Skip to navigation
Latest News

Government asks public Wi-Fi networks to ban porn

Porn

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 17 Dec 2012 at 14:20

The government won't be filtering home broadband connections, but it will ask companies to block adult content from public Wi-Fi.

Last week, the government confirmed in a report it would not try to implement a UK-wide, network-level filter of porn that would require adults to opt-in to view such content. Instead, ISPs will be asked to encourage parents to install a parental control filter, and to ensure the person setting it up is over 18.

That report made little mention of Wi-Fi, but the Department for Education (DfE) has said the government will push providers to filter out adult material on public networks, via the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), a government and industry agency.

"UKCCIS is working with all the major public Wi-Fi providers towards a commitment in early 2013 to filter adult content by default on the services they provide directly to the public," the DfE said. "We expect this will be followed later in the year by further commitments from third-party providers of these services, such as restaurants, coffee shops and trains."

Mobile phone networks already have a similar ban, designed to prevent children from viewing inappropriate content when away from home. However, adults can opt out of that filter by providing age verification to their mobile operator. It wasn't clear if the Wi-Fi plans would allow people to opt out of the new filter.

The mobile phone filter doesn't only block pornography, but any content deemed inappropriate - that includes information about gambling, drugs and alcohol. If the Wi-Fi filter blocks similar content, that could lead to situations where a pub's free Wi-Fi for customers blocks the pub's own website, for example.

Existing filters

Such filters already exist on some public Wi-Fi networks. The Cloud, one of the largest Wi-Fi providers in the UK, has been filtering out such content by default since September.

"Having spoken to our own venue partners, we know this is a subject that their customers are concerned about and want to see action on," the company said, adding it made the decision to roll out a default filter after feedback from customers, not government. "Our filter is applied as default to all our hotspots but venues can choose to opt out from it if they wish."

The DfE noted Virgin Media's London underground Wi-Fi network blocks adult content, as does that of McDonald's - the latter after working with the Mumsnet Family Friendly Wi-Fi Accreditation scheme.

BT's Openzone Wi-Fi offers a filter as an option. "Some retailers who provide free Wi-Fi access for customers want pornographic sites blocked in their stores," a spokesman said. "BT is ensuring they have this option."

"As normal, BT shall take a full part in whatever discussions UKCCIS members choose to hold," the spokesman added. "We shan't prejudice any such discussions by making public comments now, other than to say we continue to take seriously the need to protect children online."

Subscribe to PC Pro magazine. We'll give you 3 issues for £1 plus a free gift - click here
User comments

What about 4G?

I approve of blocking porn on public wi-fi. Someone would have to be very twisted if they wanted to view porn in a Starbucks.

I think that this will be a short-lived solution. What will the Government do when 4G becomes ubiquitous?

I would imagine that 4G might be the main source of internet access for many people and there will be the same concerns about censorship as there is with ADSL connections.

By ronwatson71 on 17 Dec 2012

4G....

I think you'll find that 4G is covered by the mobile operator and thus is already censored.
The blocking isn't based upon the the delivery medium but by the provider.

By JmLing on 17 Dec 2012

Government obviously terrified of the obesity epidemic that will result from kids getting past a phone company's filters by using McDonald's WiFi.

By Mark_Thompson on 17 Dec 2012

blocked.org.uk

According to the Open Rights Group these network filters are not always accurate so result in blocking wanted websites. You can report incidents at www.blocked.org.uk - but hey, why am I bothering to say this? We already had this discussion a thousand times.

I suspect the number of children who have used a public wifi and inadvertently got porn is somewhere approaching zero. I suspect the number of teens who could circumvent this block by using a VPN is somewhere in the region of 100%. Tunnelbear on the iPhone app store for example.

I particularly worry when censorship is applied by use of the "protect the children" excuse.

By revsorg on 17 Dec 2012

I wonder how long before using one of these I have problems with a non pornographic site?

For example at the resort I was just staying at their internet was filtered with sites like cracked.com and the video stream of another blocked (at least in tge past) despite both being otherwise safe.

That said in retrospect I could have tried using tor or something.

By tech3475 on 17 Dec 2012

Who gets to decide?

Some regard a bikini as pornographic, while others think anything short of graphic sex is just nudity.

Moral outrage and technical ineptitude is a dangerous combination.

Police the internet, for certain, but with common sense, intelligence and human intervention - not by imposing firewalls, proxies and filters thrown into place by the self-righteous angry mob.

We don't stop crime with checkpoints and roadblocks on every street. We use intelligence and follow the criminals home or wait for them at the scene of the crime. We can, and should, use the same focused, intelligent approach with crime on the internet, rather than a moronic scatter gun fired into the crowd by "Mr angry" who gets his "technical expertise" from the Daily Mail.

That said, most porn isn't criminal. So why are we doing this again?

By cheysuli on 18 Dec 2012

What is an adult site?

I have had to get restrictions lifted on my mobile to view 'adult' sites, but I don't view adult sites. The reason? the restrictions are put on by morons who think they know what is adult but in reality haven't an idea.

By colinday2 on 21 Dec 2012

Leave a comment

You need to Login or Register to comment.

(optional)

advertisement

Most Commented News Stories
Latest Blog Posts Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest ReviewsSubscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest Real World Computing

advertisement

Sponsored Links
 
SEARCH
Loading
WEB ID
SIGN UP

Your email:

Your password:

remember me

advertisement


Hitwise Top 10 Website 2010
 
 

PCPro-Computing in the Real World Printed from www.pcpro.co.uk

Register to receive our regular email newsletter at http://www.pcpro.co.uk/registration.

The newsletter contains links to our latest PC news, product reviews, features and how-to guides, plus special offers and competitions.