the No 10 adviser who organised the porn filter was recently arrested on child porn charges.

I'm not at all surprised. Apparently, it's very widespread in westminster.

I'm an outsider (I'm in Canada), but from my perspective, this has very little to do with porn; rather, this is asking people to accept to submit themselves to censorship--censorship for something that's very broadly defined, and not even illegal to begin with. Who gets to decide what those criteria are? What if you disagree?

At least I'm glad to hear people are rejecting the Nanny State to further encroach on their rights.

_dandy_ said,
I'm an outsider (I'm in Canada), but from my perspective, this has very little to do with porn; rather, this is asking people to accept to submit themselves to censorship--censorship for something that's very broadly defined, and not even illegal to begin with. Who gets to decide what those criteria are? What if you disagree?

At least I'm glad to hear people are rejecting the Nanny State to further encroach on their rights.

Agreed with strongly

Talk Talks otion is already "ticked" so the user has to untick (opt out) the check box. The others are un-ticked and and you have to tick (opt in).

That is why their figures are higher.

artnada said,
Talk Talks otion is already "ticked" so the user has to untick (opt out) the check box. The others are un-ticked and and you have to tick (opt in).

That is why their figures are higher.

Indeed so this article's headline is somewhat misleading, it's not a case of the "overwhelming majority of UK broadband users opting out of porn filters", it's more a case of the "overwhelming majority of UK broadband users choosing not to opt in to porn filters" - there's a difference!

I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

Well at least now that they've wasted all that time and money for nothing they can see that they should have just listed to...oh... everyone from the beginning.

I'm pretty sure a democracy shouldn't be threatening isps to implement anything that the vast majority obviously don't want spending all that cash in the process

duddit2 said,
I'm pretty sure a democracy shouldn't be threatening isps to implement anything that the vast majority obviously don't want spending all that cash in the process

Indeed, apparently it's ok for kids to get access to snuff content but porn is a big no-no - a grand job our government is doing.

duddit2 said,
I'm pretty sure a democracy shouldn't be threatening isps to implement anything that the vast majority obviously don't want spending all that cash in the process

Its ok. They are submitting this failure to Google in hopes they have the right to be forgotten...

And now the pols who supported this to begin with will use this as "proof" that the current system has too many loop-holes and needs to be strengthened with tighter restrictions. This was the plan all along.

Speaking of censoring why does this site censor swearing? I'd guess almost everyone here is an adult. Other tech sites allow it, but Neowin don't and i find that really immature.

And **** David Cameron. I'm not surprised the Tories censored porn, they always censor stuff when they're in power, they're rich prude backwards snobs and out of touch with normal people.

Error1 said,
Speaking of censoring why does this site censor swearing? I'd guess almost everyone here is an adult. Other tech sites allow it, but Neowin don't and i find that really immature.

Why do you feel the need to swear? It adds nothing to anything.

Sure the filter could be removed and Neowin could push it towards an adult demographic but why impose that limitation? This is a Family site, keeping it Family-friendly is a good idea.

...Needing to swear to stress a point means the point lacked merit anyways.

Garnet H. said,
...Needing to swear to stress a point means the point lacked merit anyways.

Thats a really stupid blanket statement and it's not remotely true. Swearing can be good for expressing or emphasizing a point. And many other tech sites are "family friendly" and atleast allow words like c**p and s**t. Look at Engadget, The Verge, WPcentral, Anandtech, Ars and so many others.

Swearing shouldn't be big deal and it's not to many people, but treating it as such is immature and makes it a big deal to certain people, like the ones who run this site, and yourself. It's just as stupid as this porn filter, oh wow a kid see a nipple or a naked person "OH NOES their poor little mind! They're scarred for life for seeing a human body!! it's the end of the world!!" ... pathetic.

Error1 said,
Swearing shouldn't be big deal

You're right, it shouldn't be. But you and I thinking that way doesn't stop a lot of other people thinking differently. We're not propagating a system of censorship we're adhering to a general 'Safe For Work' guideline and ensuring that our users are in a friendly environment. I understand that you don't think that swearing is 'unfriendly', but others do.

It might be surprising to you how many people prefer swear filters; I'm one of them, and I don't even really mind swearing.