BT, Sky and Virgin ‘hijacking’ browser sessions to push ‘adult block’ filter options mandated by UK Government
The government of United Kingdom had approved regulations that required internet service providers to provide filters to its clients to block access to certain web sites. With the deadline set for December end, by which ISPs have to comply fast approaching, major ISPs like BT, Sky and Virgin have begun blocking users mid way through their internet session, demanding that the user pick a option between adult content and non adult content.
Going too far
Major Internet service providers including Sky, BT and Virgin Media are resorting to the measure as a December deadline to implement ‘adult block ‘ web filters looms, but civil rights groups have described it as ‘heavy handed’. ISPs are resorting to blocking a user’s screen as they are using the internet and asking them to choose a option for adult or non adult content pretty much like when you visit a NSFW website and are greeted with ‘Confirm that you are over 18 years of age’ filter.
The problem arises because, until the individual selects a filter, he/she is not allowed to access anything on the internet, the looks a bit heavy handed.
Users have to choose either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If they choose yes, then they are presented with extra range of filters which the user has choose from or be blocked from accessing internet. Apparently shutting down the session also doesnt help as the user is again faced with same bit of filter options again.
Prime Minister David Cameron has brought about this regulation with a intent of protecting children from the big bad world that is the world wide web. And as expected, this move hasn’t gone down with many. The filters, alongside real vulgar content, also tends to block content that are useful. Sites displaying genuine knowledge base about child abuse, or sexual education get blocked out due to these filters. And yet, parents are helpless from stopping their kids from searching for porn images on Google.
Renate Samson, chief executive of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, told Wired that ISPs had gone too far by hijacking people’s browsers: “While most people will be happy to explicitly make a choice whether to opt in or out of filtering, forcing people to make a decision which they may have no strong feeling towards is completely unnecessary. To actively restrict users’ service to establish agreement or otherwise is quite simply too heavy handed.”
“Consumers should be careful because making the filtering too broad can also disrupt normal Internet access to websites that do not break any laws and which will often also contain useful content. Many examples exist of poor categorization resulting in websites for health care services, child support, help for victims of self-harm and sex education also being restricted.”
It’s unclear how many people in the UK have signed up to the web filtering programme – an Ofcom report in July put Virgin Media at four per cent, BT at five per cent and Sky at eight per cent. And with the 31st December deadline fast approaching, the Britisher will have to make a choice beforehand to continue with unbridled web surfing.