Only a small percentage of ISP customers in the U.K. choose to opt into family friendly content filtering with their subscription, according to a study the U.K.’s Office of Communications published yesterday.
This research comes less than a month after the Open Rights Group revealed that ISP filters block one-fifth of websites in the U.K. Although the goal of these filters is to keep pornography away from the eyes of children, many unintended sites have also been caught in the filters.
BT, Sky, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media were the four ISPs examined for this study.
The government had requested that U.K. ISPs roll out filters by December 2013. BT did so in December, while Sky incorporated filters in November. TalkTalk had already been offering filters to subscribers since May 2011. Virgin Media was the last to roll them out, in February 2014.
Only 5 percent of new customers accepted the filter at BT, while 8 percent did so at Sky. About 36 percent of customers signed up for the TalkTalk filter, and 4 percent bought into Virgin Media’s offer.
The filters that the four ISPs offer block out content pertaining to drugs, hacking, file sharing, and pornography. Some ISPs also offer filtering for content that others do not. For example, Virgin Media doesn’t filter out media that addresses dating, while the other three ISPs do.
The ISPs have been working to ensure that all new customers are informed of their filter offerings. The Office of Communications determined that 100 percent of BT, Sky, and TalkTalk customers were immediately prompted by the ISP to choose whether or not to turn on filters. Approximately 35 percent of Virgin Media customers received the same prompt.
The Office of Communications study shows that the filters, with their tendency to weed out good sites along with the bad, are not proving popular.
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