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

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