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ISP invites religious groups to set parental controls

  • Roadblock
  • PC Pro issue 215

By Barry Collins

Posted on 11 Jul 2012 at 14:23

ISP Claranet is inviting religious groups, schools and child safety experts to set parental controls for its customers.

Claranet is following in the footsteps of TalkTalk with the launch of its network-level content filtering system, Childsafe. However, it's going a step further than its larger rival by allowing parents to choose content filters selected by so-called "Guardians".

What we don't want to become is supportive of any particular organisation or view

The company says it is recruiting volunteer Guardians from a number of different organisations, although it remains curiously coy about identifying them. A press spokesman for the ISP said that an "Islamic advisor" and child safety campaigner Sara Payne were among them, but when pressed by PC Pro to identify the Islamic expert or other Guardians, Claranet director Jason Keen declined to comment further.

Keen said the company currently has five Guardians signed up, but they plan to add many more. "We're trying to release a balanced list of Claranet Guardians as they come through," he told PC Pro. "What we don't want to become is supportive of any particular organisation or view."

How it works

The Claranet Guardians will be asked to choose whether they think 140 different categories of internet content are appropriate. Within those categories, the Guardians can choose to add or remove individual websites from the blacklists, which are created by a third-party company that Claranet also refused to name. For example, a Guardian may decide that Bebo is acceptable within the Social Networking category, but choose to block Facebook.

Claranet customers can choose to set up and customise their own filters, or accept a pre-selected list from one of the Guardians and edit that themselves if they choose.

Schools may, for example, create lists suitable for different age groups. However, because the filtering is applied at the network level, parents can only apply one set of filters across the board, potentially creating problems for households with children of different ages.

Better than TalkTalk?

Claranet becomes only the second British ISP to offer network-level filtering, which a group of MPs led by Conservative Claire Perry is lobbying to be made mandatory for all British internet providers.

A recent PC Pro investigation exposed critical flaws in the TalkTalk HomeSafe system, which allows children to access pornographic images and videos using nothing more sophisticated than the leading search engines.

Grant Kaufmann, the CEO of Cleanband - which is providing the filtering service for Claranet - said he was confident the Claranet system would offer better protection. "We've also looked at TalkTalk and have found similar failings," he said. "Obviously nothing is 100%, nothing is guaranteed, but we're pretty confident we're covering all of those [flaws]."

He said Google Images and proxy servers would be blocked, but only if parents chose to block the "image search" and "proxies" categories, or if they had been pre-selected by their chosen Guardian.

"We're very much about providing the choice," Kaufmann said. "If you want to allow gambling websites, you can allow it. We can envisage a situation where people would only block known malware sites... and they can allow everything else."

The Childsafe service is available now to Claranet customers.

On sale Thursday

Read full details of our investigation into TalkTalk's content filters and our real-world guide to parental controls in the new issue of PC Pro, on sale 12 July

PC Pro issue 215

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User comments

Imperinent, Intrusive Effrontery!

I am a mature adult well able to make my own decisions. One of these is that all religion is commerce based on power, control and superstition.
The idea that my ISP should decide that these are better, fit and proper persons to decide how I should set up my Internet interaction I find offensive.
Fortunately I am not with Claranet and now never will be!

By incognitii on 11 Jul 2012

Why religious groups?

If you let religious groups set controls you risk blocking sites that disagree with fundamental beliefs, like those about Dawinism... It's happened in the US in some states where religious groups were allowed to dictate the school curriculum and banned evolution to be replaced with either intelligent design or straight creationism...

By skarlock on 11 Jul 2012

Oh no, not religious groups - how sinister!

They're a private company - they can do what they want.

Are they enforcing Guardians on all of their customers? This article doesn't say that. It says customers may choose a Guardian, or select their own categories of content to block or allow.

By 0thello on 11 Jul 2012

Berners Lee suggestion

A long time ago I was at a presentation that Tim Berners Lee gave in the USA, and he was suggesting that browsers should support a common interface for page rating. With that interface you could then point it at whoever it was that you wanted to be entrusted with your ratings. If that was a religious group, a gardening group, or a company who offered a service, that was up to you. But the technology would allow each device to work with your choice of rating supplier.

Pity that hasn't taken off really. It would solve this problem properly.

By MJ2010 on 11 Jul 2012


That's what books and libraries are for.

By 0thello on 11 Jul 2012

A gardening group?

If you let gardening groups set controls you risk blocking sites that don't believe in flowers, like those about Concrete...

The last thing you want is Bob Flowerdew and Bunny Guinness telling you that you must use coir instead of peat.

By 0thello on 11 Jul 2012


I doubt DIY will fix the religion as a science issue anytime soon.

On topic:

One thing I'm wondering, why can't they have a login box appear when you go to certain sites to override the filter easily.

By tech3475 on 11 Jul 2012

Religous groups? Seriously?

Why does having an imaginary friend make you a good judge of what is suitable for children?

By Simbu on 12 Jul 2012

Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences

I used to work for a large company who wanted to stop its staff visiting cricket, rugby and other sport coverage websites during working hours. So internet filters were put in place with a nice page telling you what a naughty boy you had been for trying to visit an unapproved website.

However, following a commission to build fifteen health and fitness clubs around the country I was unable to access any technical or design website about sport. As is normal IT stuff normally does not work or has unintended consequences.

I had to supply the IT Manager with an ongoing exceptions list. All very time consuming and frustrating. But at least I had a direct solution to hand to solve the stupidity. In the end the filter was removed because they realized that the downside was more costly than the upside.

Still, I suppose it is not surprising that a religious group would want to encourage ignorance and superstition.

By BoredWithBeingAskedToChooseAnotherScreenName on 12 Jul 2012


Given that many religious institutions have a seriously bad reputation for harbouring paedophiles, should they really be trusted to say what is "suitable" for anyone, let alone kids! I don't think so.

By drherd on 12 Jul 2012


We're going to let a group of people decide what you can see on the Internet.
Oh really? Who are they?
Well, they all have the same invisible friend who they talk to every Sunday.
You mean they're resident in some asylum somewhere?
Nope, they're walking around freely.

By c_webb31 on 13 Jul 2012

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